Man. farmers worry pesticide ban will hike weed spread

Control begins in urban areas The development of invasive weeds often starts in urban gardens and spreads to farmers’ fields

An environmentalist lobbying for a cosmetic pesticide ban in Manitoba isn’t convinced most provincial residents want a ban on lawn and garden chemicals.

Amanda Kinden, manager of the organic lawn care educational project for the Manitoba Eco-Network, said people in the province want parks, lawns and school grounds to look green and well kept. Most think herbicides are needed to achieve a tidy look, so unless there is definitive proof that pesticides are a risk to human health, Manitobans will probably oppose a ban, Kinden said.

“Probably, people would see it as more work and a problem rather than a benefit to them,” she said.

In February, conservation minister Gord Mackintosh said he wanted to introduce legislation to ban cosmetic pesticides. However, he also said the province would consult with interested parties to develop a made-in-Manitoba policy before implementing the ban.

A spokesperson for the minister said details of the consultation process will be announced in the next few weeks. Regulatory changes prompted by consultation could be introduced in the legislature’s fall session.

Keystone Agricultural Producers, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) and the Manitoba Weed Supervisors Association have denounced the proposed ban.

Despite the backlash and the lack of widespread public support, Kinden said Manitoba will eventually ban cosmetic pesticides.

“Given that we are one of the last provinces that doesn’t have a cosmetic pesticide ban, one will be likely. Whether it’s next year or in a couple of years, I feel it’s going to happen.”

However, many Manitoba farmers believe a ban will affect their livelihoods. As an example, producers in the Rural Municipality of MacDonald are already frustrated because communities in the RM don’t manage weeds properly, said Doug Dobrowolski, AMM president and a grain producer near Domain, Man.

“Farmers that farm around the schoolyard are all mad because nobody is spraying the dandelions and the weeds are all blowing into their fields… You’re seeing this right across the landscape.”

John Johnston of Hartney, Man., president of the Manitoba Weed Supervisors Association, said killing invasive species with pesticides inside communities is a key part of a larger strategy to control weeds.

A lot of the urban areas can be a sinkhole for the development of invasive weeds,” he said. “Common tansy, purple loosestrife, oxeye daisy, they’re all escaped ornamentals…. So if they’re not controlled in the urban areas and the smaller communities, they quickly become a seed bank to spread (the species).”

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