Science must decide pesticide debate

Manitoba conservation minister Gord Mackintosh indicated Sept. 24 that it was all but certain the government would implement a ban on urban pesticide use in the province. It appears as though he has made up his mind before the public consultation period is even over.

Mackintosh seems to be speaking out of turn before Manitobans have had their fair chance to voice their opinions.

It is the government’s responsibility to hold a fair and meaningful public consultation process and not simply go through the labour-intensive and costly administrative exercise with its mind already made up.

It appears that the minister’s bias is standing in the way of a proper consultation.

Important public policy decisions shouldn’t be made on a political whim. They should instead be based on sound science.

Unfortunately, it looks like minister Mackintosh is choosing to base his decision on misinformation rather than the weight of scientific evidence.

The reality is that pesticides are one of the most regulated products you will ever come across.

Before any pesticide can be sold in Canada, it must undergo an exhaustive and comprehensive scientific review and safety assessment by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which is mandated to ensure the protection of human health and the environment.

Recognizing the need to continue to lead in the protection of human health, the federal government reviewed and updated pesticide legislation in 2006, providing Canadians with the strongest protection on a global scale.

Specifically, pesticides undergo more than 200 separate tests addressing every possible health and environmental issue imaginable.

Virtually no other product you will ever purchase has been subject to the same level of scientific scrutiny and regulatory oversight as pesticides.

The government should take a closer look at what is going on in other provinces.

Take Quebec, for example. After nearly a decade of falsely claiming that products containing 2,4-D are dangerous and denying its residents the ability to use such products, the Quebec government took a major step in 2011 by conceding that “products containing 2,4-D do not pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment.”

Earlier this year, the British Columbia Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticide Use determined that there was not enough scientific evidence to warrant a ban on the sale and use of urban pesticides in the province, affirming its confidence in the federal regulatory process.

This decision came after the committee heard from a variety of witnesses, including those from Health Canada.

Manitoba would have been well served to consult with Health Can-ada, the federal body that regulates the sale and use of pesticides.

The many Manitobans who want continued access to safe and effective pest control tools to maintain their properties will be disappointed that Mackintosh had his mind made up before the consultation process even began.

We call on premier Greg Selinger to step in and show leadership on this file by putting logic before politics.

This article was co-submitted by Doug Chorney, president, Keystone Agricultural Producers; David Hinton, president, Landscape Manitoba; Don Pincock, interim president and CEO, Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers; and John Johnston, president, Manitoba Weed Supervisors Association.

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