Pesticide ban law introduced in Manitoba

Despite protests from farmers, the crop science industry and lawn care companies, the Manitoba government has introduced legislation to ban pesticide use on lawns, school grounds and playing fields.

Manitoba conservation minister Gord Mackintosh announced Tuesday the province will ban synthetic chemical lawn pesticides beginning January 2015. Homeowners will have one year to comply with the legislation, which will take full effect in 2016.

“Manitoba families want their children to be safe everywhere they play.  This new legislation will ensure it does not matter where they are — at school, home or at daycare — they will be able to play on the grass that is free from potentially harmful chemical pesticides,” Mackintosh said in a statement.

The legislation will allow property owners to use pesticides on their lawn, but only provincially approved bio-pesticides.

The regulations do not apply to farms and forestry operations. The province said there would also be exemptions for certain practices and conditions:

•    Gardens

•    Golf courses

•    To control noxious weeds and poisonous or invasive plants

“Science has shown that people exposed to pesticides are at a greater risk for cancer and neurological illness, and the province of Manitoba should be congratulated for taking this step,” said Dr. Debbie Pollock, a Winnipeg family physician and mother, in a statement.  “This will help reduce the number of toxic chemicals in our ecosystem and lead the way for broader pesticide bans across Western Canada.”

Keystone Agricultural Producers, Manitoba Beef Producers and the Manitoba Canola Growers Association have criticized such claims, noting the science is inconclusive and the rhetoric around this issue is inflammatory.

“The perception created by misguided regulatory controls of pesticides … undermines all uses of these products and creates false doubts about the quality and safety of food produced using crop protection products,” KAP said in a letter to the province.

“Farmers support and practice the responsible use of crop protection products to prevent weeds or infestations and they shouldn’t have to deal with problems arising due to neighbours who allow weeds … to grow and spread.”

Manitoba Beef Producers made a similar argument in its written submission to the province.

“MPB has concerns regarding the artificial distinction being made between so called cosmetic use of pesticides and agricultural use,” MBP said “We do not believe that products can be considered safe in one environment and toxic in another. It is our view that this distinction between different uses of products sends an unfortunate (and ultimately dangerous) mixed message to the public at large.”

Weed scientists have also questioned the value of the Manitoba ban, noting the distinction between bio-pesticides and pesticides is unclear. Further, certain bio-herbicides are only effective at concentrations much higher than conventional herbicides.

While farm groups and weed scientists question the science supporting the ban, one of Canada’s most famous children’s entertainers endorsed Manitoba’s decision.

Congratulations Manitoba for your new pesticide ban,” Raffi said in a statement. “Your children and families will thank you for this, for generations to come.”

Once the legislation is implemented, Manitoba will join six other provinces that have regulations restricting cosmetic pesticide use.

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