Manitoba landscaping industry takes action against pesticide ban

Since the Manitoba government is unwilling to listen to science, political action is needed to fight a proposed pesticide ban, says a representative of Manitoba’s landscaping industry.

Landscape Manitoba, which represents nursery growers, greenhouse operators, garden centres, contractors and horticulturists, has initiated a postcard campaign to counter a cosmetic pesticide ban in the province.

“We’re fighting it with politics because you can’t argue the science. It’s all on our side. Health Canada is pretty clear that the products are safe for use,” said Dave Hinton, Landscape Manitoba past-president and owner of a Weed Man business in Winnipeg.

The industry group is mailing thousands of notices to Manitobans this week, asking citizens to send attached postcards to the government, expressing opposition to the ban.

In early 2012 the province an-nounced it would introduce legislation to ban pesticide use in lawn and gardens. A number of farm groups, including Keystone Agricultural Producers and Manitoba Canola Growers, oppose the ban because they say pesticide policy should be based on science.

The province is expected to start an educational campaign on the ban later this month.

“The government is not talking to the industry, they’re not talking to Health Canada. They’re making up their rules based on what they think is going to be good for their vote…. Our goal with the postcards is to show them how many people actually oppose (the ban).”

In February, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment released a poll on the cosmetic pesticide ban, suggesting that 71 percent of Manitobans support the proposed legislation.

The telephone survey found that 86 percent of rural residents, 72 percent of urban and 68 percent of suburbanites back the pesticide ban.

Draper Houston, Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers (CAAR) spokesperson, said the survey results were skewed.

“Their sample wasn’t very big and the questions they asked weren’t unbiased questions…. They were very emotionally based questions,” Houston said. “I don’t think it accurately portrays what people are thinking about the pesticide ban.”

Hinton agreed, noting the survey polled only 498 people.

Farrah Khan, Canadian Association for Physicians for the Environment spokesperson, said a professional research firm conducted the poll.

As well, the data mirrors results from other Canadian jurisdictions.

“I would defer to the expertise of our pollster,” she said.

“The results were overwhelming. Over 70 percent of Manitobans want lawn pesticides phased out…. Every poll we look at, across the country, the numbers are usually in the 70s…. The numbers are not out of step with what we’ve seen (elsewhere).”

Khan added that Manitobans should recognize who doubts the accuracy of the poll and who has launched the postcard campaign.

“The two groups (Landscape Manitoba and CAAR) represent the chemical industry. So it’s in their best interest to keep business as usual. They want to keep spraying these poisons because it affects their bottom line.”

Echoing comments from Manitoba farm leaders, Hinton said it’s ridiculous to pass legislation banning the application of pesticides to grass, but it’s acceptable to use the same chemicals on crops.

“The Manitoba government is going to allow these products to be used on our food and you can still use them on a golf course. You just won’t be able to spot (spray) the dandelion on your front lawn,” he said.

“The politicians don’t understand the issue very well and they certainly don’t understand pesticides. They think, well, banning toxic chemicals: how can that be bad?”

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