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Ontario law threatens farm pesticides

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Ontario’s “arbitrary” ban on “cosmetic” pesticides threatens their use in agriculture, says CropLife Canada.

“This is about more than just dandelions,” CropLife president Lorne Hepworth warned the 350 people attending CropLife’s annual meeting here Dec. 3. “It’s about agriculture and the not-so-subtle impact this has on the impressions Canadians have about food production and the use of pesticides in agriculture. It’s about ensuring that this isn’t the start of a slippery slope.”

Hepworth urged people attendng the meeting and from across the country to join CropLife in writing the Ontario government and asking it to draft new regulations for its Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act, passed in June. Hepworth said the proposed regulations released last month fail to set any science-based criteria by which to assess pesticides before being banned.

“We are, to say the least, dismayed, saddened and quite frankly completely disgusted by what the provincial government has released for consultation,” he said. “We expect more from a sophisticated government like Ontario. Regulations to protect the public and safeguard the environment must be based on science.”

The Ontario government says it is banning the cosmetic use of pesticides to reduce potential risks, especially to children. Many Ontario municipalities have their own bans now. The new legislation will provide a uniform standard. It also exempts agriculture and forestry.

CropLife supports ending non-essential pesticide use, Hepworth said. But what it doesn’t support is the government “arbitrarily “ banning products without regard to their toxicity or environmental persistence. Those are things Health Canada and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) consider when determining requests to register new pesticides. Pesticides found to be unsafe to humans, livestock or the environment are not approved.

This spring Health Canada restated it has no concern with 2,4-D, the most widely used weed killer on urban laws and in farmers’ fields.

“Someone is wrong here and we know it isn’t the 300-plus scientists employed by Health Canada,” Hepworth said.

Without criteria by which to assess pesticides, there’s no way to know why a product can or cannot be used or sold in Ontario, which ones will be banned in the future, and why home landscapes appear to be defined as cosmetic and not worthy of protection, Hepworth said.

Government policy must be based on facts, not opinion polls. “Because the day we allow governments to develop public policy based on which way the wind is blowing is a sad day indeed.”

The pesticide industry invests millions to develop new, innovative and safer pesticides and ranks fourth worldwide for re-investing in research and development, Hepworth said.

“We have repeatedly made this clear,” Hepworth said. “If you want us to innovate, tell us what the scientific criteria for approval is.”

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