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From September 5, 2001

Controversy Over Pesticide Ban in Canada

Halifax, Nova Scotia, has banned all pesticides used for "cosmetic" purposes, according to The Boston Globe (9/3/01). This means pesticides used for garden pests such as grubs and dandelions are prohibited. Pesticides to combat health risks such as hornets or rats in the home are allowed. This ban is upheld by the recent Canadian Supreme Court ruling that cities and towns can place bans on pesticides without scientific proof that the pesticide is harmful. If the public perceives that they are at risk from a certain chemical, they can act to protect themselves.

This protection is important for health and safety reasons even when there is no scientific proof that a particular chemical is harmful. Many times, no proof of harm means significant research has not been done. The public ends up being the test subjects for the toxicity of the chemicals put on the market. "Better to err on the side of safety than suffer while awaiting some scientific proof," said Maureen Reynolds, a supporter of the pesticide ban in Halifax. Stephen King, the municipal manager for parks and natural regions said of the ban, "I like to think Halifax is one of the most progressive cities in the world. We are getting inquiries from communities all over the United States, Canada, Europe, even Japan. They want to know how to imitate our program."

The Canadian pest control operators make the same arguments as their counterparts in the U.S., although U.S. regulations prohibit the manufacturers and applicators of pesticides from making claims that the pesticides are "safe." Apparently, the Canadians do not have that same level of protection. Kimberly Bates of the Urban Pest Management Council of Canada, a group that represents lawn and garden care product manufacturers, said, "Producers of pesticides make easy villains, but the industry is made up of family people committed to safety. Unfortunately, draconian measures like we've seen in Halifax and Quebec aren't going to make anyone healthier or safer. All they do is inconvenience people who enjoy making beautiful yards and gardens."

To read the full article on this controversy, see http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/246/nation/A_grass_roots_drive_for_purity+.shtml.