Manitoba Moves to Ban Non-Organic Pesticides on Lawns — Is Farm Land Next?

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Opinion

In a move that’s sure to make manufacturers of organic pesticides very happy, the Manitoba government has announced its plan to introduce legislation that will ban the use of non-organic pesticides for lawns and common areas of the province. Citing health concerns for pets and children, the government plans to begin to ban the sale and use of so-called synthetic pesticides in late 2014.

The Winnipeg-based press conference regarding the proposed ban was held on a Friday before the Canada Day long weekend. Those of us in the media world know that that’s a great way to bury controversial news; if you missed it, now you know why. Still, the proposed ban deserves close inspection by not just homeowners but perhaps more-so by farmers.

The act is not yet drawn up, and there are still many questions regarding enforcement and details of the ban, but Manitoba is just one jurisdiction on an ever-growing list that is banning so-called “cosmetic” pesticide use. Here are my two issues with this: one, Manitoba’s solution to any problems seems to be to simply ban it. I won’t go so far as to call it a nanny state but my nickname for my home province is Banitoba. Would education of safe use and alternatives, signage of recently treated areas and stricter guidelines for use in public areas be just as effective, cheaper to roll out and more in line with science? Yes. Well then… And, two, if we’re going to ban products on private land, how long before this reaches to all land,  including farm land? And, three (I’m apparently bad with math), if you’re going to ban some products, why not all? Bio-pesticides are still pesticides — table salt is rather benign or “low-risk” as they want to call it, but in enough quantities very bad for us, soil and weeds. Bio-pesticides are the same. Looks to me like certain companies are going to benefit handsomely from Manitoba’s hand-holding.

Some would call this the “thin edge of the wedge.” After all, if synthetic pesticides are deemed unsafe for public spaces and private lawns, how are they safe for golf courses (not covered under this ban) and, eventually, farm land? In fact, a recent CBC article on the Manitoba ban alludes to “officials” (who aren’t named) pushing the ban further: “Officials said efforts will continue to reduce pesticide exposure in the province, and will include stricter management of how weeds are killed on agricultural lands, a consumer awareness program and consultations with schools and child-care centres to reduce indoor exposure to pesticides.

Is this the first step to outlawing conventional agriculture? That may sound rather dramatic, but I’m not trying to be. But when statements like this are made about such an integral part of agriculture production, you’ve got to wonder.

Read the Manitoba government’s recent statement (emphasis added) here.

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