Pending pesticide bylaw sparks community interest

By Paul Murphy

As the City of Calgary awaits independent reviews by an environmental advisory board to be released in October, community and interests groups have taken an increased interest in the potential cosmetic pesticide ban.

The pesticide ban that had originally been planned for implementation by 2010 on public lands and 2011 on private lands was stalled recently following an unresolved debate in council regarding a number of recommendations.

Concerns had arisen surrounding exemptions of those currently holding a pesticide permit, often associated with lawn companies, but also included health and safety questions.

Ald. Gord Lowe, who was opposed to the ban, emphasized that with respect to 2-4-D, one of the most commonly used pesticides, “Health Canada has ruled the product safe when used in accordance with the instructions attached to the container.”

The Municipal government’s responsibility lies in the need to implement a “very strong education program, which advocates spot use rather than area spraying” and not a complete ban, said Lowe.

Many are criticizing the city for a lack of progressiveness on the issue. As many as 139 other municipalities throughout Canada have enforced similar bans on pesticide usage.

Peterborough, Ontario, provides the ideal model of a ban for Calgary: application of pesticides only in the event of public health concerns, said Coalition for a Healthy Calgary spokesperson Robin MacLeod.

Besides such extenuating circumstances, the city “must use a whole different approach with community integrative pest management as an alternative to the current pesticide-biased program,” using methods of community education and awareness.

MacLeod pointed to tangible alternatives.

“Management programs that could be implemented to allocate the 2,600 volunteers in the City of Calgary’s Adopt a Park program,” she said.

However, Maureen O’Hara, a resident of Wilkie, Saskatchewan, voiced concerns about a ban that recently ended the spraying of dandelions in the Central Memorial Park her home backs onto.

“Dandelions now cover the park without any hope of weeding,” she said, voicing that pesticides are often the only effective means of eliminating exotic plants, disease spreading organisms, weeds or insect pests.

“Having grown up on a farm, I know that pesticides can be dangerous, however, across the road from town, farmers are dumping enough fertilizers to make any effort by our town hopeless.”

Here in Calgary, hundreds of people, including swarms of young children, attended the recent fourth annual Park Party in New Edinborough, Calgary’s first ever pesticide-free park.

Lance Ayer, a mechanic at the Bike Root’s booth, was thrilled “to see greater sense of responsibility towards the environment.”

“Pesticides have been used irresponsibly in the past and it’s great to see that things are changing towards a more environmentally conscious approach,” he said.

The ban will be taken up again in October at city council hearings.

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