Cranbrook Daily Townsman
Bennett weighs in on cosmetic pesticides Local MLA chairs legislative committee on pesticide ban
November 16, 2011
Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett has his hands full.
Back in July, he was appointed to the Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticides, a legislative committee made up of Liberal and NDP MLAs.
Then in September, Premier Christy Clark asked Bennett to chair the committee after Margaret McDiarmid stepped down to take a cabinet position.
Since then, the committee has met six times and been given 21 presentations on cosmetic pesticides. Speakers have ranged from career-long toxicologists, to environmental groups. Bennett said he's heard from Health Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Integrated Environmental Plant Management Association of Western Canada, and Toxic Free Canada.
Some want cosmetic pesticides banned altogether, others suggest banning their retail sale. Still others say there's no need for a ban at all.
Now, Bennett said, the only thing that's clear is the committee has a tricky job on their hands.
"I think there is a paradox for the committee that we're going to have to come to grips with," he said. "On one hand, you have a society that is largely scientifically illiterate and afraid of all chemicals.
"On the other hand, we have 350 toxicologists who work for Health Canada.
"In the case of the very readily available pesticides, they have been determined by Health Canada to be safe to use."
Last week, Bennett said, the Director of the Centre of Toxicology at the University of Guelph, Dr. Keith Solomon, gave the committee his point of view.
"This man has studied cosmetic pesticides his whole career. His statement to the committee was, 'If you ban these pesticides, at least be honest enough to admit that you're doing so for political reasons and not for scientific reasons.'"
Trying to make a report to the legislature based on so much information, and so many vastly differing opinions, is one of the hardest things he's done in his career, Bennett suggested.
"It's the most technical exercise that I have encountered since I've been an MLA. It's going to be very difficult from a political perspective. I think society is very suspicious about any chemical and we're not very well informed about these things."
Making the task even more difficult is the fact that the committee's members are not scientific experts themselves.
"We're not scientists and we're not capable of assessing the different scientific points of view. However, I think we are capable of standing back at the end of this process and looking at which groups and individuals have the most credibility when it comes to an opinion on the risk from chemical pesticides. I frankly think that a toxicologist is an expert in the field," said Bennett.
Still, the committee will need to balance scientific opinion with public perception, he pointed out.
"In that context of this public suspicion of chemicals, we are going to have to make a recommendation that is science-based but which also meets the expectations of the public."
The public consultation stage for the committee finishes on December 16. A final report should be submitted to the legislature by the first week of February.
David Suzuki Foundation
Demand a ban on lawn pesticides in B.C.
Photo Credit: Will Pate
Pesticides are linked to serious illnesses, from cancer to neurological diseases. They can harm wildlife too – including the bees we depend on for most of our food. When it comes to lawn and garden pesticides, these hazards are totally unnecessary.
Now is your chance to demand a ban on lawn and garden pesticides in B.C. The government has asked for public opinions, and we aim to flood its mailbox with letters from British Columbians who want green spaces without health and environmental hazards.
Five provinces have already banned so-called “cosmetic” pesticides; Ontario and Nova Scotia’s laws are the strongest. It’s time for BC to catch up!
Fill out the form below to send the B.C. government an email. To send a stronger message, personalize the letter. And do it soon! The comment period ends Friday, December 16th, 2011.
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