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Pesticide ban playing politics: Landscaper

 

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The province's planned pesticide ban will lead to higher prices for the consumer, a loss in business for companies and the spread of noxious weeds, said Ken Wiebe, co-owner of locally based lawn care company Eco Green.(KRISTIN ANNABLE/Winnipeg Sun)

The province's planned pesticide ban will lead to higher prices for the consumer, a loss in business for companies and the spread of noxious weeds, said Ken Wiebe, co-owner of locally based lawn care company Eco Green.(KRISTIN ANNABLE/Winnipeg Sun)

“It’s really hard to understand a ban like this, there isn’t a health benefit, there’s no cost benefit to it; it’s just a political thing, ‘Hey look what we are doing for the environment,’” he said. “It’s all emotional, but it looks good on television.”

Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh is expected to introduce legislation on Tuesday that will move forward with the previously announced plan to ban the use and sale of cosmetic pesticides by summer 2015.

The most commonly used herbicide, 2,4-D, will be banned — taking away the most effective way to treat lawns for weeds, says 22-year business veteran Wiebe.

Health Canada’s re-evaluation of the herbicide, which dismisses previous reports that 2,4-D is dangerous, makes Wiebe question the point in banning it.

In the report, Health Canada says the herbicide can be used safely when label directions are followed and does not increase the risk of cancer.

Marg Friesen from the Environmental Health Association, who supports the province’s ban, points to a 2012 report by the Ontario College of Family Physicians. It documented 142 studies linking pesticide use to illnesses including cancer and birth defects and was cited as reason to ban its use on lawns, patios, sidewalks, school grounds, playing fields and playgrounds in Manitoba.

She says that pesticides are endocrine disruptors that can have the biggest effect on the unborn, babies, pregnant mothers and teens in puberty.

"There’s a saying that ‘the dose makes the poison.’ But there are now studies that indicate there can now be adverse affects at very low levels,” Friesen said.

Wiebe will be forced to use Fiesta, an iron-based biochemical product, that he says is five times more expensive and doesn’t work as well.

“Only one company makes it, they have a patent on it, so we are all stuck buying from the same place,” he said, adding it usually requires two doses before it is effective. “It kind of burns the top of the weed off and doesn’t kill the root.”

A written statement from provincial spokeswoman Naline Rampersad said their legislation will allow for replacement products that are proven to be less harmful.

“Our government made a commitment to make yards and playgrounds safer and this legislation will help us do just that,” she wrote.

Every summer, Wiebe hires about 20 university students to tend to about 10,000-12,000 lawns, but says both numbers will be reduced significantly with the ban.

The cost of purchasing Fiesta will be passed onto the consumers, he says, and those with fixed incomes might have to opt out of his service.

The ban will likely not be enforced at the border, meaning consumers could purchase 2,4-D products in the United States and use them here.

This will leave regulation in the hands of the consumer, Wiebe said.

“All the companies that are licensed and insured and use it properly, we’re not going to be able to use it next year,” he said. “But a homeowner can go buy it off the shelf, not put any gloves on and just squirt away and there’s going to be no restriction on it.”

Manitoba’s legislation follows similar bans all over Canada including Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.