The B.C. Liberal majority on a legislative committee has recommended against a province-wide ban on cosmetic pesticide use, after a year of hearing from farmers, foresters, environmental organizations and interested citizens.
Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett chaired the committee whose four B.C. Liberal members outvoted three NDP members calling for a province-wide ban on common household herbicides, insecticides and fungicides used for visual effect.
“We waited years for the B.C. government to follow the lead of other provinces and B.C. municipalities, and this is the result? The report was slow in coming and is weak in content. It is disappointing overall,” said Barbara Kaminsky, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. and Yukon.
The majority recommended that retail sales should be treated similar to tobacco, kept out of sight and available only by request from someone with training in how to use the chemicals.
The province-wide ban would have standardized the regulations across B.C., where currently some municipalities have a ban, and some don’t. As of last year, Golden has a ban.
“It really only works effectively if you have province-wide participation. It can be somewhat effective within the community, but to truly have an impact, it has to have provincial participation,” said Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald.
“I think it’s a mistake, and the people I represent feel it’s a mistake.”
Bennett said the most compelling testimony came from a representative of Health Canada, which approves such products for use across the country. The committee was told that B.C. was the first province to ask Health Canada before considering such a ban, and that imposing one would be a political rather than a public health choice, Bennett said.
Bennett noted that only five per cent of pesticide application is by household users, using products diluted 100 times or more below the level that shows effects in the most sensitive animal species.
The widespread belief that common lawn and garden products cause harm when used as directed is based on “chemophobia” and a lack of scientific literacy, Bennett said.
“The majority of the committee concluded that we could not justify second-guessing the 350 scientists who work at Health Canada,” Bennett said.
Macdonald added that Premier Christy Clark had publicly agreed with NDP lead Adrian Dix, that there should be a province-wide ban. However Bennett said he discussed the recommendations with Clark before she left on a trade mission to Asia, and she offered no objections.