Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

OK with ban on cosmetic pesticides

Poll finds majority in favour of initiative

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A majority of Manitobans supports the idea of the province's phasing out cosmetic pesticide use on lawns and gardens, a new Probe Research Inc. survey for the Free Press suggests.

The poll found 55 per cent of those surveyed indicated they are in favour of eliminating the use of these chemicals on lawns and gardens, including 28 per cent who strongly support and 27 per cent who moderately support the lawn-care chemical phase-out.

One in three Manitobans are against the ban on cosmetic-pesticide sales. That number includes 17 per cent who strongly oppose this ban and an additional 16 per cent who moderately oppose this move. Three per cent of those surveyed said their support was conditional, while nine per cent were unsure or did not respond.

The results are roughly equal between Winnipeg and rural residents.

"There's a fairly consistent level of support for the idea of banning pesticide use for lawns and gardens," Probe senior research associate Curtis Brown said.

"What I take away from it is that this isn't something that the government is just doing and is going to end up angering and upsetting a whole swath of people. It is something that seems to have a fair bit of buy-in amongst Manitobans."

Brown said respondents were also asked if they had a lawn or garden and had ever used pesticides.

He said the results weren't quite what was expected, as the poll found there's support for the ban even among people who've used lawn and garden chemicals.

"People who haven't used pesticides and people who don't have lawns or gardens, those folks tend to be much more likely to be in favour of this ban," Brown said.

He said it was expected people who did use pesticides on their lawns and gardens would be against the ban.

"But it's basically an even split. You have 46 per cent of people who have used pesticides before saying they do support a ban and 44 per cent saying they're against it. That is a bit surprising, because you would think that by virtue of the fact they are applying this stuff to their lawns and gardens once in while that they would be more likely be concerned about what might happen if they were no longer allowed to do that."

The findings are similar to those of a poll released by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and Manitoba's Green Action Centre at the end of February.

The results of that poll said 71 per cent of Manitobans support a law phasing out the use and sale of lawn and garden chemicals. It also said rural, urban and suburban residents agreed (at 86 per cent, 72 per cent and 68 per cent, respectively) that chemical weed killers should be barred from use and sale.

Critics of the NDP's plan to outlaw cosmetic lawn-care pesticides say it appears to be based more on pressure from activist groups than reason.

They also say there is no scientific evidence backing up the ban and lawn-care pesticides are safe to use as they are regulated by Health Canada. Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh has said the province is simply following the lead of other provinces and any ban -- details are to be announced sometime this spring -- will be phased in over a one- to two-year period and will be accompanied by a public-education campaign on what safer alternatives are available to treat lawn weeds.

Brown said the poll also found support for the ban was only slightly higher in Winnipeg (58 per cent) compared to outside the city (50 per cent).

Support for the ban is almost equal among men and women -- 57 per cent of women support it as opposed to 52 per cent of men.

"Women tend to be more concerned about environmental issues and health than men, but it's almost exactly the same when you look at it," Brown said. "In every other demographic category the support for it is pretty consistent."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2013 A3

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Updated on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 7:48 AM CDT: replaces photo, adds fact box

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