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Pallister slams cosmetic-pesticide ban

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Playing fields will become contaminated with dandelions and kids won’t get exercise if the NDP pushes ahead with its plan to outlaw cosmetic pesticides, Progressive Conservative Party Leader Brian Pallister said today.

That means community clubs will be forced to rip up those fields and install costly artificial turf, he added.

"Once they’re taken over by weeds they’re not attractive," Pallister said. "But that’s not the point; they’re not safe playing surfaces. They’re not friendly to the user. I’m concerned as a parent that we make sure that there’s some balance here and that we don’t do something in our province that would make it harder for our families and our young people to enjoy the facilities that we have."

Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh has said the province could see restrictions on harmful cosmetic pesticides as early as this year.

He said what form the restrictions take – he’s stressed the province is only focused on lawn-care products, not agricultural -- is currently being studied by his staff.

Whether it’s an outright ban or something less severe is currently being discussed, he added.

Mackintosh also said he believed Pallister timed his news conference to coincide with the first day of Brandon’s AG Days, a three-day agriculture trade show.

He also accused Pallister of fear-mongering in that less harmful lawn care products will still be available with whatever the province comes up with.

"It’s very important that we proceed not on the basis of any fear-mongering, but on the basis of science and the informed views of Manitobans," he said.

About 2,000 Manitobans contributed their opinions on what the province should do. The deadline for comments was last Oct. 1.

He also said Ottawa phased out "weed-and-feed" products, which are herbicide and fertilizer combinations, by December 2012 regardless of provincial regulations.

The lawn-care industry is opposed to the restrictions, saying the products they use to control weeds are all approved by Health Canada.

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment says children are most prone to the potential health risks of the cosmetic lawn chemicals, including cancer, learning disabilities, asthma and chronic lung diseases. Pesticides can also be toxic to birds, fish, bees and other beneficial insects.

Most recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a report that epidemiologic evidence shows associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems.

It called for more for more research in addition to immediate action to reduce exposure of children to pesticides.

Pallister said despite what the province says, there could also be an impact on farming if property owners are restricted in controlling weeds.

He said because weeds spread so quickly agriculture producers would be put under more pressure to control what blowing in the wind from a neighbour’s property.

The Selinger government said a year ago it planned to follow other provinces on restricting potentially harmful over-the-counter pesticides and herbicides. Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have each brought in their own restrictions on these chemicals over the past decade.

Brandon has a bylaw restricting cosmetic-pesticide use near schools, daycares and parks. Winnipeg's bylaw only requires lawn-care companies to post warning signs when they apply chemicals.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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