Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pesticide ban skews evidence

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CropLife Canada, which represents the makers and distributors of pesticides, was in Winnipeg this week to challenge the decision of the Manitoba government to ban such chemicals next year.

In a meeting with the Free Press editorial board, CropLife president Lorne Hepworth said the anti-chemical legislation is based more on the emotional responses of an uninformed public than on science or empirical evidence.

Mr. Hepworth, a former Saskatchewan minister of agriculture, said Manitoba based its decision on studies that are not as valid as the library of research accumulated over the decades by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which has concluded the pesticides are safe.

The province cited isolated research in defending its decision, but Mr. Hepworth said those studies are not nearly as authoritative as Health Canada's conclusions, which are similar to other regulatory agencies in the world, including the United States.

He may have a vested interest, but he also has a valid point, as Quebec discovered in 2006 when it banned the pesticide 2,4-D, the active ingredient in Killex.

The U.S. manufacturer launched a suit under NAFTA legislation and forced Quebec to acknowledge the chemical was perfectly safe, whether used by homeowners or farmers. The province, however, set aside the science but kept the ban.

If the will of Manitobans is they don't want pesticides used in their neighbourhoods, then so be it. But Manitobans should have been properly informed and the evidence of the best experts on the subject should not have been ignored. Manitoba's ban is to be phased in next year, but the province needs to commit to a public re-evaluation of its decision after a reasonable period. In the meantime, the NDP government should explain why it claims pesticides are universally unsafe while allowing farmers to use chemicals that are even more potent than those banned in urban areas.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 18, 2013 A10

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