Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Maybe those hippies have a point after all

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Re: Pesticide ban's foes get louder (March 25). I must have spent too much time in the chemical shed, out on the sprayer or laying out on my front lawn, because my opinion on the proposed chemical ban has slowly been changing.

I am a city-dwelling pesticide salesman who farms a few hundred acres, and my initial reaction to the idea of a pesticide ban was pure outrage. Who in their right mind would want to get rid of the simplest and most cost-effective way of increasing yield and quality of the food that we eat? It must be my tree-loving hippie friends who enjoy smoking weed just as much as I love killing weeds in my garden and wheat fields.

I spend countless hours in a tractor cab watching the tractor drive itself, so I have sufficient time to spend deep in thought. One day after thoughts so deep that I nearly drowned, I decided to call one of my tree-loving hippie friends (the one who informed me that it was Roundup Ready pigs that caused swine flu). A comical conversation later, I had my first glimpse that perhaps limiting access to some pesticides may not be the worst thing in the world.

My friend, who had always been opposed to anything chemical -- be it malathion, pressure-treated lumber or, possibly, shampoo -- decided to try Roundup on his dandelions because he just couldn't keep up hand weeding. The Roundup did its job; it killed the dandelions, but it also killed the lawn around the flowers and his yard looked like a polka dotted golf green.

I had to muffle a laugh as I told him that he could borrow my backpack sprayer to attack the other weeds that had eluded him. When his yard had grown back, I offered him my backpack sprayer loaded with the good stuff that you can't find on the shelves of your local hardware store. He declined my offer and informed me that he was going to hire someone to manage the weeds in his lawn. That is when I realized that some regulations might not be a horrible idea.

When I hire someone to spray my fields on the farm, that person needs to have written his ground or aerial applicators licence test. This means that the person using the chemical has been trained to properly handle and apply these products to my field to prevent potential polka-dot patches.

Instead of getting rid of an amazing pest control tool, let's make application of it a little more controlled. It will cost more to pay someone who is trained to come and spray your weeds, but in the end it will prevent polka-dotted lawns, and if the chemical is properly used it will not need to be used nearly as often or in such large quantities.

Might not be a bad idea, but then again, I do enjoy the smell of 2,4-D.

COLIN PENNER

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2013 A15

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