Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Science, not politics, must decide pesticide debate

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DEAR EDITOR,

Manitoba Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh indicated last week it was all but certain the government would implement a ban on urban pesticide use in the province. It appears as though he made up his mind before the public consultation period ending on Oct. 1 was over.

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Mackintosh seemed to be speaking out of turn before Manitobans had their fair chance to voice their opinions. It was the government's responsibility to hold a fair and meaningful public-consultation process and not simply to go through the labour-intensive and costly administrative exercise with mind already made up. It appears the minister's bias has stood in the way of a proper consultation.

Important public-policy decisions shouldn't be made on a political whim, they should instead be based on sound science. Unfortunately, it looks like Mackintosh chose to base his decision on misinformation rather than the weight of scientific evidence.

The reality is pesticides are one of the most regulated products you will ever come across. Before any pesticide can be sold in Canada it must undergo an exhaustive and comprehensive scientific review and safety assessment by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which is mandated to ensure the protection of human health and the environment.

Recognizing the need to continue to lead in the protection of human health, the federal government reviewed and updated pesticide legislation in 2006, providing Canadians with the strongest protection on a global scale. Specifically, pesticides undergo more than 200 separate tests addressing every possible health and environmental issue imaginable. Virtually no other product you will ever purchase has been subject to the same level of scientific scrutiny and regulatory oversight as pesticides.

The government should take a closer look at what is going on in other provinces. Take Quebec, for example. After nearly a decade of falsely claiming products containing 2,4-D are dangerous and denying its residents the ability to use such products, the Quebec government took a major step in 2011 by conceding that "products containing 2,4-D do not pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment."

Earlier this year, the British Columbia special committee on cosmetic pesticide use determined there was not enough scientific evidence to warrant a ban on the sale and use of urban pesticides in the province, affirming its confidence in the federal regulatory process. This decision came after the committee heard from a variety of witnesses, including those from Health Canada. Manitoba would have been well served to consult with Health Canada, the federal body that regulates the sale and use of pesticides.

The many Manitobans who want continued access to safe and effective pest-control tools to maintain their properties will be disappointed Mackintosh had his mind made up before the consultation process even began. We call on Premier Greg Selinger to step in and show leadership on this file by putting logic before politics.

DOUG CHORNEY

Keystone Agricultural Producers

East Selkirk

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 4, 2012 A9

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