Pesticides & Environmental Health

 

  1. Working group background
  2. Overview on pesticide pollution 
  3. National/provincial/municipal legislative bans
  4. District of Sooke context 
  5. Point/Counterpoint: Jo Phillips vs. Tom Fletcher
  6. The Precautionary Principle
  7. Links for further research

Transition Sooke facilitated the first meetings of its cosmetic pesticide working group in the spring of 2016. More than three dozen municipalities in BC had, over the previous 13 years, enacted bylaws banning the sale and use of glyphosates within their borders. Our group felt Sooke could and very likely should also take legislative action in recognizing the health (especially children and pets) and long-term environmental (toxins deposited into soil and watersheds) impacts of these controversial pesticides. (The wealth of links at the end of this page documents why this is an issue of such deep concern to many.)

The working group pressed pause two summers ago upon learning that the BC Liberal government was introducing amendments to its Integrated Pest Management legislation The new guidelines require more public education and safeguards at point-of-purchase.

Since the legislation does not supersede existing municipal legislation, our working group began meeting again in the fall of 2017 to explore options for local action. Ongoing public education about the impacts of pesticides and herbicides is a vital first step. Then perhaps it will be time to formally ask the District of Sooke to join the 40 other BC municipalities — Esquimalt, Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria in the CRD included — that have passed legislation of their own.

Starting Point

Screenshot 2018-02-01 16.44.01

The January, 2018 report Pesticides-TS Overview (word doc) was prepared by Transition Sooke board member Paivi Abernethy.  Currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at Royal Roads University, Ms. Abernethy has a PhD in Social and Ecological Sustainability (sustainability governance & policy), MRes in Health Research (public health), and is an MSc (cand.scient.) in Biochemistry  (molecular biology & microbiology). As a child in Finland, her homeland, she was diagnosed as allergic to pesticides.  Paivi is currently writing a textbook on the topic for practitioners and students at college and undergraduate levels.

Background: Legislative Bans in Canada & BC 

Monsanto chemists developed Glyphosate  in 1970. It is a synthetic herbicide that ruthlessly eradicates insects and weeds.  It was first sold commercially in 1974 under the trade name Roundup and marketed as a “biodegradable” R/x for both crops and front lawns.  While effective, glyphosates raised red flags in the scientific research community about its effects on humans and the environment. Backed by a stack of peer-reviewed evidence,  the State of New York famously sued Monsanto in 1996 for its claims that Roundup was “safer than table salt.”

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded in 2015 that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic.”  The State of California recognized it as a cancer-causing chemical in the summer of 2017 and will require products containing glyphosate to carry label warnings; Monsanto and industrial farming organizations are fighting back with a law suit and are pointing to new studies in their defence. The European parliament voted for a ban in October, 2017.

In Canada, municipalities across the country have the right to introduce local pesticide and herbicide bylaws. Ottawa and Halifax were early adaptors circa 2000. In BC, Port Moody started the trend in 2003, with Tofino, Cumberland, Vancouver, Comox and three dozen more communities in the province following suit.  Quebec instituted a province-wide ban in 2003 and was followed by Ontario (2009), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (both 2010), Newfoundland (2012) and Manitoba (2014).

Given the lack of action on a provincial level in western Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment teamed in 2010 to campaign in BC and Alberta for what they termed a “common-sense ban on lawn pesticides.” As the groups pointed out, solid research shows that individuals exposed to pesticides are at greater risk for cancer, reproductive problems, and neurological illness. Campaign supporters included the BC Lung Association, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Public Health Association of BC.

Both the Liberal and NDP parties in BC made election commitments to a ban. Christy Clark’s government created a bi-partisan Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticides in June, 2011. After hearing from more than 8,000 groups and individuals in the province, the committee rejected a ban, citing a lack of scientific evidence. (Revisit its May, 2012 final report here).

Still persisting despite failed attempts with draft legislation in 2009 and 2010, NDP MLA Rob Fleming introduced Bill M 207-2013 (“Cosmetic Use of Pesticides Control Act“) during the 2013 legislative season. As the bill’s explanatory note states: “This Bill will help protect public health, safety and the environment in British Columbia by regulating, restricting and prohibiting the use and sale of pesticides for residential and cosmetic use, and regulating the use of pesticides around children.”

It too failed to win approval in the legislature.

Sooke Context

Official Community Plan (2010) 

  • “Ban the use of cosmetic/non‐essential pesticides on all lands in and around Sooke, starting with municipal lands, and educate the public regarding organic alternatives to conventional pesticides” – Environment 4.10.3 (d)
  • “Ensure the ongoing health of the natural environment (air, water, soil)” – Health & Quality of Life 4.6.2 (a)
  • “Sooke shall identify, protect, enhance and create environmental resources for the long term benefit of wildlife, natural ecosystems and the enjoyment of the present and future population and visitors to the District of Sooke.” – Environment 4.10.1 (goals)
  • “Encourage organic pesticide use for farming, agriculture, animal husbandry and landscaping use within the District of Sooke by 2011 through the use of integrated pest management” – Agriculture & Food Security 4.5.3 (p)

~ Sooke Agricultural Plan (2012)

  • Medium Term (six months to two years) Action Item:  5.1.8. “Consider adopting the CRD’s model Pesticide Control Bylaw (now in use in Victoria, Oak Bay, Saanich. ‘Right to Farm’ legislation supersedes all bylaws on agricultural land, and ALR land is exempt).”

~ Sooke endorses Declaration of the Right to a Healthy Environment

Declaration of the Right to a Healthy Environment (see page 3 of the agenda package), was presented to Sooke council by Rupert and Franny Ladell Yakelashek on Feb. 23, 2015. Action: MOVED to approve the same declaration as signed by Port Moody.  CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY (Tait, Berger, Kasper, Logins, Parkinson, Pearson) on Feb. 23, 2015.  (Sooke was the 23rd of 163 municipalities across Canada to have officially endorsed the declaration as of February, 2018.)

~ Letter of thanks to Rupert and Sooke council written by Sooke youngsters Finn and Chloe Unger.

Point vs. Counterpoint

Otter Point resident Jo Phillips wrote this ~ Jo’s reply ~ in response to Tom Fletcher’s pro-pesticide BC Views column titled “Polluted Logic Plagues Pesticide Bylaws” , published online by the Sooke News Mirror (Jan. 28, 2018) and in Black Press papers across the province.

The Precautionary Principle

“The precautionary principle denotes a duty to prevent harm, when it is within our power to do so, even when all the evidence is not in. This principle has been codified in several international treaties to which Canada is a signatory. Domestic law makes reference to this principle but implementation remains limited.” ~ Canadian Environmental Law Association.

Links for Further Research

(compiled by Paivi Abernethy) 

Health Impacts on Early Human Development  

Save the Bees: Neonicotinoid Insecticides 

The Age (and Art) of Disinformation

  • Scientific Freedom in the Age of Biotechnology. A panel discussion recorded at the University of California – Berkeley in 2003. Focus is on how the science around GMOs has been silenced.
  • Merchants of Doubt. Trailer for the Robert Kenner documentary film (based on Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s book of the same name) that examines how industry and their paid experts distract and outright lie in the face of scientific evidence. “In Merchants of Doubt, historians Oreskes and Conway explain how a loose–knit group of high-level scientists, with extensive political connections, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades.”

Peer-Reviewed Science 

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