In April 2010, the city of St. John’s asked its residents to refrain from using cosmetic pesticides. The advisory would continue until the government of Newfoundland and Labrador would enact their own—or allow municipalities to enact—regulations regarding cosmetic pesticide use.
Since that time, the call for a ban has grown in strength, and with new Environment Minister Ross Wiseman in place, the people of NL are looking for some action on the pesticide issue.
The term pesticide encompasses all insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other pest-control substances. Anything from fly repellent, to rat poison, to any other product used to destroy or prevent a pest is considered a pesticide.
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, pesticides are toxic to an abundance of life forms. They are not specific to certain pests and can harm helpful insects, such as ladybugs, which are predators of aphids—the enemy of any gardener.
Also, pesticides don’t stay on your lawn, but in runoff, can eventually make it to streams, lakes, or the ocean. This runoff brings harmful toxins in contact with fish and other wildlife, and also may enter drinking water.
Some pesticides contain known cancer causing agents, while still others are suspected to contain these substances. Pesticide use has been linked to a number of health conditions in humans. A study by M. Sanborn et al. of the College of Family Physicians in Canada, entitled Non-Cancer Health Effects Of Pesticides, claimed pesticides may also cause neurological effects, birth defects, and other harmful effects.
In 1962, the book Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, first made the public aware of the dangers of organochloride insecticides, such as DDT. It was found that residues from these pesticides persisted in the food chain, accumulating to reach higher concentrations at higher trophic levels. They were found to be the cause of population losses among various birds of prey, including the peregrine falcon, due to the thinning of its eggshells. Though many countries have banned these pesticides, they are still used in some parts of the world.
The Second Silent Spring? by John R. Krebs et al. states that 116 species of bird throughout Europe are now threatened due to the use of various pesticides.
MUN Botanical Garden employs a minimal use policy when it comes to pesticides. “We only use slug bait now and then. We use insecticidal soap in the greenhouse. That's it,” said Todd Boland, research horticulturalist at the garden.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, biologically-based pesticides, such as pheromones and microbial pesticides, which are gaining popularity, are safer to humans and other organisms than traditional chemical pesticides.
On Jan. 13, the Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides-Newfoundland and Labrador created a petition for the banning of non-essential, or cosmetic, pesticides. The petition can be read and signed at www.gopetition.com/petition/42016.html. Blog Gadgets