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Poll backing pesticides panned

Michelle Li, who fought for a local ban on pesticides, believes Richmond residents have responded “incredibly well” to the ban here, noting some retailers have pulled gardening pesticides from their shelves.   - file photo
Michelle Li, who fought for a local ban on pesticides, believes Richmond residents have responded “incredibly well” to the ban here, noting some retailers have pulled gardening pesticides from their shelves.
— image credit: file photo

Critics are rejecting a new poll that suggests “only a minority” of people want pesticides banned.

Commissioned by an association representing chemical and pesticide producers, the poll asked 805 B.C. residents about the use of pesticides in various scenarios.

Shannon Coombs, president of the Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association, said the results show that people favour the use of pesticides around their homes and in green spaces.

“There is a misperception that most residents want a ban,” said Coombs. “The results of this poll clearly reflect it is only a minority of the population...”

The poll comes on the heels of comments from Premier Christy Clark, who said she supports a province-wide ban on cosmetic pesticides—a ban Ontario now has in place. NDP leader Adrian Dix has also proposed such a ban.

Richmond council adopted its pesticide use control bylaw 22 months ago, banning the use of products such as Killex, Roundup and Weed “N” Feed for cosmetic use on residential and city land.

The poll found just one in five respondents opposed a province-wide ban on pesticides, but did find 64 per cent of respondents supported the use of weed control products by homeowners, and 70 per cent supported their use by trained professionals.

“What we found is that they do believe these products have a benefit and they do protect them from insects and weeds and disease,” said Coombs. “When you provide them realistic scenarios about what types of benefits the products do provide, then they actually support the continued use of the products.”

Arzeena Hamir isn’t surprised to hear people want to control weeds and insects, but she noted organic pesticides—still permitted under a cosmetic pesticide ban—are proving “extremely effective.”

“My feeling is that this survey is the chemical industry’s last ditch attempt to sway those who don’t understand that choices are still available under a cosmetic pesticide ban,” said Hamir, co-ordinator of the Richmond Food Security Society.

The success of Richmond’s ban has shown that homeowners can easily cope without using synthetic pesticides, she said.

“What we still need, however, is a provincial ban that prevents local retailers from selling them to homeowners,” said Hamir, noting some local retailers still sell banned pesticides, allowing residents to defy the local bylaw.

“It’s a crazy loophole that often catches homeowners unaware.”

The Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association poll was administered July 6 and 7 and is considered accurate within 3.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20, according to a report produced by Blacksheep Strategy.

The poll offers some opposing data. It found 72 per cent of respondents said pesticides may not be safe, yet 62 per cent of respondents later said they believed such products are safe if used as directed.

Meanwhile, independently conducted and commissioned polls reviewed by the Canadian Cancer Society show growing support for a pesticide ban. Kathryn Seely, public issues director for the society’s B.C. and Yukon branch, said polls consistently show over 70 per cent support for a province-wide ban on lawn and garden pesticides—an umbrella term which includes insecticides, herbicides and fungicides.

She noted 39 B.C. municipalities, including Richmond, already have a bylaw in place to limit pesticide use, but she said municipalities don’t have the jurisdiction to stop the sale of the products.

“Now we have the situation where we have a patchwork of bylaws around the province, which is problematic in that children are still exposed to these unnecessary chemicals on lawns and gardens, and people can still purchase them.”

Seely said there is “a growing body of evidence” linking pesticides to cancers that include leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, brain and prostate.

“The scientific evidence is growing, but is still uncertain. So we say why not be safe than sorry?” said Seely.

Michelle Li, who fought for a local ban on pesticides, believes Richmond residents have responded “incredibly well” to the ban here, noting some retailers have pulled gardening pesticides from their shelves.

Said Li: “As long as pesticides and other toxic chemicals are still allowed to be sold and dispersed into our environment, things like our cancer rates will continue grow, our air and water will become ever-more polluted, and we will suffer more loss of wildlife.”

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