Cosmetic pesticides in York Region – Pesticide reduction task force (January 2002)

January 31, 2002

Regional Councillor Diane Humeniuk
Chair, Pesticide Reduction Task Force

Dear Councillor Humeniuk,

I regret that due to a prior commitment I am unable to attend this meeting. I would like to commend the Region on its initiative to develop a set of Guidelines, and am pleased to see that it is intended that they will become Regional Policy.

I would also like to commend the staff for their excellent background report, which I intend to share with my colleagues in CAPE. The review of the health effects points to a wide range of health effects and to weaknesses in current and past testing procedures, resulting in the appropriate conclusion that “limitations in scientific knowledge lead to an overall under estimation of potential adverse effects”. This in turn makes a very strong case for the application of the precautionary principle to our use of pesticides; the protection of the health of the population from potential harm should be the priority concern guiding public policy, especially with respect to non-essential use of these toxic substances merely for aesthetic or cosmetic purposes. It would be better if we learned to live with dandelions and spiders or other plants and insects that we don’t like – or found other ways of managing them – than that we be forced to live with the often unknown but potentially health-damaging effects of pesticides.

With that in mind, I have the following comments:

  • Since non-essential use of pesticides refers to the use of these chemicals in situations that do not adversely affect public health, food production, forestry uses or public safety, the goal should be revised
    to read: “the eventual elimination in the non-essential use of pesticides and a substantial reduction in the essential use of pesticides on lands owned by the Region of York”.

In other words, if the use of these hazardous substances is non-essential, why would we not apply the precautionary principle and simply eliminate their use. Where their use is essential, we should still be able to substantially reduce their use through IPM, and of course we should always use reduced risk products in those situations. In fact, the elimination of non-essential use of pesticides is stated as a strategy in Section 3.3 of the Draft Guidelines, and should remain so.

  • I would add the following to Section 3.3: (f) Using reduced risk products when a pesticide is deemed necessary
  • In Section 3.5, I have no quarrel with a goal (more properly here, an objective) of “substantially reducing the non-essential use of pesticides by 2003”, as long as this is understood as an objective in line with the longer range goal and strategy of eliminating their use. A substantial reduction by 2003 would be a good first step in protecting the health of the citizens of York Region.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input to this process, I regret that I was unable to be present in person.
Best wishes.
Yours truly
Dr Trevor Hancock
Chair of the Board

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