Three cheers for our northern neighbors! Last week the final phase of Quebec's Pesticide Management Code went into effect. The code bans the use in Quebec of 20 chemicals that are commonly used in home pesticides. The result is that 210 (!!) lawn care products that use harmful synthetic chemicals are now OFF THE MARKET in Quebec.
Banned brands include Green Cross Killex,C-I-L Tri-Kill and Weedex that contain the herbicide 2,4-D that kill dandelions and other weeds. Also banned are Sevin and other brands that include the herbicide carbaryl.
Not surprisingly, the traditional lawn care and pesticide industry in Canada fought this legislation every inch of the way. They were particularly upset by the inclusion on the banned list of 2,4-D, which has been linked to cancer and other neurological disorders by studies all over the world. From a press release by
a front group for the Canadian pesticide industry the Urban Pest Management Council:
Quebec's decision to band the use of more than 200 lawn care products….is based on neither science nor common sense.
"Quebec's decision to ignore the collective expertise of federal government scientists-who have thoroughly assessed these products and have concluded that they pose no unacceptable risk to human health or the environment-makes no sense," said Debra Conlon, Executive Director of the Urban Pest Management Council (UPMC).
Let's talk about the "collective expertise" in those federal agencies. It is true that 2,4-D and other chemicals have been declared by both the U.S. EPA and Health Canada (its Canadian counterpart) as safe when used as directed. The problem is, most homeowners don't know how to use them. According to an email on the Quebec pesticide ban that I received from Gardeners Supply:
The pesticide 2,4-D and similar products may indeed be "safe" when used properly, but no one debates that these products can be unsafe when not used properly. The reality is that homeowners lack the knowledge and attention to detail that would ensure toxic lawn and garden products are used safely.
Paul Tukey, HGTV gardening host and editor of the magazine People, Places & Plants, says, "I have stood in front of countless garden clubs and asked them all the same question: 'Do you know how to spread 20 pounds of weed 'n' feed per thousand square feet?' Maybe one in a hundred people knows how to do it. That means the average homeowner is spreading toxic chemicals in a giant guess. This is a huge problem that few people seem to want to talk about."
The Code was lauded by Michel Gaudet, the president of the Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.
[Gaudet] said that Quebec law is now in line with 2,4-D prohibitions in effect in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. "Sweden prohibited 2,4-D in 1977 and 12 years later they noted the increase in some of their cancers started to go down," he said.
And it was endorsed by physicians:
The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, based in Toronto, said the code makes Quebec a leader in protecting human and animal health.
I hope Quebec homeowners see the ban not as an inconvenience but as an opportunity to garden and care for their lawn more sustainably. The substitute for synthetic chemical weedkillers is fertile soil, appropriate (and abundant) grass seed, and natural nutrients such as compost and organic fertilizer.
This is a huge victory for the environment and for sustainable gardening in North America! Kudos to Quebec for being ahead of the curve on this issue. I'd like to see an equally progressive ban south of the Canadian border.