The Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (CAP)
CAP was founded in 1999 with the mission of raising province-wide public awareness on the issue of pesticides by uniting interested groups and individuals throughout Quebec, and by creating ties with similar organizations throughout North America and overseas. Its goal is to dissemenate relevant information on pesticides and their alternatives.
CAP has recently been twice honoured. In the first instance, it was one of three finalists from a large field of candidates for a Phoenix Environment Prize in the category of "Individual or non-profit organization having carried out a program of public education"; the CAP project was entitled "Pesticide-free, naturally". CAP was also awarded the Silver Medal of the Canadian Environment Awards in the category of Sustainable Living.
We asked the officers to CAP to tell us more about the pending pesticide ban in the City of Montreal. This is their article.
The Pesticide Code of Quebec is a bold regulation that is globally unparalleled. It pertains to the handling and storage of pesticides, and to the protection of waterways, lawns and certain buildings across Quebec. The Code was published in the Official Gazette of the province on March 19th, 2003, and came into effect on April 3rd, 2003. Following are highlights:
- All public, semi-public and government lawns are prohibited from using pesticides which are on a list of products to be banned in Quebec (see Annex 1). Only a small list of bio-pesticides (see Annex 2) can be used under a strict protocol, inside or outside all elementary and secondary schools, daycares and wherever there are activities involving children aged 14 years or less;
- It will be prohibited to sell a mix of pesticides and fertilizers or herbicides mixed with insecticides;
- Pesticides on sale must be stored in such a way that customers cannot help themselves from the shelf;
- It will be prohibited to sell or offer for sale pesticides in Annex 1 for use on a lawn. Lawn care companies will not be allowed to use these products for lawn care.
In spite of being an 'avant garde' regulation, the Pesticide Code pertains only to lawn care. This leaves the public vulnerable to pesticides used for any other purposes -- such as in or around buildings, near trees or shrubs, etc. Also, pesticide products not on the list are permitted to be used. In addition, factors such as wind speed, temperature and rain, have not been addressed. These factors are especially important to curtail the spread and contamination caused by pesticides.
In view of these shortfalls, municipalities across Quebec have been urged to pass bylaws to further regulate pesticides. Several municipalities have already achieved very strict regulations, including Longueuil (pop. 400,000). The mega city of Montreal has had a bylaw under consideration since 2002, based on an electoral promise by Mayor Gérald Tremblay which was voted on and supported at the Summit of Montreal, and which forms part of the present Party Policy. On February 20th, 2003, a draft bylaw was released by the City for public consultation. The Standing Committee on Urban Planning, Land Use Planning, the Environment and Sustainable Development held an information evening on March 13th at Montreal City Hall, and then two Public Hearings where citizens, doctors, scientists and various groups presented oral and written submissions calling for an immediate restriction on pesticide use. At the hearing of June 10th, 22 presentations supported a strict bylaw and one industry representative did not; on July 8th, 20 presentations supported a bylaw and eight industry representatives took an opposing view.
The draft bylaw stipulates a ban on the use of pesticides, with some exceptions. These include bowling greens, golf courses, and the use of pesticides for infestations of spiders, ants or other insects. The proposed bylaw also contains a number of loopholes that could put human health at risk. For these reasons, the Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (CAP) has recommended the following amendments:
- that blanket spraying be prohibited on lawns;
- that pesticides be used for infestations only as a last resort and only with a paid permit issued by the city to the property owner or occupant. (Before issuing a permit, a city employee would have to verify the presence of an infestation and be convinced that every alternative had already been used.);
- that only spot application of pesticides be permitted;
- that wind speed (10 kmph), current temperature (25° C) and precipitation (4 hours before or after) be taken into account;
- that pesticide use be prohibited on holidays and the weekend;
- that pesticide applications be made only during specific hours on weekdays with proper notification and signage;
- that golf courses have a documented program to reduce the use of pesticides;
- that homes of people who are ill have a pesticide-free buffer zone of 100 meters.
At the end of the latest Public Hearing, Madame President Suzanne Caron announced that the recommendations of the Commission would be made public in the autumn and that the City of Montreal would be asked to adopt a budget to cover implementation of a bylaw and education of the public about pesticides. While this sounds positive, there is much to be done. A new bylaw will have to be voted in by the Municipal Executive Council and the Montreal City Councillors. While the majority of presenters at the Public Hearings supported a pesticide-free city — almost all expressing concern about their own health and that of future generations — industry has consistently maintained that their products are safe because they are regulated by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada.
However, the PMRA does not have their own laboratories and does risk assessments of toxic products based on information supplied by industry. Further, the PMRA does not have medical doctors reviewing information, and the entire process is shrouded in secrecy, keeping vital information on the content of the pesticides from the public. This results in an absence of informed consent and a violation of the basic human right to breathe clean air.
Mayor Tremblay has promised a pesticide ban by the summer of 2003, a summer that is fast disappearing. Unnecessary exposures have occurred across the Island of Montreal, to the unborn, children, women, the elderly and to those who are ill or susceptible to pesticide effects. Clearly, this is a health issue. We don't need more debate. We need to write, call or fax the mayor of Montreal reminding him of his duty and demanding a ban on pesticides before December 31, 2003.
Rohini Peris and Michel Gaudet
The Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (CAP)
Tel: (514) 683-5701
(For detailed information on this project, call 418-521-3830 or 800-561-1616 or, by e-mail, or the website)
Annex 1 - List of Active Ingredients to Be Prohibited for Lawn Maintenance Purposes
Insecticides: Carbaryl, Dicofolm, Malathion
Fungicides: Benomyl, Captan, Chlorothalonil, Iprodione, Quintozene, Thiophanate-methyl
Herbicides: 2,4-D (all chemical forms), Chlorthal dimethyl, MCPA (all chemical forms),
Mecoprop (all chemical forms)
Annex 2 - List of Active Ingredients Which to Be Allowed Inside and Outside Child Care Centres, Elementary and Secondary Schools (s. 32, 33 and 72)
Insecticides: Acetamiprid, Boric acid, Borax, Silicon dioxide (diatomaceous earth),, Methoprene, Disodium octaborate tetrahydrate, Ferric phosphate, Insecticidal soap, Spinosad, Fungicides, Sulfur Calcium sulfide or calcium polysulfide
Herbicides: Acetic acid, Conjugated decanoic and pelargonic acid, Herbicidal soap
Biopesticides: Active ingredients approved by the federal government*