VIDEO: Charlottetown protest highlights pesticide controversy

Nigel Armstrong
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Sharon Labchuk says the P.E.I. government betrayed its public trust in regard to cosmetic pesticides in the past, and completely missed the point of a protest Wednesday in Charlottetown.

About 20 supporters, plus reporters from all Island media outlets and government staff gathered on the front lawn of Province House to spread granules of corn gluten, a product banned under provincial regulations.

In 2009 PEI introduced cosmetic pesticide legislation for lawn-care products after public pressure, said Labchuk.

There were petitions and presentations to committees and much lobby, she said.

"We were very confident," she said. "Then (Environment Minister) Richard Brown completely and utterly betrayed everyone.

"A lot of people that worked very hard felt they had been kicked in the guts and they went home demoralized and exhausted," said Labchuk.

"Government set about to introduce what was absolutely contrary to the will of the people," she said.

The problem was the choice to model the Island regulations after the least-restrictive province,  New Brunswick, said Labchuk.

"One chemical is banned," she said. "Ninety-some that Ontario banned are still being sprayed willy-nilly around the province."

The legislation on P.E.I. focused on the physical form of pesticide products, citing those in pellet form and as such ended up banning granular corn gluten.

In other provinces, said Labchuck, corn gluten is promoted by governments as a safe, organic lawn herbicide that will inhibit the germination of weeds in the spring and fall.

The Island also ended up mistakenly banning pellet forms of plain iron that inhibits moss plus banning some forms of fatty acids, or soap-like products that fight insects in an environmentally safe way, she said.

Labchuk wants to revive the cosmetic pesticide lobby. She called on P.E.I. to bring in legislation similar to Ontario which names many individual chemicals for exclusion on lawns.

"Lets work this summer to make sure this legislation is introduced in the fall," said Labchuk.

There is no problem, said Janice Sherry, minister of environment, labour and justice who spoke at the protest.

Government staff monitor the safety of lawn care pesticides, comparing evidence from other provinces, the public and the lawn-care industry, plus results from test wells around the province, she said.

"I am pleased to say that no pesticides were detected in the majority of wells province-wide," said Sherry.

Nor any pesticide residue in soil tests, she said later.

She told the protest group that work is underway to remove corn gluten meal from the list of banned lawn supplements.

"I want to thank Earth Action for bringing this to my attention and to the attention of the public," said Sherry.

Labchuk later said that Earth Action has worked for years with government to draw attention to the issue of corn gluten, iron and fatty acids so it is not a sudden surprise. She said the water testing on P.E.I. is poorly done and does not include many chemicals not considered active ingredients but still included in many formulations.

Retired dean of science at UPEI, Roger Gordon said the  real point of Earth Action's corn gluten protest Tuesday was to illustrate that in fact, all but one of some 90 proven-harmful pesticides used in lawn care formulations are still permitted for use on the Island.

"They are playing with peoples' health and safety," he said of the P.E.I government.


Organizations: Province House

Geographic location: Charlottetown, P.E.I., Iceland

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Recent comments

  • Billy
    May 07, 2014 - 18:40

    The best food was organic, now it's gluten free. There are reports that it's all a gimmick. I love it when folks love there lobster and other fish that eat the garbage on the ocean bottom then say let's eat this other stuff. Sheesh.

  • Roger Gordon
    May 07, 2014 - 17:12

    The protest was not really about corn gluten. C. gluten was used to highlight the ridiculousness of the present legislation. Thanks for pointing out the unstylish buttoning of my sweater. Call me an absent minded professor, but I know of what I speak (if not dress) and cosmetic pesticides currently allowed on pei pose a significant danger to human health.

  • sammy
    May 07, 2014 - 16:58

    I always get my lawn care products when I go to the states. 2-4-D, extra strength Killex (cant get that in Canada) , Extended Performance Roundup, etc.. they are all available in full strength at any Lowe's right off the shelf (not to mention the great insecticides). Carry on Sharon.

    • karma
      May 09, 2014 - 10:33

      sammy = self-cleaning the gene pool of fools!

  • w kennedy
    May 07, 2014 - 16:24

    Dandelions will not hurt you poison in groundwater may. If you really want boring solid green you could get exercise removing them mechanically. Or go for AstroTurf and stay indoors???

  • Protester
    May 07, 2014 - 15:34

    @Smile for the Camera There was a variety of people there.

  • lawnless
    May 07, 2014 - 15:27

    my lawn is infested with weeds and dandelions. I can no longer purchase any pesticide to kill the weeds because it's been banned. I can't afford professional lawn service. In a few years, my lawn will be dead. Maybe I can sprinkle the corn on what's left of my lawn... it might not kill weeds or save the grass, but it will attract all kinds of earwigs, bugs and rodents. At least then, my misery will have lots of company...

    • Mark
      May 07, 2014 - 18:55

      Poor you. What a terrible dilemma to be in. Whatever will you do?

  • don
    May 07, 2014 - 14:52

    Sharon you talk about protecting the environment well i bet you drive a car that is hurting my lungs, you have a oil furnace same thing more poison in the air etc, so if yiou want o help go back to the ways of the 1800's horse and wagon,fire place, no electric power. and talk to a doctor i agree with you in a way yes we need to protect the land but u only seem to talk a few times a year. and what you are doing in the pic looks like you are going to shake a person hand.

  • Smile for the Camera
    May 07, 2014 - 14:23

    That is quite a protest - 3 people. For the record, corn gluten is not effective in weed control. As for the so called pesticide expert, I just can't bring myself to have much confidence in a man who can't master the art of buttoning his sweater. You got your picture in the paper though. Mission accomplished.

  • Islander
    May 07, 2014 - 13:56

    That's one point for Sharon. Why does it always take embarrassing the face off these politicians to get anything done? Let's get the rest of the harmful chemicals off the shelf now.