Editor: Nothing cosmetic about pesticides? Contrary to Ted Menzies’ Letter to the Editor (The Guardian, May 7), there is rarely any other reason to apply pesticides to a lawn. Pesticides are usually applied to achieve a uniform, monoculture expanse of grass on public and private properties. Pesticides “protect public and private properties from insect, weed and disease infestations and control threats to human health, like rats and mosquitoes?” In fact, weeds are not generally harmful and many are beneficial. Unlike pesticides, insects and diseases in lawns are extremely unlikely to pose any health threat. We are not overrun by rats and mosquitoes are an important part of the food chain.
To suggest, as Mr. Menzies does, a link between the use of pesticides and longer human life spans is patently absurd. Here’s a less specious correlation: P.E.I. rates of cancer, asthma and autism are among the highest in the country. The province has the highest proportion of land devoted to agriculture, with the vast majority of that land farmed using conventional (i.e. chemical) farming practices. As Dr. Roger Gordon wrote in a recent letter, many studies have reported links between pesticide use and illness. The U.S. National Cancer Institute reports that “farming communities have higher rates of leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma, as well as cancers of the skin, lip, stomach, brain, and prostate.”
Regarding Health Canada standards for pesticide safety: In 2000, the agency’s Pest Management Advisory Council was cited for conflict of interest by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, because it regulates the pesticide industry and also approves industry products. Furthermore, research on pesticide safety is provided to PMAC by the very companies that make the products. How likely is that information to be unbiased?
The Health Canada website cautions: If you choose to apply pesticides on your property, you do so at your own risk. Look into the dangers of pesticides and make an educated decision. How much risk are you willing to accept for your family and the environment?