Protection from pesticides? Afraid not

By Joan Diamond (commentary)

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 21, 2014

As a rural inhabitant of P.E.I., I have always been concerned about the rampant use of pesticides here. So when I recently heard that potatoes would be planted this year in the field 25 feet from my doorway, I decided to do some research about what kind of protection is provided for home owners in a situation like mine. Apparently, absolutely zero is the answer. A quick look at the P.E.I. Department of Environment Frequently Asked Questions, gave this concise information on the subject. source:

u Do farmers have to provide advance notice, to homeowners whose property adjoins the farmer’s field, when they plan to make a pesticide application?

No. Farmers do not have to provide advance notification of a pesticide application. However, when asked to do so, most are happy to provide this information.

u How close to my property line can my neighbour, or someone acting on his/her behalf, apply a pesticide?

A pesticide can be legally applied to the edge of a property line.

u Are there pesticide-free ‘buffer zones’ around schools, parks, playgrounds, and sports fields in P.E.I.?

No. There are no pesticide-free buffer zones around these areas.

u If I receive a written notice that a neighbour is having a pesticide applied to their property, can I legally STOP this application?

No. A property owner has a legal right to apply a pesticide to their property if they wish to do so.

u I have received a written notice that a neighbour is having a pesticide applied to his/her property, but the notice does not provide the specific address of the property. Does the applicator have to provide this information to me?

No. Regulations under the P.E.I. Pesticides Control Act require that advance written notification must be provided to individuals who live within 25 metres of an area that is to be treated with a pesticide. The regulations do not require that the applicator provide the specific address of the property to be treated.

u When is the wind blowing too strongly to apply a liquid pesticide, or a pesticide under pressure?

Regulations under the P.E.I. Pesticides Control Act set a maximum wind speed of 20 km/hr. However, even if the wind speed is below this level, it is the applicator’s responsibility to make sure that there is no drift of pesticide onto neighbouring properties.

One would think that with ongoing fish kills, high nitrate levels and some of the highest rates of cancer, asthma and autism in Canada, a red flag would be going up. One would think, as I did, that there would be some limitations in place to protect Islanders. Instead, farmers are looking to dig deeper wells, which will undoubtedly have further detrimental effects on our already tainted water.

Pesticides are toxins, toxins we continue dumping into our soil and air in every non-organic potato field approximately 15 to 20 times each season.

Yet Islanders continue to be surprised about hearing every day about another friend being diagnosed with cancer, or another child being born with asthma or autism.

We are allowing this to happen. It is time for change. If you care about the health of Islanders, present and future, then take action. Write a letter to the editor, contact our minister of Environment and/or our premier. Buy organic produce, locally when you can. Get involved. Make some noise.

Joan Diamond is a rural Islander who lives in Fairview