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Activists Defend Quebec’s Ban on 2,4-D
The Canadian Province of Quebec is on the verge of enacting historic measures to protect public health from unnecessary and dangerous lawn chemicals. The Pesticide Code of Quebec came into effect in 2003 and has been phased in over a period of three years. The final stage of the Code will come into effect on April 3, 2006. The Code bans the sale and use of 20 active ingredients contained in 212 pesticide products applied cosmetically on lawns. Agricultural uses are exempted. However, the lawn care industry is making a last-ditch effort to delay the implementation of the Code and exempt the chemical 2,4-D from the ban.
“If successful, this would mean that 2,4-D could be sprayed on the green spaces in our communities, where the children we raise with loving care will play, roll, romp in the grass, and many of them will even put it in their mouths–as children often do!” stated Quebec residents Rohini Peris and Michel Gaudet. “This is an unacceptable risk.” Peris and Gaudet’s family understands the toll that pesticides can take, after suffering a serious incident of pesticide poisoning in their own home. “That the industry would lobby to change a law designed to protect public health is shameful,” Peris declared.
“2,4-D is far from safe. It can affect women’s ability to bear healthy children, and epidemiological studies show strong links between use of 2,4-D products and cancer,” noted Dr. Susan Kegley, Senior Scientist at Pesticide Action Network. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment classifies 2,4-D as a developmental toxicant. Recent independent studies indicate that rats exposed to 2,4-D in utero showed an increased incidence of skeletal abnormalities such as extra ribs and malformed ribcages. In rabbits, 2,4-D and its diethanolamine salt caused abortions and skeletal abnormalities.
2,4-D is widely used throughout North America. One popular use of 2,4-D is as a weed killer mixed with fertilizer for lawns. Because companies mix herbicide and fertilizer in the same product, homeowners who simply want to fertilize their lawns often end up inadvertently applying large doses of the herbicide as well. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that one quarter of the U.S. population carries 2,4-D residues in their bodies, and children between the ages of six and eleven have significantly higher exposure rates compared to older children and adults. The Pesticide Code of Quebec has already prohibited the use or sale of fertilizer-pesticide mixtures such as “Weed and Feed” as well as herbicide-insecticide mixtures as of April 2004.
The story of the Canadian pesticide movement illustrates both the power of grassroots democracy, and the danger of corporate influence at the international level. Quebec’s Pesticide Code was born from years of local organizing to pass bylaws against cosmetic pesticide use at the municipal level. As many as 70 cities and towns in the Province of Quebec and 15 more communities across Canada have already passed such bylaws. These include major cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Dozens more are debating the issue. Residents have enjoyed great success in persuading their neighbors on city councils to protect community health, pressing their local knowledge as an advantage over industry lobbyists accustomed to national politics. In one hapless incident, an industry representative failed to convince a mayor who was a well-known dog lover by dispassionately explaining chemical toxicity testing on beagles.
However, Quebec’s Pesticide Code came under threat at the international level from Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which allows corporations to sue governments for lost profits. Days after the Code was proposed, Donald Page of the Industry Task Force II on 2,4-D threatened to sue the Quebec government under Chapter 11. Fortunately Provincial Minister Andre Boisclair stood up to the industry lobby, and Quebec passed the new Pesticide Code in March 2003. To date, no Chapter 11 complaint has been filed against the government of Quebec, although the industry continues to lobby hard for a 2,4-D exemption.
Residents of Quebec have put out a call for international solidarity, urging concerned people everywhere to communicate to Quebec’s ministers to keep the Pesticide Code strong. You can help by sending a message to the government of Quebec here http://ga4.org/campaign/quebecPesticideBan.
Highlights of the Pesticide Management Code of Quebec
Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (CAP)
Rickman, Angela. 2004. “Canadian Activists Win Pesticide Bylaws” in Global Pesticide Campaigner 14 (2), August 2004
Pesticide Action Network North America. 2005. “California Finds Lawn Chemicals Dangerous to Health” Pesticide Action Network Update Service (PANUPS) December 21, 2005
PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don’t always get coverage by the mainstream media. It’s produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.
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