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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Big News

Hi folks,

I have taken a part-time job at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, as the Healthy Lawns Coordinator. It is a bit of a misleading job title but the main focus is freeing Nova Scotia of pesticides, focusing on both legislation and education. The current wisdom is that these two things must work in tandem to create the desired change; either one on its own is ineffectual. Please see below for a fascinating transcript of a recent episode of Marketplace on this very subject:



CBC Marketplace: The real deal on banned pesticides Tonight... They're selling this stuff... The real deal on bannedpesticides... They're promoting this stuff as if it's good for everybody,and yet it's supposed to be banned... Stores full ... of outlawed chemicals]

CBC News and Current AffairsWed 10 Oct 2007 , Time: 19:30 EDTNetwork: CBC - Television WENDY MESLEY (HOST):

KENT SALESMAN: We sell literally tons of the stuff.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Gardeners defying the law.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): ... he's even telling me that people aregoing out and spraying after dark when nobody's looking.

WOMAN: I'd rather not have a perfect lawn and have kids that are healthy.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): The loophole that's turning into a turf war.

SALESMAN: You can use whatever you want. The bylaws don't mean anything.

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): As Environmental Minister,that's disappointing.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But you could... You either support the idea of the banor you don't. Get what you need to know, right now.

ONSCREEN TEXT: Lawn & Order

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): We are looking for suspect activity in some big-boxstores.

WOMAN: Does one have more chemicals in it, then? SALESWOMAN: Yeah.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): We're undercover inside some of the biggest and mostpopular chains in Canada.

SALESMAN: You should use this stuff with your hose.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): With a hidden camera, we start our investigation indowntown Toronto.

SALESWOMAN: (Laughing): Just don't let them see you using it. Do it in themiddle of the night like everybody else.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Salespeople advising customers not to get caught usingtheir products? What are they selling?

SALESMAN: Oh yeah. They're okay. They're all good.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): It is a banned substance, but it's not pot -- it's pesticides! We're showingyou the underworld of the perfect lawn, how in spite of pesticide bansspringing up across the country -- 135 now, and counting -- we're stillsurrounded by so many perfectly weedless lawns. This is where the movementgot its biggest push. Halifax has the granddaddy of all pesticide bans. Thepeople of Halifax asked for and got a ban on the residential use ofpesticides because of health concerns. That was seven years ago. Is itworking? With a turf specialist, we're on lawn patrol, and we find a lot ofsuspiciously perfect specimens... Oh, there's one. Perfect. Perfect.Perfect. Right next to a weed one. Look at that. David Patriquin is aBiology prof at Dalhousie. He wants people to worry more about their healththan their weeds.

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): Well I'm shocked when I see people who do it when there's kids are around.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Use pesticides?

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): Yeah.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): How, in the city the rest of the country sees ashaving the model pesticide ban, could there be so many flawless lawns?...Oh, look at that!

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): Yeah, now here'swhere there is a common property line between this house and their,neighbour and there is just a remarkable decline in weeds, on a...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): It's perfectly clean right along the line! Look atthat.

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): At the propertyline. Yeah.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Makes you wonder what's going on. We talk to the proudowner of the weedy lawn... Hi there! We're with C.B.C. We're doing a storyabout the bylaw, you know, the pesticide bylaw, and we noticed that you havelots of nice weeds on your lawn. (Chuckling) So we just wanted to ask you,do you have opinions about the pesticide bylaw?

WOMAN: You know, I'm happy that they have bylaws, so...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Does it bother you that...

WOMAN: But no, I mean, he doesn't... I know our neighbour is aperfectionist with his lawn, and I know he likes to have a perfect lawn, butI'd rather not have a perfect lawn and have kids who are healthy.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Time to talk to her neighbour with the perfect lawn. Ishe sneaking out at night with a banned spray? We're just wondering what youdo to keep the weeds out?

MAN: By hand.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): By hand? Oh really!

MAN: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Nothing special.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): What about if you get a dandelion, or like... anysprays?

MAN: No, never. No. I go myself. I can show you my tool set if you want, soit's all by hand.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): 13: Huh.

MAN: Yeah, yeah.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): And the neighbour on the other side? What do you dofor weeds?

MAN: We give it to the weed man. They're supposed to treat it. Three timesso far. I'm the new owner here, so the last couple years was not treated, bythe look of it.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Right. So are you going to treat it with something?

MAN: Yeah whatever they recommend there, the company itself, yeah.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Yeah, do you know what he's going to use?

MAN: Not quite sure. I know no pesticide at all. We know that there'sbylaws. But the rest, I don't know exactly what he's using.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Yeah. He's not sure what his lawn company uses, andPatriquin says a lot of homeowners may not know that the products they'rebuying, like, say, Weed-and- feed, contain a banned chemical.

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): If you putweed-and-feed on, it looks like you're fertilising your lawn, you see, andthat's what... like, I don't think any of the major lawn franchises aredoing that. I don't think they are; they would be stupid if they did. Butthere's a lot of Weed-and-feed sold in the retail outlets, and that's howit's used. You're fertilising your lawn, but there is herbicide in it aswell, and of course there's no signs.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Right, so people don't even know.

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): If they comeout with a spray truck, that's different, but if you're just puttingfertiliser...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): It looks like fertiliser, but it's got something else in it too.

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): Yeah.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Wait a minute. It's illegal to use these chemicalshere, but you can still buy them? Yup, some big chains did stop selling theproducts when the bylaw came in, but at others here in the Halifax RegionalMunicipality, or H.R.M., we find shelves bursting with banned pesticides.

SALESMAN: Most of that stuff is not allowed in the H.R.M., but we selltons of it. You tell me it's all going outside the city? No.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Weed-and-feed, Killex, Weedout, Roundup -- all ofthese products contain at least one of the banned chemicals. It's illegalto use any of these on your lawn here. But there they sit, right beside thegreen products. And they are selling tons. Stats Canada says the use ofpesticides in Nova Scotia has barely budged since the pesticide ban cameinto effect...

ONSCREEN TEXT: 1994, 2006

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): ... just a teensy dip. So if this is to be Canada'sshining example, what's going wrong? We bring our hidden camera to somebig-box Halifax stores to see if these salespeople are encouraging illicitbehaviour too.

SALESWOMAN: I think they have a fertiliser-slash-Weed-and-feed thing inthere, which would probably be the best thing.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Annette Lutterman started to suspect the ban was abust when her neighbour told her their local hardware store was recommendinga banned chemical.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): And I got curious about it, and I thought,"Well, what are people being told in the stores? If you go in and ask anhonest question, some advice for your lawn, what are you told?"

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Annette volunteers to go shopping at some of Canada'slargest big-box stores here, and we follow with our hidden camera to seewhat they say about pesticide use. First up, Home Depot:

HOME DEPOT SALESMAN: There is a bylaw. I'm not exactly sure.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Okay, he knows about the bylaw, but still he takes usstraight to the Weed- and-feed.

HOME DEPOT SALESMAN: So I'd recommend one of these two things.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): Yeah. The reason I was asking too is 'cause Ihave young children, and I was concerned about whether or not this kind issafe to use on the property.

HOME DEPOT SALESMAN: It's safe as long as, like... This... You might notwant, like, pets to be around the lawn for around 24 hours after you do it,but after that, you know, you should be fine for everybody.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): And is it legal to use?

HOME DEPOT SALESMAN: Yup. Yup.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Really? This salesperson doesn't seem to know it'sillegal to use these products. There's a lot of confusion here, and nowonder. It turns out the city can name the banned chemicals, but it can'tname the products that contain them.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): The municipality doesn't want to make a listof brand-name products. They don't want to tell people that Killex is notpermitted, that Total Wipeout is not permitted, that anything calledweed-and-feed is not permitted, because it's a bit of a sticky issue namingbrand names, so they tell you which ingredients are not permitted, and, youknow, the average person is not going to read the small print.

ONSCREEN TEXT: See what's banned: cbc.ca/marketplace

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): So do our hidden cameras find any salespeople whoadvise against these products? In our quick survey of four big chains inHalifax, we didn't find a single one. What we did find is that even whensalespeople know about the ban, they don't seem to treat it very seriously.Just listen to this salesperson from Canadian Tire:

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): So is this legal to use around here?

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: That I can't answer. I know we sell it, and I knowyou're allowed to use certain things and not other things, but as exactly which...

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): Yeah.

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: We sell an awful lot of it, so I don't know ifanybody really pays much attention to it.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): But everybody uses it anyway?

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: Yeah. The amount of it that we sell, it's not justpeople that live outside the city.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): No. So you sell lots of it?

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: Yeah, they are just going out when it gets dark,spraying and going in the house.

MARKETPLACE PRODUCER: They are going out when it gets dark?

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: Well, if your neighbours aren't too fussy about it,then you can do it during the daylight, but...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Hmm. "Spray at night." It's starting to be a familiar refrain.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): It's clear that he does know something aboutwhether it's legal, because he's even telling me that people are going outand spraying after dark.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): So what's the secret behind the perfect lawn? It seemsthe stores aren't getting the message through to staff about what's bannedand what's not. The city had invited all the stores to pesticide workshops.Most participated. Kent, a big chain in Atlantic Canada, has gone, butstill, at one of their stores, Annette gets taken aside for a private chat,right around the corner from a sign outlining twelve ways to get your lawnoff drugs.

KENT SALESMAN: We sell literally tons of this stuff through the city ofHalifax. I just say make sure that your neighbours are okay with it. It'smore check with your neighbours than it is check with the city.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): So you think the bylaw is kind of excessive?

KENT SALESMAN: Stupid. It's stupid. I think it's totally stupid. They'vegone way beyond what is practical, because now what they've got is a cityfull of dandelions, except for the people who just totally disregard thebylaw and look after their lawns.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Back on turf patrol, our lawn guy says there is onlyone way to keep banned chemicals off lawns -- get them off the shelves... Sowhy aren't they, if there is a bylaw?

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): That's acomplicated negotiation, apparently, between the city and the variouselements. The H.R.M. has not been prepared to push it that hard.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): If Halifax can't make the ban work, can any city? Theproducts you see on shelves here, you won't find in Quebec stores. Quebechas gone a step further. It's not only banned the use of a number ofpesticides; it's banned the sale of them too. And it seems to work. The useof pesticides has dropped by half in Quebec...

ONSCREEN TEXT: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003,2004, 2005, 2006

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): ... unlike that teensy dip in Nova Scotia, a stat theNova Scotia Environment Minister doesn't seem familiar with. Mark Parentthinks the Halifax ban is a big success.

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): Oh, it's cutting back onpesticide use. I have no doubt about that.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But look, Nova Scotia, it's barely moved. This was1994. This is 2006. Quebec, which has a ban on the sale as well as the use,they've cut it by about half, and Nova Scotia, it's, like, minuscule, thedrop.

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): that Of herbicides andpesticides, yeah. But... And, I mean, that would... that would tend to...that would tend to... to... to... undercut what I'm saying in terms ofH.R.M., because it's about 30 to 40 percent of our population. I can only goby anecdotal information that I have that I think it is... it is... it isworking. Um, if people are out in the middle of the night spraying theirlawns, you know. .. (laughs)... and saying, "The pesticide police won'tcatch us," I mean there's no way I can have any information about that.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But we do. We tell him it looks like people may bedoing exactly that, on the advice of their local hardware store. It wasn't hard to find; it was really easy.

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): You're trying to useregulation to do an educational tool, which is why the province has chosenthe strict educational approach.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But maybe the lawn lovers of Halifax aren't gettingthe message. Is part of the problem that you can't even tell people whatbrands that they're not allowed to use?

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Yes, our permitted products list is basically substances.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Stephen King is the man who oversees the Halifaxbylaw. So you can't say, "Don't use Killex; don't use weed-and-feed."

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Yeah, it's a fine line that we have to walk, so webasically, like, on the permitted products list, just say, we don't listbrand names. Basically it's substances.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But people aren't going to be reading theingredients?

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Well, you know, we try and encourage them to, and that'swhat a lot of the education is around. I mean I buy stuff, you know, I always read the ingredients, whether it's a car product or whatever it is.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But people, if they walk into a store and they'reseeing the store saying, "Oh, we believe in alternative products!" and,"Don't put your lawn on drugs!" and then they see the Killex and theweed-and-feed, they're going to think that those ones are approved!

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): No question, no question, and that's a problem.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): King says not being able to name the brands is a winfor the chemical companies. He says professional lobbyists from thepesticide makers have been watching his every move since the ban became areal possibility seven years ago.

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): So they were taking it pretty serious.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): What were they concerned about?

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Concerned about the efforts that we were moving forward withpesticide-use reduction, and...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): That you could be setting an example here?

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): That we were setting an example here.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): At Wal-Mart, Annette gets handed one of the city'sbrochures saying which chemicals, not which brand names, are banned, butthen she hears more tales about illicit spraying under the cover of dark.

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: Some people do buy this, and they just remove this andput it on at night.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): What do you mean?

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: I'm not repeating myself. I just said it once andonce only. (Laughs) No.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): You have to remove the label to put it on?

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: Because it's in here.

MARKETPLACE PRODUCER: Oh, oh.

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: That's why.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): But what is this?

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: That is the H.R.M. Anything that has any of this init, you cannot use in the city of Halifax--Dartmouth.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): Oh, so it's a law... Oh, it says a bylaw,okay. "Pesticide Bylaw."

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: That's why I said, right? That's why they take thefront panel off.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): When they use this. Oh, so they don't haveto...

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: (Laughs) And that's it. I'm saying no more.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Different store, same confusion. But at least at thisone, Annette is offered information about the bylaw. Still...

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): She clearly is not convinced that there isany problem with pesticides. Like she said, people have been using them foryears and they haven't hurt the kids yet.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Ready. Put those on. (earphones)

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Okay.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): We show our hidden-camera video to the bylaw man...Okay, so this one, I believe, this is Canadian Tire.

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: They're just goin' out when it gets dark. Spraying...

MARKETPLACE PRODUCER: They are going out when it gets dark?

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: Well, if your neighbours aren't too fussy about it,then you can do it during the daylight...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): He's basically telling people how to break the law!

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Yeah, yeah. That's unfortunate, yeah. Obviously, as you'reshowing me there, there are some clerks that are giving out informationthat's not only probably incorrect, but it's telling people to do somethingthat, you know... to break the law.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Now I'm going to show you... This is Home Depot:

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): The reason I was asking too is 'cause I haveyoung children, and I was concerned about whether or not this kind is safeto use on the property.

HOME DEPOT SALESMAN: It's safe as long as, like... This... You might notwant, like, pets to be around the lawn...

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Interesting. It's not safe for pets, but your kids it'sokay. And I know you've shown me things that show that, you know, all maynot be well in the Garden of Eden, but it, uh, it may be-

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): (Interrupting): Maybe a ban doesn't work unless youcan ban the sale.

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): I think it would certainly... Well, it would make the banmoot, because if you can limit or ban the sale, there's no products to buy.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): We go back to the stores we caught on tape and askthem for an interview.

CANADIAN TIRE EMPLOYEE: Hi, you've reached Lisa Gibson (spell) in theDepartment of Media and Public Relations at Canadian Tire.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): We call all three stores one last time. We leave avoicemail for Canadian Tire, telling them what we found in their store...Salespeople in cities with pesticide bans have been giving misleadinginformation to customers.

WAL-MART EMPLOYEE: You've reached Kevin Groe (spell), Wal-Mart Canada. Ican't take your call right now.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): We leave the same message at Wal-Mart... And I thinkit's very important for you to give us an interview and clarify some pointshere. (Phone ringing) At Home Depot, we get past voicemail...

TINA (SPELL) (PUBLIC RELATIONS, HOME DEPOT): Good afternoon. Tina (spell)speaking.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): ... and tell the P.R. person what we found in theirstore... Another salesperson basically said, "Just don't let your neighbourssee you doing it. Do it in the middle of the night like everybody else."

TINA (SPELL) (PUBLIC RELATIONS, HOME DEPOT): I just want to confirm thatthat is exactly what was said and under what context.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): That's exactly what was said.

TINA (SPELL) (PUBLIC RELATIONS, HOME DEPOT): Okay, perfect. Let me get somestuff together, and I'll give you a call back!

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Thank you.

TINA (SPELL) (PUBLIC RELATIONS, HOME DEPOT): Okay, bye, bye.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Bye... Home Depot does get back to us, and says thatafter our call, they reminded stores to provide consumers with the correctinformation on banned products. Canadian Tire gets back to say they alreadygive consumers that information. And Wal-Mart 's bottom line? While it mayall be very confusing, it is still legal for them to sell the bannedproducts. Only at Kent in Halifax does regional manager Gary Glynn agree totalk to us. Remember what their salesperson told Annette?

KENT SALESMAN: I just say make sure that your neighbours are okay with it.It's more check with your neighbours than it is check with the city.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): So you think the bylaw is kind of excessive?

KENT SALESMAN: Stupid. It's stupid. I think it's totally stupid.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): In your store, someone said, "Well come on around thecorner and I'll tell you. You know what? All you have to do is get yourneighbours onside. Don't worry about the bylaw."

GARY GLYNN (REGIONAL MANAGER, KENT BUILDING SUPPLIES): Mm-hm?

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): So in the one little survey that we did in your store,the clerk wasn't saying this stuff is against the law. They were saying,"Don't worry about the bylaw; it's stupid"!

GARY GLYNN (REGIONAL MANAGER, KENT BUILDING SUPPLIES): Yeah. There arealways personal opinions. Whoever the clerk was definitely was not onsidewith what the company policies are.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Glynn shows us where there are hints of what to buy ifyou know where to look.

GARY GLYNN (REGIONAL MANAGER, KENT BUILDING SUPPLIES): This is our chemicalarea, both hard chemical and our bio- or friendly-type chemicals.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): So this one has... that one has a check, so that meansthat one's okay.

GARY GLYNN (REGIONAL MANAGER, KENT BUILDING SUPPLIES): That's correct. It'snot harmful to people, pets.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): How would I know? If I'm just walking along here, howwould I know that I'm not supposed to use that on my lawn if I live in Halifax?

GARY GLYNN (REGIONAL MANAGER, KENT BUILDING SUPPLIES): You would not unlessyou read the signage that was on the counters.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): So are you doing enough? Because it seems that a lotof consumers are confused about... and no wonder they'd be confused. There'snothing saying, "You're not allowed to use this in Halifax"!

GARY GLYNN (REGIONAL MANAGER, KENT BUILDING SUPPLIES): Sure. Again, all Ican point out to the fact is that we're trying to tell people what the rightproduct is. It is a consumer choice. If the bylaw stated not to sell it, wewould definitely not sell it.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Canadian Tire is definitely selling it. They evenpublish glossy flyers just popping with pesticide promotions... All of thebig stores that we go to, the shelves are bursting. This is Canadian Tire.You know, they are selling this stuff -- Weed Out and Killex and Round Upand... Here it is again. And you know, the whole gardening season, the adsare... they are promoting this stuff as if it's good for everybody, and yetit's supposed to be banned in the biggest city in your province. These areHalifax papers, and this stuff is being openly advertised as if... like whatare people to think? They're to think that it's safe and it's fine, and"Gotta get me some."

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Yeah. Oh, it's no question. Yeah, no question that when yousee, you know, those types of advertising, you see it on store shelves, ifyou, you know, didn't know differently, then you're probably going to assumethat they're fine.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Why not ask the province just to do like Quebec hasdone?

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): We have.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): And?

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): To quote as close as I can, you know, the response from theminister's office is that, you know, they believe that it would requireresources to do it, it would require resources to follow up with the stores,to do investigations, and they simply don't have them. That's the response.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): So the answer from Nova Scotia is no.

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Yes.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): And in all these big stores, we didn't have to gofishing. It was very... (laughs) In every single store, there was an issuewith a salesperson on one visit saying, "Take the label off and spray at night. It's kind of a joke."

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): Well, that's just... All Ican say is as Environment Minister, that's... that... that's disappointing.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But you could ban the sale? Why don't you do like Quebec has done?

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): We don't have the resourcesas a small province. Quebec has its own toxicologists, its own sort ofagency, I understand, that can determine...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): (Interrupting): Well then the reports would be there.You could just copy what they've done.

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): ... that can determined thesafety.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): You either support the idea of the ban or you don't,and you seem to...

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): No-

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Forty percent of the people in your province live in acity that has a ban, and the man who's running it says it won't really workuntil it's banned for sale.

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): the Uh, the ban is... isone. .. is one way of dealing with it. The educational process is anotherway.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): And just like Halifax, Toronto has now banned the useof pesticides on residential properties. But again, like Halifax, it's leftthat giant loophole. You can still buy pesticides in the stores. Sure enough, when we take ourhidden cameras into the big-box stores around Toronto, we find some familiarbehaviour:

SALESWOMAN: You can use these, because they're not as strong as the onesthat companies spray. Like, the ones that companies spray are much moreintoxicated. These ones aren't; they are very mild.

SALESMAN: Yeah, anything that we have, we wouldn't necessarily havesomething to, um, harm animals.

SALESMAN: It doesn't really stop you. You can use anything you want.Bylaws don't mean anything.

WOMAN: Oh, okay.

ONSCREEN TEXT: Post your comments: cbc.ca/marketplace

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): All across the country, Canadians have been fightingfor pesticide bans, but maybe you can't really get pesticides off the lawnsuntil you get them off the shelves.

WOMAN: Are these ones okay?

SALESMAN: Yeah, they're all okay. Or else we wouldn't be selling them.

WOMAN: You wouldn't be selling them if they weren't okay.

SALESMAN: Yeah, yeah.

WOMAN: Okay.

7 comments:

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

This is pretty worrying, especially the spraying at night when no-one's around. That's just bizarre.

benjibopper said...

yeah, i guess people aren't convinced that the things are dangerous. pesticides're designed to kill stuff and they don't have the intelligence to stop at bugs and weeds.

eric1313 said...

People never think about how a chemical designed to kill things being spray on there lawn negatively affects the very ground that they own, water under it, or the plants that grow in the soil.

Kids play in poison, dogs and cats eat grass laced with the stuff.

They truly act mindless. People really do act like they have no consideratrion beyond impressing the neighbors for a few months per year.

benjibopper said...

too true, Eric.

Melissa said...

Congrats on the job!

I was going to do my major paper on lawns and lawn maintenance before the TRCA project came along. It's a subject that fascinates me--how people can become so attached to a particular landscape aesthetic that they will (in some cases) break the law, and risk the health of their families, their communities just to maintain it. I realized that a lot of it has to do with the fact that the "perfect" lawn has become a symbol in our culture that is largely centred around the morality of its owners. I think one strategy in this anti-pesticide fight is to use social marketing to promote a change in the symbolic meaning of the "perfect" lawn--from something indicating morality, to something that indicates immorality.

Anyway, it's a crazy industry and culture. I'm sure you'll find it oddly entertaining in a head-scratching sort of way. If you want to see something disturbing, check this out: http://www.croplife.ca. I haven't looked at the site in quite awhile, but it used to be full of pro-pesticide propaganda and blatant misinformation.

Anyway, best of luck!

benjibopper said...

Thanks Melissa. EAC has a project going that's called Go Wild that attempts to do just that, reframe how people think about the 'perfect lawn', how they think about their space in the city.

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