New Brunswick

Maine governor accused of being 'too close' to industry after vetoing bill to ban glyphosate spraying

Just as hearings in the New Brunswick Legislature into the use of herbicides and pesticides wrapped up, Maine Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a bill that passed the state's legislature and would have banned the aerial spraying of glyphosate in the state.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills has vetoed a bill that would have banned aerial spraying of glyphosate

Maine Senate President Troy Jackson's bill to ban the aerial spraying of herbicides like glyphosate was vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills last Friday, a move which he says shows she's too close to the forestry industry, which is in favour of its use. (Submitted/Facebook)

A controversial herbicide used in the forestry industry hasn't just stirred debate in New Brunswick in recent days.

The Maine legislature approved a bill earlier this month to ban the aerial spraying of synthetic herbicides such as glyphosate, but on Friday, Gov. Janet Mills vetoed the legislation, arguing that limited spraying of the herbicide is an "integral tool" for the state's forestry companies.

Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, who introduced the bill, said he thinks the veto shows the governor is "too close to the industry" and ignoring evidence that suggests glyphosate, found in the popular weed killer Roundup, could be carcinogenic.

"To be honest, I think the governor is too close to the industry," Jackson, a fifth-generation logger from Allagash, Maine, said Tuesday on CBC's Information Morning Fredericton.

"[Gov. Mills] said that she was basing it on science. I said, well, that is absolutely incorrect. Science actually tells us that we should be banning it."

The veto coincided with the end of a four-day hearing in the New Brunswick Legislature on the use of herbicides and pesticides, which glyphosate became a key focus of with proponents and opponents making arguments before the environmental stewardship committee.

The synthetic herbicide, which is used by forestry companies in New Brunswick and Maine to help cultivate specific trees, has prompted debate, studies and lawsuits around the world over concerns that it could be carcinogenic. Arsenic and lead in the spray are also a concern to critics.

Last June, Bayer AG, the company that produces Roundup, agreed to pay as much as $10.9 billion US to settle thousands of U.S. lawsuits claiming that its widely used weed killer caused cancer.

Glyphosate is a synthetic herbicide found in products such as Roundup. The chemical was developed and sold by Monsanto, which was later acquired by Bayer AG. (Haven Daley/The Canadian Press/AP)

Mills was not made available for an interview Tuesday, and instead, her press secretary shared the veto message Mills delivered to the legislature.

In it, she said she supported increasing the buffers and setbacks between areas where herbicides are sprayed in relation to protected wetlands, water bodies and wildlife habitat, but couldn't support Jackson's proposed "blanket prohibition" of aerial glyphosate spraying.

"For Maine's large forest landowners seeking to improve the growth of desirable tree species and control competition of undesirable species, such as disease-prone beech, limited spraying of herbicides is an integral tool," Mills said.

She also said the area of forest being sprayed was small, with less than five per cent of Maine's forested areas receiving such treatment in 2018.

Glyphosate, a synthetic herbicide, is used by forestry companies in New Brunswick and Maine to help cultivate specific trees. (CBC)

Jackson said he thinks Mills's stance on the herbicide has been shaped by companies such as JD Irving Ltd., which uses glyphosate as part of its forestry operations in both New Brunswick and Maine.

"The Irving company owns most of the land in my area," Jackson said.

"They are the one that sprays the most, but there's other landowners, too. I mean, they've all banded together against this [bill]. You know, they've made the argument that it's … going to cost jobs."

No one from JDI was available for an interview Tuesday, but in an email, Anne McInerney, spokesperson for the company, said it's proud of its responsible science-based forest management and is open to discussing with stakeholders the benefits of its approach as it relates to the climate, conservation, the economy and producing forest products.

Jackson said the bill will return to the Maine Senate for a veto override vote, however but it would need to earn the support of two-thirds of the members in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

"So it basically is dead," he said.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton


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