New Brunswick

Legislative committee calls for more glyphosate restrictions, Greens want full ban

New Brunswick needs to impose further restrictions on the spraying of glyphosate, and N.B. Power should phase out using it altogether, says a legislative committee on climate change and environmental stewardship.

Committee recommends greater spray setbacks, asks N.B. Power to stop using herbicides

The standing committee on climate change and environmental stewardship recommends N.B. Power 'immediately begin phasing out spraying of pesticides under transmission lines.' (Mrinali Anchan/CBC)

New Brunswick needs to impose further restrictions on the spraying of glyphosate, and N.B. Power should phase out using herbicides altogether, says a legislative committee on climate change and environmental stewardship.

A committee report makes several recommendations, including increasing the spraying setback from dwellings by 500 metres, which would bring the total setback to one kilometre.

The committee also recommends the government require spraying setbacks of 100 metres from protected areas, water and wetlands, and banning pesticide spraying outright in protected watersheds.

The report, signed by chair and Progressive Conservative MLA Bill Hogan, was tabled in the legislature this week.

On Wednesday, Natural Resources Minister Mike Holland pointed to other recommendations, which ask officials to do more research and conduct a cost-benefit analysis on a full stoppage of glyphosate use.

"What we did was say, in the event that we stop, reduce, alter or change the way that we apply that product, what are the implications of that? Because there are financial implications," he said. "There are also environmental implications.

"The recommendations are meant to get the answers to those questions that we have posed."

The report comes after public hearings this year on pesticide and herbicide use in New Brunswick. The presentations to the committee and the resulting report focused almost exclusively on the controversial herbicide glyphosate. 

The herbicide is used by government agencies, agriculture and forestry sectors, and N.B. Power to control unwanted vegetation and increase yield. Some sectors spray it, while others apply it directly on unwanted plants.

Health Canada approves the use of the herbicide, but community and environmental concerns remain.

The report also asks the minister of natural resources and energy development to get N.B. Power to "immediately begin phasing out spraying of pesticides under transmission lines."

N.B. Power spokesperson Marc Belliveau said the utility will take time to study the report before offering comments.

Holland said the province has already started working with the utility on vegetation-management pilot projects. 

Report ignores treaty concerns, Coon says

On Wednesday, Green Party Leader David Coon, who is a member of the committee, said the report "completely ignored" the concerns of First Nations representatives that glyphosate spraying infringes on Indigenous and treaty rights. 

During hearings over the summer, Steve Ginnish, director of forestry for Eel Ground-based Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn Inc., said spraying glyphosate "directly affected our medicines, food supply and therefore the health of our community members."

Green Party Leader David Coon says the report ignores concerns about treaty rights raised during the hearings on herbicide spraying. (Maria Burgos/CBC)

A lawsuit by Wolastoqey First Nations has asserted Indigenous treaty title over 60 per cent of New Brunswick, prompting the province to ask its employees to stop publicly making land-title claims.

Coon said the committee heard enough evidence to end the use of glyphosate on Crown lands. He said he wasn't allowed to get his opinion attached to the committee report.

'Gaps' in information must be addressed

The committee says in the report that it has identified "gaps" in the information it has on glyphosate, including evidence on its long-term effects on human and wildlife health.

The committee is also missing perspectives from the agricultural sector about alternatives to glyphosate and the what economical impact it has versus its alternatives. 

The committed recommends the government initiate a "comprehensive" cost-benefit economic study comparing the usage and non-usage of herbicide in managing tree plantations within 12 months.

It also recommends that remaining old hardwood, mixed wood, and softwood forest be maintained by using "ecologically based forestry" and designating more nature reserves.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hadeel Ibrahim is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick based in Saint John. She's been previously awarded for a series on refugee mental health and for her work at a student newspaper, where she served as Editor-in-Chief. She reports in English and Arabic. Email her at hadeel.ibrahim@cbc.ca

With files from Jacques Poitras

now