Momentum against glyphosate spraying picks up

Opponents of glyphosate spraying say they feel they have momentum on their side.

In the last two weeks, several municipalities have started to question the spraying of glyphosate

Glyphosate is considered necessary by NB Power, which uses it to kill plants underneath transmission lines throughout the province. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Opponents of glyphosate spraying say they feel they have momentum on their side.  

In the last two weeks, the municipalities of Upper Miramichi, Moncton, and Petitcodiac have all started to question the practice of spraying glyphosate in their jurisdictions. 

'It's really exploded the last month or so. The issue has really, really, exploded.' -Caroline Lubbe-D'arcy, glyphosate opponent

The mayor of Moncton has even gone so far to request a ban on spraying near parts of the city's watershed.  

Glyphosate opponents are comparing their efforts to early protests against fracking — protests that eventually pressured the New Brunswick Liberals into making a campaign promise to place of a moratorium on fracking.

That later became a full ban.

Many opposed to spraying are hoping that glyphosate spraying, like fracking before it, will become an election issue. 

Caroline Lubbe-D'arcy, an organizer of the group Stop Spraying New Brunswick, is convinced the spraying will will be 'an election issue' next year.

Caroline Lubbe-D'arcy, an organizer of the group Stop Spraying New Brunswick, is convinced recent momentum against spraying will make glysophate an election issue next year. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"We've got over 30,000, probably close to 35,000 signatures collected now," she said. "Our petition is ongoing, there is more and more people joining every day.

"We've just gained about 2,000 members on our Facebook group alone, and the signs ... we're selling signs like crazy. It's really exploded the last month or so. The issue has really, really, exploded." 

Comfortable with the risk

Many concerned with the herbicide spraying are pleased to see a shift in the dialogue to the political sphere, but some working in industries that use glyphosate believe elected officials are content with spraying glyphosate for forest management. 
J.D. Irving Ltd. uses glyphosate-based herbicides extensively in New Brunswick. (CBC)

"We trust in the process, our decision makers will make the right decisions, "said Jason Killam, chief forester for JD Irving Ltd.

"There's a lot of good information that all of these products are approved by Health Canada. There's long-term studies. And at the end of the day, decision-makers seem to be comfortable with the risk." 

New Brunswick's Department of Environment and Local Government approves the use of glyphosate-based herbicides in the province and says that when it is heavily diluted with water it is essentially non-toxic.

JDI chief forester Jason Killam says 'decision makers seem to be comfortable with the risk' of using glyphosate-based herbicides. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

But that doesn't seem to satisfy some municipalities. Along with those that have given the groups a hearing, municipalities such as Kedgwick have seen Stop Spraying New Brunswick signs plastered across their communities. 

"I don't know of any one New Brunswicker, outside of industry, that actually wants glyphosate spraying here," said Lubbe-D'arcy. 

Banned in some places

Glyphosate products are used for crop management, as well as forestry across Canada, but bans on the material have popped up in recent years.

Califonia recently placed glyphosate on its list of cancer-causing chemicals. Three years ago Manitoba banned some glyphosate products. Nova Scotia stopped publicly funded glyphosate use, and Quebec banned herbicide use altogether on Crown land in 2001.

In 2015  glyphosate was deemed "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  

But any bans on glyphosate use have always been based on politics, according to Doug Pitt, a retired research scientist who worked with the Canadian Forest Service and is a chanpion of spraying. 

"Take Quebec, for example. They've chosen not to use herbicides on their public lands and that's a political decision, and there's no science supporting that decision."

About the Author

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.