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INDEPTH: PESTICIDES
The industry's position
CBC News Online | May 23, 2003


The pesticide industry came out swinging against the Environment Committee's report. They're worried about municipalities enacting more restrictions. Of course, part of their opposition to the ban is economic: the pesticide industry is worth about $100 million in sales each year in Canada, so there's a lot to lose. But there's more to it than that.

For pesticide makers, a complete ban on cosmetic-use pesticides is a misguided over-reaction. The Urban Pest Management Council, a group representing pesticide manufacturers such as DuPont and Monsanto, says the Committee's report is filled with ignorance and misinformation. It ignores Canada's "stringent and modern regulatory system," they say - a system which ensures the safety of all their products.

"Our industry is the most regulated in Canada," says Wendy Rose of UPMC. "And Canada has one of the most stringent regulatory processes in the world. The report has done little to acknowledge this."

"Health Canada requires pesticides to go through over 200 different tests before they're allowed on the market," Rose says. "And if at any time the Pest Management Regulatory Agency feels there are potential adverse effects for a product they remove it."

The group points out that before being registered for use in Canada, all pesticides are approved by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which is currently managed by Health Canada. It can cost a manufacturer in excess of $100 million to bring one new product to market, from the initial research through the complete registration process - a process that can take as long as 10 years.

There is no need to review all pesticides approved before 1995 � as the standing committee recommends � because pesticides are already regularly reviewed, the UPMC reasons. Besides the domestic testing, there are also international standards that Canada's pesticides must meet.

"So there's already an extensive body of science behind these products before they're put onto the market," Rose says.

So does the industry admit that pesticides are deadly? Well yes; pesticides are meant to kill. But, they say, if their products are used according to label directions, they are perfectly safe.

"Even things that are vital to life, such as vitamins, medicines, and common salt can have toxic effects if we consume too much of them," the group says. "The same is true with pesticides. Certain doses of pesticides can have serious health effects. But if they are properly used, pesticides leave only traces behind."

The industry recognizes that many of the 7,000 chemicals approved for use in Canada have been associated with health hazards in some studies. But, they argue, those studies have generally been done on animals that were exposed to higher concentrations than those to which people would ever be exposed, assuming they use the products properly.

The industry says it's worried a nation-wide ban would have long-term consequences. Real estate values would drop and golf courses and sports fields would be devastated. There is also a risk of a severe insect infestation that could spread to agriculture or lead to an outbreak of mosquito-borne disease.




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