By Sharon Labchuk
Earth Action is demanding P.E.I. Environment Minister Janice Sherry immediately release pesticide sales figures for 2009 to 2013 and implement a publicly accessible Pesticide Use Reporting system.
The province is required by law to compile annual pesticide sales data but is not compelled to make the information public. For most years between 1993 and 2008 the reports were released to the public but after 2008 they stopped.
© Sharon Labchuk
A sprayer in action on a P.E.I. field.
Provincial legislation requires pesticide applicators to keep pesticide use records, including name of pesticide, application rate, crop, location of field, date and start time of application and wind speed. The data is not collected by the province and can be thrown away after three years.
P.E.I. is the most intensively sprayed province in the country, yet government's accountability to inform the public about what toxic chemicals are released in our communities is grossly inadequate.
The pesticide sales reports are at best a crude measure of overall sales and the accuracy of the data is highly suspect. The amount of individual pesticides sold is kept secret by government.
P.E.I. needs a public Pesticide Use Reporting system that allows researchers to cross reference pesticide applications in communities with human health and environment effects, like groundwater contamination and bird and bee deaths.
After years of pressuring the province to produce the missing sales reports and implement a Pesticide Use Reporting system, there are now indications the sales reports may one day be released. But collecting sales information is only useful if the province intends to apply a levy to pesticides, as California does, in order to pay for the state's pesticide regulatory program.
Sales information is no substitute for the public right-to-know about pesticide use in individual communities.
California has the most stringent and comprehensive pesticide sales and use reporting systems in North America and probably the world. A levy is applied to all agricultural pesticide sales at point of entry to the state, which is usually with the dealer. Pesticide use information, similar to what growers in P.E.I. are already required to record but not submit, is submitted monthly to the state and made available to the public.
Without a Pesticide Use Reporting system, Islanders are akin to lab rats in an uncontrolled toxic assault experiment.
The science linking pesticide exposure to adverse human and wildlife health effects is well established. The most heavily used agricultural pesticides in P.E.I. are linked to cancer, Parkinson's, serious and irreversible brain damage, including lowered IQ and behavioural and learning problems in children, reproductive issues, altered thyroid hormone levels and more.
Pesticides known to pollute groundwater are in widespread use, and Environment Canada monitoring studies found high levels of cancer-causing potato pesticides in the air.
Recording details about toxic pesticide use doesn't prevent human health and environmental damage, because once these poisons are released into the environment they're uncontrollable. But until P.E.I. becomes an organic province the public has a right-to-know.
Our tragic experience as one of the most intensively sprayed areas in Canada should be documented to help further the global movement to eliminate chemical pesticides.
Sharon Labchuk is Earth Action co-ordinator for Prince Edward Island.