The Selinger government will treat dandelion-killing synthetic chemical pesticides like cigarettes -- legal to buy but illegal to use in some places.
Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh tabled the province's long-awaited pesticide legislation on Tuesday that allows Manitobans to purchase chemical pesticides, but only for use on their home flower and vegetable gardens.
The ban would only restrict the use of the pesticides for cosmetic purposes on lawns, adjoining sidewalks and patios, school grounds, playgrounds, playing fields, health-care institutions and child-care centre grounds. It would not affect golf courses, agriculture or the forestry industry.
The province says many companies already have eco-friendly products to control weeds on lawns. They contain low-risk ingredients such as soaps (ammonium salts of fatty acid), iron as FeHEDTA (commonly known as iron chelate), acetic acid, citric acid and corn gluten meal. The most common product is Fiesta, an iron-based lawn weed-killer. Other products include:
- Scotts EcoSense Weed B Gon.
- Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Fertilizer with Weed Prevent (corn gluten meal).
- Vigoro Bio Weed and Feed (corn gluten meal);
- Scotts EcoSense Pathclear.
- Green Earth Weed and Grass Killer.
- Safer Top Gun.
- Ortho Moss B Gon.
- Wilson Total WipeOut.
- Bioprotec Lawn Herbicide.
-- source: Province of Manitoba
"We're banning the sale for the purpose of lawn application and we're banning the use for lawn application," Mackintosh said. "There are exceptions for noxious weeds, for example, and for health and safety purposes for gardens. There is that flexibility built in."
How the ban will be policed and what chemicals will fall under it still has to be determined through consultation with retailers and the lawn-care industry, Mackintosh said.
However, he added Manitoba's regulations will be similar to those in Ontario, which banned pesticide use on lawns in 2009. Ontario's ban included more than 250 pesticides and more than 80 pesticide ingredients, including 2,4-D, Diazinon and glyphosate.
Mackintosh said Nova Scotia and about 170 municipalities in Canada, including Brandon, have also limited the use of cosmetic lawn-care pesticides. Ottawa phased out "weed-and-feed" products, which are herbicide and fertilizer combinations, two years ago.
Mackintosh said he is confident Manitobans will follow other jurisdictions and adopt more eco-friendly replacement products, many of which are already available.
"It's kind of like smoking and those other rules and regulations that do become self-enforcing," he said. "It changes the social norm."
Deliberately using the banned chemicals on a lawn could result in a fine, but that still has to be determined, Mackintosh said, adding enforcement will likely be through a combination of inspections and complaints.
Critics of the proposed ban -- legislation is expected to pass in June to be in force by 2015 -- say it's based more on emotion than reason.
Delaney Ross Burtnack, CEO of the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers, said the chemicals to be banned for lawn-care use are approved by Health Canada and safe if applied properly.
"I think the legislation is a reaction to fear," she said. "It certainly doesn't seem like a reaction to fact and science."
Dave Hinton of Weed Man said the proposed legislation adds more confusion to how homeowners care for their properties.
"It's still OK on the golf course. It's still OK on food. You're just not going to be able to spot-treat a dandelion on your front lawn with it," Hinton said. "If they're not going to pay any attention to Health Canada, who are they going to listen to?"
Progressive Conservative MLA Shannon Martin said the ban is more about politicking than sound policy.
"All these products are regulated," he said. "I have to trust the scientists behind Health Canada in terms of the safety and efficacy of these products."
Mackintosh said the Ontario College of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics have in the past two years said synthetic-chemical pesticides pose a risk to young children, seniors, pregnant women and pets.
"Health Canada itself and other experts say that we should reduce exposure to these products where they aren't really needed," he said, adding many farmers have already reduced their use of pesticides.
"It's time for urban-dwellers to do the same," he said. "The rate of application of pesticides on lawns, it's estimated, is about 10 times the rate per acre than on farms now."
He said once the legislation comes into force next year it will be followed by a one-year grace period for homeowners.