Our gov­ern­ment’s silent spring

The Compass - - OPINION -

It’s not the fact that the prov­ince is spray­ing pes­ti­cide on our road­sides that should bother you.

The fact they made this very same pes­ti­cide il­le­gal for you or I to use in our yards just last year shouldn’t bother you ei­ther.

Be­cause if you be­lieve the chem­i­cal com­pany that man­u­fac­tures 2,4-D (the ac­tive in­gre­di­ent in Tor­don 101), the stuff is pos­i­tively be­nign.

Dow AgroS­ciences’ two-page fact sheet on Tor­don 101 ex­plains that its pes­ti­cide has a fairly low tox­i­c­ity when com­pared with “many sub­stances we come in contact with daily” in­clud­ing As­pirin and Vi­ta­min A.

The fact sheet even says you don’t need to worry about berries that have been sprayed with Tor­don 101. Sci­en­tists have stud­ied peo­ple who ac­ci­den­tally ate berries sprayed with this pes­ti­cide and found the av­er­age per­son could “con­sume 20 pounds of (treated) berries ev­ery day for the rest of his or her life with­out ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ad­verse ef­fects.”

Just to be clear – the fact sheet also rec­om­mends you not con­sume berries that have been treated with Tor­don 101. But if you do, you’ll be fine, or so says the com­pany that man­u­fac­tures and sells the stuff.

What should bother you about all this is the way our pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment went about in­form­ing the gen­eral pub­lic about its plans to spray the sides of high­ways and pub­lic roads with Tor­don 101.

Nor­mally mem­bers of the me­dia get any where from 5 to 15 emails a day from the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment about in­vest­ments it is mak­ing in our prov­ince. For in­stance, on July 23 we learned that the gov­ern­ment would pul­ver­ize and repave 1.7 kilo­me­tres of road be­tween Cuslett and St. Bride’s. On July 25, an email went out to all mem­bers of the pro­vin­cial me­dia about a $15,000 in­vest­ment in play­ground equip­ment for Hazel­wood El­e­men­tary.

So why didn’t the prov­ince send out a press re­lease about this ma­jor in­vest­ment to keep our road­sides clear of brush? It’s not like this is hap­pen­ing in one small area. The list of spray ar­eas stretches in­ter­mit­tently from Clarenville to MacDougall’s Brook.

The pur­pose of this in­vest­ment is to make the roads safer from moose-ve­hi­cle col­li­sions. So why not shout this from the rooftops? In­stead the prov­ince has re­mained pos­i­tively silent.

We cer­tainly got press re­leases about the con­struc­tion of moose fenc­ing. There was even a re­lease on Aug. 18 of last year that con­tracts had been awarded for 235 kilo­me­tres of brush cut­ting throughout the prov­ince.

Ac­tu­ally, at the very bot­tom of that press re­lease from last year is a sen­tence that reads, “Ar­eas that are cleared of brush this year will un­dergo veg­e­ta­tion con­trol treat­ment next year, en­sur­ing up to 10 years of brush-free high­way rights-of-way in treated ar­eas.”

Nowhere on the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s web­site did they give pub­lic notice of this spray­ing. No­tices ap­peared in news­pa­pers, but the only place you’ll find this pub­lic in­for­ma­tion on­line is on a pri­vate ci­ti­zen’s web­site: http://sprayad­vi­sory.blogspot.ca.

So to re­cap: the prov­ince feels it is pru­dent to ban Tor­don 101, ex­cept when it needs to use it. The prov­ince feels a cer­tain duty to pro­vide “pub­lic no­tices” to peo­ple, but they won’t send out a press re­lease or put the in­for­ma­tion on a gov­ern­ment web­site. And you should not eat berries sprayed with Tor­don 101, but if you do, you’ll prob­a­bly be fine, ac­cord­ing to the man­u­fac­turer that makes it.

The pes­ti­cides may never make you sick, but the gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of this should turn ev­ery­one’s stomach. — Brodie Thomas is ed­i­tor of The Gulf News

reach him at: ed­i­tor@gulfnews.ca

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