Smuggling for that perfect lawn
The gardener’s ”secret friend” is easy to procure and transport, is very effective and is illegal in Ontario. Yes, we are talking about extra-strength Roundup, the toxic weed killer that has been banned in Ontario but can be obtained in the United States.
Thus, as many of us work the soil, plant crops and gardens, prune perennials, and tolerate dandelions, some “green thumbs” are headed south, to New York State, to load up on the “good stuff” and attempt to smuggle it across the international border, all in the pursuit of a perfect, weed-free plot.
One would think that as we revel in the dirt, we would be also more cognizant of the effect our footprints have on Mother Earth.
But it is not easy to be green, especially when that ubiquitous and nasty poison parsnip continues its invasive march across the countryside. Which brings us to the seasonal debate: To spray or not to spray? We know that we should employ the most environmentally sound methods in everything we do.
We can understand why Ontario has for years enforced tough laws regulating cosmetic chemical pesticides and herbicides in the world.
Class 9 pesticides are banned for cosmetic purposes because they may pose an unnecessary risk to human health, particularly children’s health. Class 9 pesticide ingredients include 2,4-D, diazinon and glyphosate. However, you can buy a controlled sale (Class 7) pesticide. Certain uses of this domestic product are not allowed under Ontario’s Cosmetic Pesticides Ban. Some of these pesticides are not readily available on store shelves and typically have to be specially requested.
Controlled sale products cannot be used on driveways, patios, lawns or gardens to control weeds or other vegetation but can be used to control plants that are poisonous to humans by touch (e.g., poison ivy, giant hogweed), as well as biting or stinging pests.
You can purchase and use certain lower risk pesticides and biopesticides to manage weeds, insects and plant diseases.
Lower risk pesticides have characteristics such as low toxicity to humans, minimal impact to the environment, act in a non-toxic way in controlling intended pests. These products are listed in Class 5 (less hazardous) and Class 6 (least hazardous) and contain ingredients listed in Class 11 under Ontario Regulation 63/09.
So, you can see that learning about bug and weed killers is not exactly a walk in the park.
Ontario’s long-term detox process has been controversial since the government took aim at farmers’ favourite products.
Crop growers have been forced to adjust as governments moved to reduce the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds.
The tiny bee has been the impetus behind this movement. The logic is that reducing chemical insecticide use will preserve honeybees, that pollinate about 80 per cent of crops, fruits and vegetables, and trees.
Neonic defenders have complained that politics has trumped science and practicality. For farmers, the neonic debate involves their livelihoods. The stakes are not quite as high for gardeners, although it has been difficult to kick the addiction to chemical herbicides and pesticides. A few well-aimed blasts and those pesky weeds are history.
But we must also remember that dandelions do not hang around for long, and that they can be transformed into jelly, wine or really neat necklaces and bracelets.
Before you reach for a spray bottle, imagine how those chemicals will affect bees, butterflies, turtles and all of the other innocent fauna who never did anything to hurt you.
Think of the recovery of the monarch butterfly. Over two decades, about 90 per cent of the monarch butterflies that migrate from Mexico to Canada had disappeared.
But monarch habitat was restored, by citizens who have been planting milkweed and native wildflowers. Imagine. People are actually shielding vegetation that was once labeled “noxious.” Not so long ago, that scenario would have been hard to fathom. But then not so long ago, diehard gardeners were not smuggling weed killers across an international boundary.