Smug­gling for that per­fect lawn

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey

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.

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