For many years now urban pesticide bans have become a must-have for provincial and municipal governments who say they want to take action on the environment. With the stroke of a pen, they appear to have “taken action” to protect the environment, while their actions actually lead to the opposite – a loss of urban green space, loss of habitat for wildlife, and diminished recreational space.
The reality is these Health Canada approved products are safe when used according to label direction, making them no different than many of the household products Canadians use daily. To counter this, some politicians and activists are fond of saying that consumers “don’t understand the labels” or “won’t follow the label instructions”. When asked what people will do once the ban is in place, they all say confidently that, “Canadians will follow the law.”
But are these assumptions true? CropLife Canada decided to go out and test them with an audience in Southern Manitoba. Insightrix Research went out this summer and conducted research with urban pesticide users in Manitoba to understand perceptions of current pesticide labels and information sources, and their attitudes towards their lawns and pesticide use.
There is a reason why we went to Manitoba – this province was hit with a non-science-based urban pesticide ban two years ago, a ban that the new Manitoba government has pledged to change following a public consultation exercise in 2016.
It’s no surprise that 96 per cent of these pesticide users believe that having a well maintained yard is either somewhat or very important. It’s also not very surprising that for 87 per cent of them, weeds are the number one pest they are looking to control, followed by insects at 53 per cent.
Here is where the poll gets interesting, however – when asked to what degree they read the product label, 93 per cent of respondents say that they read either all or most of the label. So much for the claim that people, “don’t read the labels.”
We couldn’t just stop at that question, however, as it is easy for people to say they read the label – we had to find out if they really did. When asked how people know which pesticides to use, fully 58 per cent of respondents said, “Information on the product labels”. When asked what they found most useful on a label, the number one response was, “direction and application instructions.”
Similarly, when these users were asked what challenges they had in shopping for and using pesticides, 74 per cent said that understanding the instruction on the label was not a challenge, while 62 per cent had no problem knowing how much product to apply and when to apply it. Clearly the data demonstrates that the image of the homeowner who doesn’t know how to apply the pesticide he or she has bought, and therefore misapplies it, is completely inaccurate.
We also learned that, contrary to the assurances of ban-supporting politicians, more than half of those polled have either used or obtained banned products in the last 12 months, either by using leftover products, obtaining products from farm sources, buying online, or importing from the United States. The results are clear – homeowners want to protect their property, and when local politicians institute bans on Health Canada approved products, homeowners will use other means to obtain products. Some of those other means, particularly using products aimed at agriculture and relying on online sales, are not the right approach for the environment, and potentially have exactly the opposite environmental effect politicians sought to create.
Manitobans have spoken clearly – the previous government’s non-science-based pesticide ban was ill conceived, badly executed, and is poor public policy. Manitobans are more than capable or reading labels and properly using Health Canada approved products, and there is no reason to prevent them from doing so. The Pallister government now needs to take action to reverse this policy, and return common sense policy to Manitoba as promised.
Dennis Prouse, vice-president of government affairs, CropLife Canada