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Should municipalities ban all cosmetic pesticides and herbicides from being used within their jurisdictions?

At our most recent meeting I asked members for a show of hands on the question of whether cosmetic herbicides and pesticides should be banned from use within municipal jurisdictions; the result was a roughly 10 to 1 margin in favour of banning them.

I try to run an organic garden, using, as much as possible, organic fertilizers (Alfalfa meal, bone meal, kelp meal etc) and I never spray plants for pests, relying on nature to find a balance in the garden and this seems to be working well with few signs of stress on my plants (keeping in mind that the roses that I grow are all healthy by nature; the best way to avoid problems with black spot and mildew). I do however use Roundup (active ingredient is glyphosate) as a spot application for invasive and meddlesome weeds that cannot, in practical terms, be removed from the garden by any other means. If one has had Morning Glory (Convolvulus) creeping under the fence from a neighbour’s garden they will know that Roundup is about the only way to deal with the problem. There are certain other troublesome weeds that are equally problematic. (Our province may some day be entirely covered with Himalayan Blackberry [Rubus laciniatus / Rubus discolour]).

My other use of Roundup is to spray the cracks between my paving stones; this not only kills any weeds that are germinating there but also encourages the growth of moss, which I am trying to encourage. Graham Stuart Thomas commented on this phenomenon of Roundup benefiting mosses (I believe in his Perennial Garden Plants) and I have read about it elsewhere. So I would have to say that I am in favour of being able to use Roundup for spot applications of this nature as well as in a broadcast spray, once or twice only, to kill weeds in a newly developed garden before planting begins. Proper use of these types of chemicals is not, in my opinion, the problem but rather it is their overuse that leads to environmental degradation. Perhaps a permit should be required to use a broad-spectrum herbicide such as Roundup, even for spot applications.

Worth noting too is the fact that the now much-discussed genetically modified (GM) agricultural crops, such as corn, have been developed to be able to withstand repeated broadcast spraying with Roundup in order to kill associated weeds so you could find yourself in a situation where you were not allowed to use it in your garden, even as a spot application, while the farmer on the other side of the fence is repeatedly spraying it on his fields. The logic in that is not much apparent. (Roundup is, apparently, inert after 7 days). Although I think that municipalities should consider the implications of agricultural spraying, that would likely involve provincial cooperation and consultation with farmers.

I have no great love for lawns and would only have one, given enough room, as a small feature while devoting the rest to garden beds and hard surfacing so I would not miss the selective herbicides that are sprayed on lawns. I believe that these chemicals, and probably even more so the chemical fertilizers that are constantly applied to lawns do more damage than the non-selective herbicides such as Roundup (properly used). This is in large part due to the vast area of lawn grasses that are grown in our society as well as the fact that they are normally compacted and poorly drained, causing runoff, and everything that does drain from them ends up in the oceans of the world with disastrous results (some not yet readily apparent – but just wait!).

Local municipalities are now wrestling with this issue – Port Moody has already banned them and Coquitlam is considering it – so it is an issue that will surely become more visible soon here in Port Coquitlam and, if the result of my garden club straw-poll is any indication, the public may well be ready to accept a total ban. Hopefully there will be allowances for exceptions so that we won’t have gardeners spraying roundup on a midnight sortie on the neighbour’s encroaching Morning Glory.

Jim Thorleifson