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from the employee owners at Gardener's Supply Co.

Pesticide Ban Milestone

Should your local government have the right to tell you what you can and cannot spray on your lawn and garden? Last month marked a milestone in that debate. Twenty years ago, Hudson, a town just outside Montreal, passed a law banning the use of synthetic pesticides on public and private lawns and gardens.

Pesticide-free garden

Should your local government have the right to tell you what you can and cannot spray on your lawn and garden?

Last month marked a milestone in that debate. Twenty years ago, Hudson, a town just outside Montreal, passed a law banning the use of synthetic pesticides on public and private lawns and gardens. The award-winning documentary film A Chemical Reaction tells the inspiring story behind the ban.

The story starts with one woman, Dr. June Irwin, who noticed a connection between her patients’ health conditions and their exposure to chemical pesticides and herbicides. She fervently and relentlessly warned her fellow citizens about the hazards posed by the chemicals they were using in their landscapes, spearheading the grassroots effort that led to the ban.

Shortly after the ban was enacted, two lawn care companies were fined for spraying pesticides in the town. They took the town to court, challenging the legality of the ban. The town of Hudson won the case in the Quebec court and, despite heavy lobbying by the pesticide industry, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the ruling in 2001, confirming the right of the town to ban the application of cosmetic lawn and garden chemicals within its borders. It’s a fascinating tale of how one person inspired a community, and the David-and-Goliath court battle between one small town and a huge and well-funded pesticide industry. View a trailer of A Chemical Reaction and learn more about the project.

In 2009 Gardener’s Supply sponsored a screening of A Chemical Reaction in Burlington, Vermont.

This bold action by one small town snowballed across Canada. Quebec passed the first province-wide ban on lawn pesticides in 2003; in 2009 Ontario passed regulations prohibiting the use of 96 active ingredients in cosmetic pesticides — pesticides used simply to maintain appearance — for public and private lawns and gardens. Other provinces have followed suit.

Could this kind of grassroots action take place in towns across the U.S.? Not in 41 states. In just nine states and the District of Columbia can towns pass pesticide laws that are more restrictive than the state laws. Will it happen in those few states? Not if the pesticide industry lobbyists have any say in it.

What do you think? Should individual towns have the right to enact stricter regulations than state and federal laws regarding pesticide use in home lawns and gardens?

Read More

  • A Chemical Reaction: Learn more about the film and about SafeLawns Foundation, and find out how you can get a copy of the film.
  • Ontario and Nova Scotia lead the way on pesticide bans: Includes link to May, 2011 progress report, Pesticide Free? Oui!
  • Myth vs. Fact On Pesticide Bylaws, The Coalition for a Healthy Ottawa: The city refutes some of the problems blamed on the ban.
  • DeBug the Myths: Published by RISE, a trade association of pesticide manufacturers and associated industries; they lobby against pesticide bans in the U.S. and encourage consumers to do likewise. (RISE stands for Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment.)
Suzanne DeJohn
Gardener’s Supply

13 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    June 28, 2011    

    Absolutely there should be stricter guidelines regarding pesticides. The pesticides and herbicides sold at your typical box-store chains are almost universally misused and overused. I wish you needed a license to buy the stuff. Virtually none of it should be allowed for home use since the typical consumer has no intention of following (or even reading) the directions. I need to show my license to buy sinus medication with pseudoephedrine and am limited to two boxes per month but yet it’s okay for me to literally spray TOXINS into the environment?—what’s wrong with THAT picture?

  2. buzzlebees
    June 29, 2011    

    Guidelines yes, over regulation no. I too desire a clean environment but I would like true science not junk political science used to regulate our environment. One example is DDT. Because of one woman making claims on the dangers of DDT with absolutely no sound science, DDT was banned. In fact there is a lot of sound science that DDT was not, in fact dangerous, but political activism banned this product. Hundreds of thousands of people have died from malaria that would still be alive today if DDT had not been banned. If a lie is spoken long enough it seems to become the truth I guess. We have become a country of over regulation and seem to believe everything without verifying anything. Yes there are some people that don’t read labels but I am tired of having environmental extremeism shoved down my throat. There needs to be personal responsibility. I do not want to live in a bubble and have the government making so many restrictions in my life for “safety” reasons. We need to use common sense and yes some people are going to mis-use pesticides but that should be their responsibility and that comes with consequences. There is always something out there that can harm and even kill us but we need to be responsible for ourselves at some point. If the labels are clear and concise and the dangers are listed then let the responsibility lie with the individual not some beuracrat that probably knows nothing about pesticides. We need to base our regulations and laws on thoughtful research not on “feelings” about a product.

  3. June 29, 2011    

    I agree with this article totally! it is amazing to me how people are all about instant gratification and don’t care about the consequences in doing it in a synthetic way… I will definitely look into watching the independent film, it looks very interesting!

  4. Anonymous
    June 29, 2011    

    So what are the nine states that have a chance to enact a law like the one in A Chemical Reaction?

  5. Anonymous
    June 29, 2011    

    When I go to the home and garden stores it depresses me to see all of the chemicals sold to fertilize plants and to kill insects. We have a huge problem in the Gulf of Mexico call the Dead Zone which covers anywhere from 6,000 to 7,000 square miles. In this area of the gulf there is not enough oxygen in the water to support marine life. It is a direct cause of the massive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous entering the Mississippi River through upstream runoff of fertilizers, soil erosion, animal wastes, and sewage.Two main sources are home and farm fertilizers and animal waste runoff from factory farms. There are dead zones off the coast of Oregon, in the Chesapeake Bay, and lakes such as Lake Erie. I do not think we can just let people “be responsible” because of the dead zones we already have in our waters.I would love to see more restrictions on chemicals and factory farms in this country. I look forward to watching the movie.

  6. Anonymous
    June 29, 2011    

    Simply don’t sell non-organic pesticides to the general public. Allow only a licensed exterminator to purchase and apply the product and enforce laws requiring them to wear protective gear and respirator equipment. Soon John Q. Public would say oh, I’m not even going to think about applying something that needs to be applied wearing a hazmat suit. This would end the over use of the substance and encourage organic substitutes.

  7. Anonymous
    June 30, 2011    

    I agree with stricter guidelines for pesticides for so many reasons. Many people have one plant with insects and spray the hell out of it, regardless of the beneficials killed or water and air contamination, as well as increasing the resistance to these pesticides. I have a yard full of plants with aphids, rust, powdery mildew, amd planthoppers; I have done major research to find non-toxic ways of ridding the plants of these pests which include homemade recipes. So many people are lazy and want the fastest and easiest remedy inspite of the consequences. In addition, DDT has been proven to be a problem. Where did buzzlebees get his/her research? I salute the cities/towns that really care about our environment.

  8. Anonymous
    June 30, 2011    

    If you have a garden,flower beds,or lawns, and Anybody uses them, most importantly, Kids. Its a no brainer, go organic. After buying my first home,I had all these and did use pesticides for a couple of years. Until, I realized my grand daughers were playing in the yard. And then my 5 year old Granddaughter started growing her own gardens and flowers. I did some reading about organic gardening and found out that most bugs are good for your area, and that pesticides kill every thing, including the Bees,butterfly larva and all the earth worms. every thing that a garden needs to prosper. I now compost everything,use organic fertilizers (fish} and hand pick bugs into a soap bucket it really is that simple. My lawn is as nice any that treat theres,and am told so all the time. They always want to know how I do it, I tell them naturally no chemicals. Now, you couldn’t get me to spray,spread or dose any part of my land with any type of Chemical. I’ve found that its actually easyer to go natural and the benefits are a lush and prolific Flowers,Gardens,and Lawn. I love my Grandkids far to much to put all those before them!!!

  9. July 2, 2011    

    Hmmm….The government can ban the use of pesticides but won’t make it illegal to kill babies? The lack of consistency kills me. Last time I checked abortion was pretty deadly. Any environmentalist I have talked to is fine with this practice but is all for government regulation to supposedly save the planet. What is wrong with you? When you people are ready to apply your supposed values straight across the board than maybe we can talk.

  10. Anonymous
    July 3, 2011    

    I believe there should be balance between regulation and freedom to use what you feel is needed. My husband is a former farmer who knows all of the regulations and safe uses of all kinds of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. He has chosen to garden organically, knowing that keeping plants healthy helps them resist disease and pests. We’ve planted flowers that attract bees and other beneficial insects and buy ladybugs every few years at our local gardening center. Most of our neighbors are responsible and take good care of there yards however some grow weeds better than grass or flowers and do nothing to stop them from flowering and spreading seeds. And in a couple of yards, you can see perfect breeding grounds for pests of the crawly kind. That is just as irresponsible as using chemicals indiscriminantly and adversely affects their neighbors. While we choose to garden organically, I feel we have the right to choose how we garden, especially when our garden is affected by how others care or don’t care for theirs. Knowing how to properly use them, my husband should have the option of using other methods if the need arises.

  11. July 12, 2011    

    The nine states that don’t have preemption laws (so they can pass laws that further restrict pesticide usage) are Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming.

  12. July 25, 2011    

    As bad as pesticides are, herbicides are just as dangerous, causing mutations and reproductive abnormalities. It’s unbelievable that someone claimed that DDT was not dangerous. We nearly lost one of our national symbols, the Bald Eagle, because of the effect DDT has on eggs, causing the shells to be too thin to hatch. I want a government that does its job standing up to big corporations. I realize I’m dreaming, thanks to the deep pockets corporations have with which to buy legislation that benefits their own agendas. There are many untapped sources of natural substances and practices that can be used to help control pests, both animal and plant, without poisoning us all in the process.

    When I was a kid, we had wild plums growing in abundance all along old fence lines. Because of the chemical herbicides that are now used with reckless abandon by the highway department, even on little back roads, there are no more wild plums to be found.

    I stopped using all artificial pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers on my lawns and gardens several years ago. I just use compost and pine straw, and my yard gets raves from everybody.

  13. Anonymous
    August 18, 2011    

    I moved to Montreal two years ago, there are no pesticides used here and lawns are as beautiful as in the NY, MA and NH states where I used to live. Maybe even more beautiful, there are dandelions and clove blooming and no, they are not weeds, they are beautiful and attracting all sorts of creatures. There is really no need for chemicals in gardens, let Nature take care of it, this is the best way.

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