Business & Policy
Beware the harmful consequences of following junk science
Aug. 31, 2009 -Victoria, BC -Support comes in many forms and today, it comes from Globe and Mail columnist Gwyn Morgan, who accurately points out the 'junk science' supporting pesticide and herbicide bans in communities across Canada.
August 31, 2009 By Globe and Mail Report on Business
August, 31, 2009
Victoria, BC -The man who removes the moss from our lawn after the West Coast's winter rainy season was depressed and bewildered. After spending decades building his clientele and practising his trade in the most careful and responsible manner, he is being legislated out of business. The Canadian Cancer Society is calling for a B.C.-wide ban on the sale of weed killers and insecticides for "non-agricultural" use. Several B.C. municipalities already prohibit the use of such products, even to the point where the bits of vinegar our lawn guy puts on our patches of paving-stone moss are considered a public danger.
Here in Victoria, many of the city's signature cherry trees will go through a slow and ugly death from blight because of the banning of a product that could safely protect them. It also means ferns, dogwood and other native species will be defenceless as they are overrun by introduced foreign invaders. The cancer society bases its campaign on the claim that weed killers such as Roundup and insecticides such as Raid may be linked to certain types of cancer. Yet the medical evidence is scant. One study found that men working in pesticide manufacturing plants had a slightly elevated frequency of prostate cancer, but several other studies found no relationship between pesticides and cancer. Some studies have suggested that farmers who use large amounts of weed killer may have an increased risk of lymphoma, but a large U.S. study found the difference to be a statistically insignificant.
Those who defend such knee-jerk public policy actions often cite the "precautionary principle." But if believing in junk science means people are to be driven out of business and public landscapes are to be left unprotected from blights and invasive species, and if home gardeners are forbidden from using the latest and best products, what is "precautionary" about that?