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Cancer society turns sights to farm pesticides

A red flag has been waved at Canadian producers, in this story of how the Canadian Cancer Society is setting its sights on the agri-food and agri-business industries where pesticide use is concerned.

November 12, 2008  By Globe and Mail

November 12, 2008

For years, the Canadian Cancer Society has argued in favour of bans on the cosmetic use of pesticides around homes and gardens. But it has remained silent on the country's biggest use of bug and weed killers: on farms.


Now, the society is considering weighing in on whether these sprays pose a cancer risk to farmers, other rural residents near them, and to the wider public from eating foods carrying pesticide residues.

To that end, the society is holding a conference starting today at which it has assembled experts to advise it on whether cosmetic-pesticide restrictions, which now exist in Ontario, Quebec and many municipalities, should be followed by tougher action against the use of the sprays in agriculture. The society doesn't have a view on the related issue of whether organically grown foods are a better option, a topic that will also be discussed.

"We're bringing the world's leading scientists together to help us understand the science and what we know and don't know and where we could take action, if it's warranted," said Heather Logan, the society's director of cancer-control policy.

In deliberating on possible cancer risks of pesticides, the society is wading into one of the most vociferously contested fields of science and regulation. Health Canada and the pesticide industry say that products licensed for use are extensively tested, and present no risk to farmers or consumers.

"In terms of any risk, health risk, Health Canada will only approve pesticides that do not pose a health risk, provided that the label directions are followed," said Connie Moase, a director in the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, Health Canada's watchdog.

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