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Lawn And Garden Pesticide Debate Goes To Court

by Alex Russel, All About Lawns Columnist

Deciding whether lawn grass pesticides are harmful is a question that has now made it all the way to the Supreme Court in Canada.

Toronto environmentalists are ecstatic.

"It's an enormous victory," said Gideon Forman of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, in the Toronto Star. "We hope other cities take strength from it and pass their own bylaws."
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Great Lawn Debate

The Canadian Supreme Court, the county's highest judicial body, has refused to hear an appeal, filed by a pharmaceutical lobby that claimed a municipal law passed in Toronto was unconstitutional.

Toronto's bylaw restricts the use of pesticides on lawns and gardens. And because of this bylaw, Toronto homeowners who break the pesticide laws will now be subject to hefty fines.

Pesticide Bylaw Questioned

The bylaw -- passed by Toronto council in 2003 -- essentially bans the use of pesticides on lawns and in gardens, with few exceptions. The pesticide industry challenged on the grounds that it duplicates existing federal and provincial laws on pesticide use, which are also designed to protect health and safety.

The danger of lawn pesticides is a sensitive issue and one that has long pitted environmentalists against lawn chemical companies.

Chemical Lobbyist Responds

Lobbyist Debra Conlon is disappointed with the decision, arguing that armies of scientists and regulators have insured pesticides are suitable for use at home on the lawn.

"There's an entire agency dedicated to the regulation of pesticides in Health Canada and there's about 350 PhD-types who look at pesticides each and every day to make sure no pesticide causes any unacceptable human health or environmental risk before it can be used," Conlon said.

Lawn Activists Making Headway

Activists cite studies where pesticide use on lawn grass has been linked to a rise in childhood cancers, among other diseases. A 2004 study found widespread evidence of pesticides in Quebec children, though the presence wasn't absolutely linked to an increase in cancer.

But perception is everything and this court case has fueled a debate in Canada over the use of chemicals to beautify gardens and lawn grass in particular. Recently, the Canadian affiliate of Scotts, the garden fertilizer giant, announced it was adding a non-chemical organic product to its fertilizer line.

About the Author
Alex Russel is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Since graduating from Syracuse University he has worked at many different media companies in fields as diverse as film, TV, advertising, and journalism. He holds a dual bachelor's degree in English and History.

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