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// Pesticide ban makes good economic sense
The Ontario government's new lawn pesticide ban - which should come into effect early this year -- will do much to protect human and environmental health. But it's also becoming clear the legislation will be a boon to our economy -- boosting business and creating green jobs.
Communities across Canada that already have pesticide restrictions have enjoyed a major expansion of their lawn care sector. For example, in the five years following a pesticide ban in Halifax, the number of lawn care firms in the city grew from 118 to 180 - an increase of 53 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. The number of employees in the sector also grew.
As well, StatsCan reports the number of landscaping and lawn care businesses in Toronto has grown each year since that city passed a pesticide ban.
Why does the non-toxic route help the economy?
For one thing, it's a bit more labour-intensive, relying less on chemicals and more on hand weeding. But it also requires some specialized knowledge of plant and soil ecology which homeowners often lack -- hence their increased reliance on organic professionals.
Ontario's organic lawn care providers are booming. For instance, Barrie-based Turf Logic Inc. will be doubling its business by spring, 2009. The Oshawa-based organic firm, Environmental Factor, has grown its business tenfold over the last eight years.
It's also the case that many organic lawn products (such as corn gluten meal, horticultural vinegar, compost, and beneficial nematodes) are produced right here in Ontario -- which means more business for our manufacturers. (By contrast, many of the toxic lawn chemicals are made in the U.S. or Europe.)
Two questions often raised during discussions of market change are, "Will the transition happen smoothly and will the new services be affordable?" In this case, the answer to both is yes.
More than five million Ontarians live in municipalities which already require non-toxic lawn care. So the industry already has the know-how and products -- including corn gluten meal for weeds and nematodes for grubs -- to provide pesticide-free services provincewide. As well, major retailers (such as Rona and Home Depot) are now committed to the non-toxic approach, meaning do-it-yourselfers have everything they require.
What about costs to the consumer? A recent survey of Ontario lawn companies showed the price of pesticide-free services is competitive with traditional services and is sometimes exactly the same.
(One company, for example, charges $159.88 to treat a 2,500 square foot property -- whichever service the customer picks.) And as more firms go organic, prices will drop. Non-toxic lawn care not only produces beautiful properties -- just look at the Stratford Festival lawns, the campus of Trent University, or the grounds of the Ontario legislature -- but it's also very cost-effective.
Scientists have long told us that pesticides are associated with cancer (such as non-Hodgkins lymphoma), neurological illness (such as Parkinson's Disease), and birth defects. Health authorities -- including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, and the Ontario College of Family Physicians -- have long supported cosmetic pesticide bans.
But now we know that, in addition to its health benefits, going pesticide-free also makes good economic sense.
Gideon Forman is executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
© The Windsor Star 17.01.09