Our government’s silent spring

Brodie Thomas
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It’s not the fact that the province is spraying pesticide on our roadsides that should bother you.

The fact they made this very same pesticide illegal for you or I to use in our yards just last year shouldn’t bother you either.

Because if you believe the chemical company that manufactures 2,4-D (the active ingredient in Tordon 101), the stuff is positively benign.

Dow AgroSciences’ two-page fact sheet on Tordon 101 explains that its pesticide has a fairly low toxicity when compared with “many substances we come in contact with daily” including Aspirin and Vitamin A.

The fact sheet even says you don’t need to worry about berries that have been sprayed with Tordon 101. Scientists have studied people who accidentally ate berries sprayed with this pesticide and found the average person could “consume 20 pounds of (treated) berries every day for the rest of his or her life without experiencing adverse effects.”

Just to be clear the fact sheet also recommends you not consume berries that have been treated with Tordon 101. But if you do, you’ll be fine, or so says the company that manufactures and sells the stuff.

What should bother you about all this is the way our provincial government went about informing the general public about its plans to spray the sides of highways and public roads with Tordon 101.

Normally members of the media get any where from 5 to 15 emails a day from the provincial government about investments it is making in our province. For instance, on July 23 we learned that the government would pulverize and repave 1.7 kilometres of road between Cuslett and St. Bride’s. On July 25, an email went out to all members of the provincial media about a $15,000 investment in playground equipment for Hazelwood Elementary.

So why didn’t the province send out a press release about this major investment to keep our roadsides clear of brush? It’s not like this is happening in one small area. The list of spray areas stretches intermittently from Clarenville to MacDougall’s Brook.

The purpose of this investment is to make the roads safer from moose-vehicle collisions. So why not shout this from the rooftops? Instead the province has remained positively silent.

We certainly got press releases about the construction of moose fencing. There was even a release on Aug. 18 of last year that contracts had been awarded for 235 kilometres of brush cutting throughout the province.

Actually, at the very bottom of that press release from last year is a sentence that reads, “Areas that are cleared of brush this year will undergo vegetation control treatment next year, ensuring up to 10 years of brush-free highway rights-of-way in treated areas.”

Nowhere on the provincial government’s website did they give public notice of this spraying. Notices appeared in newspapers, but the only place you’ll find this public information online is on a private citizen’s website: http://sprayadvisory.blogspot.ca.

So to recap: the province feels it is prudent to ban Tordon 101, except when it needs to use it. The province feels a certain duty to provide “public notices” to people, but they won’t send out a press release or put the information on a government website. And you should not eat berries sprayed with Tordon 101, but if you do, you’ll probably be fine, according to the manufacturer that makes it.

The pesticides may never make you sick, but the government’s handling of this should turn everyone’s stomach.

Organizations: Dow AgroSciences

Geographic location: Clarenville

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  • K. Jean Cottam, PhD
    August 21, 2012 - 10:26

    The chemical 2,4-D is far from being benign. It was part of the infamous Agent Orange which was used in Vietnam, where children are still being born with horrible defects. Of course, the industry blames for this the other ingredient of Agent Orange, 2,4,5-T, that was banned in mid-eighties. Don't believed them! 2,4-D is only insignificantly less toxic than the other component and may be contaminated by a deadly dioxin during the process of manufacturing, which is not the same dioxin attributed to herbicide 2,4,5-T. I doubt that the pesticide to be sprayed on Newfoundland's highways is not going to make people sick should they be exposed. The effects would not necessarily be immediate but the chemical, in a combination with other toxins, will seriously impact human health and would be especially harmful to young children and pets.