SafeLawns Urges Pesticide Reduction in British Columbia

SafeLawns founder Paul Tukey gathers with Amanda Harris (Health Promotion Coordinator), Jenny Weseen (UBC Okanagan Cancer Club Volunteer), Jerilynn Maki (Health Promotion Coordinator) and Satinder Lidher (UBC Okanagan Cancer Club Volunteer) prior to the screening of A Chemical Reaction on Tuesday evening in Kelowna, British Columbia.

KELOWNA, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(ENEWSPF)–March 7, 20123.  Calling on British Columbia to join six other Canadian provinces with a ban on pesticides used purely for cosmetic purposes, SafeLawns Founder Paul Tukey made three stops in the Kelowna region early this week.

“Honestly, this is one of the most beautiful places on the planet — and I say that coming from the great state of Maine,” said Tukey, referring to a region marked by the magnificent Okanagan Lake. “My trip here is all about preserving that beauty for future generations.”

Tukey, an organic lawn care advocate, author, filmmaker and consultant, focused on the Hudson village of Quebec as an example for other Canadian municipalities and provinces. Hudson was the first town in North America to ban lawn and garden pesticides.

“When you look at Hudson, Quebec, where products like weed ‘n feed and Roundup have not been legal for more than 20 years, the yards are generally still really beautiful and property values are still rising,” said Tukey at the conclusion of his presentation of the Emmy nominated film, A Chemical Reaction, on Tuesday evening at the University of British Columbia Kelowna campus. The event, hosted by the Canadian Cancer Society and the UBC Okanagan Cancer Club, was attended by students, local politicians and health care advocates.

With the provincial elections just weeks away, the Cancer Society is still hopeful of passage of a law restricting pesticides. With the New Democratic Party leading in the polls ahead of embattled Premier Christy Clark — who broke an election promise to ban pesticides — the Cancer Society believes 2013 may be an opportune year for action.

“This issue has been our focus for many years now, with our efforts now focused at the provincial level,” said Patti King, who helped coordinate Tuesday evening’s event for the Cancer Society. “The evidence is more and more clear that pesticides are a health problem as each year goes by.”

UBC Cancer Club student member Jenny Weesen presented Paul Tukey with a toque hat — pronounced “took” — in honor of his visit and his 52nd birthday.

On Monday Tukey delivered a 90-minute training session for municipal staff members at the town of Kelowna, which restricts homeowners from using “cosmetic” pesticides, but still allows licensed professionals to apply lawn and garden weed and insect killers as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) approach.

“If you’re not going to ban it outright, then Kelowna’s approach is an excellent middle ground,” said Tukey. “Ever since I bought my first bag of weed ‘n feed more than 20 years ago I thought it was absurd that professionals needed a license to apply the stuff, but homeowners could walk into K-Mart and buy a bag and go out an apply it with no training.”

Then on Tuesday Tukey delivered a lunchtime keynote address to the Western Canada Turfgrass Association, where he called on the audience of primarily golf course superintendents to keep an open mind about organic lawn care.

“The elephant in this room is that pesticide bans are not going away and organic lawn care is not a fad,” said Tukey, who pointed out an editorial in Monday’s Vancouver Sun — which noted that “Advertisements, signed by more than 100 doctors and nurses and supported by the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence, urge the government ‘to enact a provincewide ban on the use and sale of non-essential pesticides.’”

“I believe golf courses are not the enemy,” said Tukey, who consults with numerous golf courses and municipalities about natural approaches. “Most golf course superintendents that I speak to use a small amount of pesticide; they use as little as possible because there’s an economic reason to keep it to a minimum. But I also know that many golf courses are wary of organic approaches and they cannot be any longer.

“I often hear, ‘We’ll be playing golf in a cow patch if they take away our pesticides,’ but the reality is that there was golf before pesticides. Bobby Jones founded the Masters prior to the arrival of 2,4-D. Rest assured there will be golf when many of today’s synthetic chemical pesticides are gone.”

Tukey showed numerous examples of successful transitions to organic lawn care principles, from Harvard University, to the universities of Arizona and Colorado, as well as a magnificent art museum in Maryland known as Glenstone, where he said he spends much of his time as a sustainability consultant. The photos he showed all looked pristine.

“Going organic does not mean you are ‘going ugly,’” said Tukey. “If you say it’s impossible to create a beautiful landscape with organic protocols, what you’re really saying is that you don’t know what you’re doing. Well, it’s time to learn a new way of creating beauty.”