We are at the mercy of our Protectors.
Again this Spring, The Forestry Department is proposing the use of four insecticides, Mimic, Neemix, BTK and a virus NeabNpy and again the provincial environment minister has used his discretionary power to approve forest pesticide spraying without the full environmental assessment.
Three federal government reports, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (March 2001), the Standing Committee On Environment and Sustainable Development (May 2000) and the Commissioner of The Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada (May 1999), have all raised serious concerns about the government's ability to ensure the safety of public health when dealing with the regulation and management of chemical pesticides and toxic substances. Also a Senate Subcommittee on the Boreal Forest, in their June 1999 Report, recommended that all herbicide and chemical pesticide use in the boreal forest be phased out as soon as possible.
Mimic and Btk are scheduled for use against the hemlock looper in the Ten Mile Pond, Castors River and Main Brook areas of the Northern Peninsula.
The Forestry Department is proposing the aerial spraying of 10,000 hectares with Mimic. Although the Forestry Department in the registration documents has not stated the number of hectares to be sprayed with Btk, it appears that they intend to spray much larger areas with this pesticide.
The following information regarding the toxicity and registration of these pesticides is from Provincial Government, Department of Environment, Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods, and the Federal Government, Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency documents.
Mimic is a relatively new chemical pesticide formulation with the active ingredient Tebufenozide that initiates an unsuccessful (lethal) molt of insect larvae. A health Canada document indicates that this pesticide accumulates in the bottom sediment of forest ponds and persists up to 393 days and is shown to have residue carry over into the next season in forest soils, forest litter and conifer needles. This pesticide is toxic to some aquatic invertebrates, which like insects, are food for fish. Required labeling for Mimic pesticide containers must state that it is an eye irritant and must be kept out of reach of children; cartridge respirators must be used during application, and protective clothing should be washed before reuse, and contaminated clothing is not to be taken home for laundering. Neemix was also determined to be highly volatile and also transports readily through soils. Azadirachtin, the active ingredient of Neemix is very highly toxic to fish such as trout and highly toxic to Daphna magna, an aquatic crustacean species whose health within an ecosystem indicates the over‑all ecological health of that ecosystem.
The Forestry Department in a March 9, 2001 news release, stated that the biological insecticide Btk is exempt from the environmental assessment process and will also be used to combat the hemlock looper. They did register their plans to use Btk last year and it should not be exempt from the assessment process this year. BTK is a manufactured live microbial organism and like other pesticide spray formulations contain unknown chemicals, which can also be toxic to people and the environment. Btk, like the other pesticides they are proposing to use this year, will kill not only the targeted insects but also moths, butterflies and other beneficial non‑target insects which are integral to the forest ecosystem. Also according to the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, B.t. formulations can contain anywhere from 0-99% “inert” ingredients, the identity of which is a trade secret and thus not need to be disclosed on the label.
French Government scientists have called for a ban on Btk after finding that inhaled spores cause lung inflammation, internal bleeding and death in laboratory mice. The team of French scientists, led by Francois Ramisse, isolated a strain of Btk that had destroyed tissue in the wounds of a French soldier in Bosnia. Ramisse pointed out that strains are sprayed on forest insects at concentrations of 100 billion spores per square meter, and therefore might pose a threat to people in the immediate vicinity.
As last year, the Forestry Department is proposing to use the natural fir sawfly virus, NeabNpy on an experimental basis. Both Btk and this sawfly virus have the potential to mutate and change into more toxic forms. The manufactured virus spray formulation is not naturally found in the forest environment ecosystem. Unfortunately, again, without their consent, the people of this province and their environment are being used as guinea pigs, the subjects of these risky experiments.
There are real, less costly alternatives to poisoning our forest with pesticides. One is allowing natural diseases, predators and parasites to take their course in controlling insect populations. According to a Forestry Canada entomologist, the last major hemlock looper outbreak in this province collapsed due to a natural fungal disease and cold and wet spring weather conditions. There is already a natural virus at work impacting upon the sawfly populations.. Bird and insect predators also reduce populations of looper and sawfly.
Millions of taxpayers’ dollars have been spent in unnecessary pesticide spray programs and in transforming much of our natural forest ecosystems into forest fiber farms for the pulp and paper industry. It’s time for the provincial government to cut their puppet strings from the paper companies and to start representing the interest of the people of this province and their environment. Mr. Woodward should stop trying to gloss over the pesticide spray poisoning of people and the environment with rhetoric that he is “protecting our valuable forest resource, in an effective and environmentally responsible manner.”
In this province we seem to be stuck with the same old song and dance routine of an archaic forestry bureaucracy.. Just like his predecessor, Kevin Alyward, the new Forestry Minister, Rick Woodford, using a blatant contradiction of terms, refers to this years spray program as “a sound forest protection strategy”. This pesticide program is totally opposite to his department’s 20‑ year Forestry Plan objective of “protecting the natural forest ecosystem in its full diversity. This spray program is more about monopolizing the forest and maximizing fiber supply for the mills. It is not about protecting biodiversity and managing the forest for fish, wildlife, the ecology and other values. There is much talk in district forest planning meetings and many words in government forestry plans and documents, about managing the forest for a diversity of values and not just the industrial fiber value. Unfortunately, the talk and words have not been translated into action. Dumping thousands of gallons of toxic, poisonous pesticides from aircraft over thousands of hectares of the forest is, according to the Forestry Minister and his advisors, supposed to be “protecting the forest.”
There are to be public hearings with regard to this spray program and I encourage those who are concerned to attend those public hearings and demand answers. One voice crying will not be listened to, many voices will be heard and maybe we can stop this onslaught.