UBC professor calls for changes to pesticide regulations

A UBC professor is calling on the federal government to change regulations, reducing the use of harmful pesticides. Angela Bower has more on how this would protect people and wildlife.

A UBC professor is calling on the federal government to change regulations and reduce the use of harmful pesticides.

Risa Sargent, an associate professor at the university, says she wants to see the federal government reconsider certain chemicals in farming, as she says they can be harmful to bees and other wildlife.

“Canada has signed on recently, with a global initiative to reduce pesticide risk by 50 per cent by 2030. And what we’d like to see, is reductions in pesticide use accompanying that,” she said.

She says some pesticides may have long term effects and lead to bigger issues

“Neonicotinoids, which are still allowed and are being used in Canada, are negatively impacting bees and other ecosystem players that are important for agricultural production,” she explained.

“The bees aren’t dying, but their colony size and their ability to reproduce is damaged,” she said. “But the one hypothesis is that we know that these herbicides actually impact gut microbial communities.”

The executive director of Farmers on 57th, an urban farm in Vancouver’s Marpole neighbourhood, says they use other ways of protecting their crops.

“A lot of the ways that we manage pests and weeds on our farm is through organic materials,” said Karen Ageson.

A Farmers on 57th sign is shown.

Farmers on 57th is an agricultural group in Vancouver’s Marpole neighbourhood. (CityNews Image)

“So we get these coffee burlap bags from the roasters, there’s so many in Vancouver. We put those on our field through the winter and it protects the soil biology. In the Spring, we start removing those materials. The burlap plus the leaf mulch. And, in removing those, we’re removing slug eggs because that can see them. So we literally just take them out…. we go through and we pick them off our plants.”

Ageson says they only use chemicals to keep slugs away from crops if other methods don’t work., and they want their farm to use as little chemicals as possible

“People that actually suffer the most from agricultural pesticide use is workers. For sure, it’s impacting our insect populations, pollinator populations. But people, too, are impacted by using those chemicals,” she said. “We certainly don’t expose our volunteers here and our staff to those kinds of pesticides.”

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Sargent adds she would like other farmers to think twice before using them too.

“Many pesticides are actually sprayed before any detection of pests is even done,” she said.

“Allowing pesticides when there’s clear evidence that, you know, this is a this is going to be a really bad breakout year maybe through data collection, which isn’t really happening right now.”

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