On June 21, 2023, Quebec City, my home town, announced the adoption of the Regulation respecting the registration of contractors offering a pesticide application service, R.V.Q. 3186.
The by-law requires contractors who apply pesticides for others to register in advance with the city. It sets out certain requirements that these contractors are expected to meet, as well as inspection rights and penalties for non-compliance.
Among other things, licensed contractors will be required to provide information on pesticides used to their customers and neighbors upon request. They will also be required to keep a record of their purchase, sale and use.
The adoption of a by-law to reduce pesticide use is one of the 24 actions required to achieve Gold certification in the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge from the David Suzuki Foundation, and one of the 15 actions required to comply with the Montréal Pledge, which Quebec City joined at COP15 last December.
What Are Pesticides?
The term pesticide is used to describe a substance or mixture that destroys pests or prevents or reduces the damage they can cause. These pests may be insects or other animals, unwanted plants, fungi, bacteria or viruses. They can be composed of chemicals or natural materials, and include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and rodenticides.
In early June, Quebec City also announced that it would ban the sale of glyphosate for domestic use on its territory from 2024. This herbicide is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, which is widely used to control weeds in agriculture. Glyphosate is a widespread herbicide used to control broadleaf weeds and grasses.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a WHO agency, classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic”, but subsequent studies have found it unlikely that the amounts found in our food cause cancer. However, studies carried out at McGill University suggest that marine ecosystems exposed to glyphosate via runoff are suffering biodiversity losses, and that other animals and their food chains may be indirectly affected.
According to Marie-Josée Asselin, vice-president of the executive committee responsible for sustainable development and the environment, “the commitment of Quebec City’s citizens is growing when it comes to protecting biodiversity and acting for healthier, more sustainable living environments. We’re following in the footsteps of other municipalities and want to take action to limit the harmful impacts of this herbicide on our health. Our knowledge is constantly evolving, and we need to keep moving in the right direction to offer everyone safer, greener environments in which to live!”
Public consultations were held this winter, and the amendment to the bylaw was prompted by requests from Quebec City residents.
In effect since January 1, 2022, the City of Montreal’s By-law on the sale and use of pesticides also requires contractors using pesticides to register. It also bans the sale and use of several pesticides, including glyphosate, chlorpyrifos and certain neonicotinoids. Montreal is the first Canadian city to completely ban the sale of these household pesticides.
Do We Really Need Pesticides?
As far as I’m concerned, pesticides are not necessary for residential use, except in cases of major infestation by non-native or health-damaging pests. In such cases, it would be preferable to contact specialists who can assess the situation and use the appropriate products safely. It’s also important to contact the relevant government authorities.
In general, we can avoid the use of pesticides by making the right choice of plants adapted to our conditions. Plants placed in the right place will be healthier and more resistant to pests. There are also many varieties of plants that are resistant to disease. Using compost and biodegradable organic mulch will feed pests’ natural predators as well as plants. Encouraging diversity in our garden will also help. If there’s only one kind of plant and it gets sick, we lose everything. But if there’s a wide variety of plants and a pest eliminates one, you have others to replace it. Not to be overlooked: pests may have difficulty finding their prey when there’s a diversity of plants hiding their scent. So don’t hesitate to mix flowers with vegetables in your garden.
What About Low-Impact Insecticides?
A low-impact insecticide, such as insecticidal soap, can be used if required. But remember, if an insecticide kills one insect, it will probably kill other species too. In spite of yourself, you may be upsetting your garden’s ecosystem by killing the natural predator of the pest you wanted to eliminate. Try to limit the use of pesticides and, above all, use them only in the infected area.
If you choose to ask a company to apply pesticides, make sure they have the right permits for this type of work, to ensure that they use these products in a way that is safe for human and animal health, and for the environment.
And remember, in general, nature has an answer for everything. Sometimes it’s best to let her do her thing!
What are the regulations on pesticides in your area?