Documents: Special Interest: Organically Minded:

My Response To Those Who Would Attempt To Muzzle Me Regarding The Use Of Safe Garden Pesticides
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

June 22, 2014

Above, Rosa ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’ is just a little further advanced here on Saturday than it was in the photo that accompanied last week’s article alongside of ‘American Pillar now in full bloom; our Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is sporting just four blooms this year, compared to seven last year. It overwinters under our hallway skylight. Below, a general shot across part of our large pone showing our geyser, the pinkish-white rockrose (Cystus) and the Fremontodendron californica. Author photos.


Back on April 7 this year I spoke to the Squamish Gardeners on the topic of their choice--“Questions people like you ask me—and my responses.”

I had copied 21 questions from various e-mailed messages I had received basically in the past three years. I managed to illustrate each one either with a photo of the plant involved, or something sent to me by the questioner.

The visuals were taken care of by the club’s techie and he did a great job.

After the meeting I answered more questions from the audience members, and then wrapped up my equipment and left. On the way from the building I was stopped at least six times by folks wishing to tell me how much they enjoyed the presentation.

But, apparently, not everyone was happy!

A few weeks ago I received a typed letter from Carol Anderson with whom I dealt for all of the arrangements. She said that she represented the club’s “Program Committee.” Here is the entire letter:

“We recently invited you to come to speak to The Squamish Gardeners and members of our community about solutions to gardening problems We appreciate that you are a renowned garden expert and a passionate gardener. Most of the information you shared was very useful.

“However, we were quite surprised to hear you promote the use of pesticides and chemicals in the garden. We were also perplexed to hear you promote driving to the US to smuggle these products across the border. As a garden club we promote methods that are kinder to our planet and try to choose alternate methods of solving garden pest and disease problems. As a community we have made great strides in cleaning up our waters and our land in the past several years.

“We wish to bring our concerns to your attention and would suggest that in future you inform those that employ you for speaking engagements that you do promote pesticides and be prepared to state your arguments for using pesticides and banned products.

“In light of the fact that we chose you as a speaker based on the BCCGC Speaker’s List, we will be sending a letter expressing our concern along to Cindy Tataryn, First Vice President who compiles and distributes the list.

Sincerely, Carol Anderson”

I likely should not have been surprised by the letter, since the totally false statements about the “terrible things” that can happen as a result of using pesticides and chemicals in the garden are increasingly prevalent. The sentence “we promote methods that are kinder to our planet and try to choose alternate methods of solving garden pest and disease problems,” shows the folks writing the letter do not have any knowledge of the science of pesticides which are all approved by officials with the Canada Health Department.

Of course I am aware of the various provincial and municipal jurisdictions which have “banned” certain or all uses of these products, but they are fully approved by the federal government which is the only level of government which has the licensing of pesticides on its agenda. I am also fully knowledgeable of the various private organizations which speak out against pesticides, but if these are the people these folks are listening to, perhaps they should read some of the information about these groups. For example, Dr. David Suzuki, well known broadcaster, was forced to resign from the board of his own foundation (of which he was co-founder) by federal authorities who said he had a serious conflict of interest due to some of the products and services he represented.

It is very interesting to find that many organizations who complain about pesticides also happen to have a “non-chemical” safe alternative to sell to those who are gullible enough to believe everything they hear or see. But, that is not the end of the problems such organizations face because virtually all of the so-called “safe alternatives” to the old reliable pesticides do not work well (if at all), and to make it even worse, these so-called “green alternatives” cost the earth to use! Here is a report from the independent “Pesticide Truths” Website.

“Despite claims to the contrary, overall, there are no viable, efficacious, economical, or low-risk alternatives to replace conventional pest control products.

“So-called alternatives, such as Corn Gluten Meal, Fiesta, Flame-Throwers, Nematodes, and Sarritor [about which I wrote an extensive article here when it was first being introduced], are all dismal failures! Green Alternative Pesticides are ineffective, inadequate, high risk, more toxic, and stunningly expensive!

“Green Alternative Pesticides are not viable, not efficacious, not economical, not low-risk…most are not even legal. [Neem oil, for example.] Green Alternative Pesticides are bogus and dismal failures - they do not work.

“Green Alternative Pesticides are products that are supposed to replace conventional pest control products. Green Alternative Pesticides are not superior to conventional pest control products. Unfortunately, there are no viable, efficacious, economical, or lower-risk alternatives to replace the prohibited products, and there will likely be none within our collective lifetime.

“There are no Green Alternative Herbicides that selectively and effectively control weeds in turf. There are no Green Alternative Insecticides for Chinch Bugs, a major damaging pest in home lawns. There are no Green Alternative Insecticides that effectively control White Grubs, another major turfgrass pest.

“Fortunately, conventional pest control products are safe, effective, economical, and low-risk.

“Virtually all Green Alternative Pesticides are bogus, displaying negative characteristics such as the following:

  • Green Alternative Pesticides are almost totally ineffective except under very specific circumstances.
  • Green Alternative Pesticides, such as Acetic Acid and Corn Gluten Meal, are prohibited in some municipal jurisdictions.
  • Green Alternative Pesticides are questionably higher in toxicity when compared to conventional products.
  • Green Alternative Pesticides are stunningly more expensive to use when compared to conventional pest control products.
  • Green Alternative Pesticides are supplied by the same Anti-Pesticide Organizations that actively sought the prohibition of conventional pest control products.
  • Green Alternative Pesticides may have negative side-effects like phyto-toxicity (an effect that adversely affects plant growth) or metal corrosion or rodent-attractant.
  • Green Alternatives, like Nematode insecticides, are not legally registered as pest control products, and therefore, are unregulated.
  • Green Alternative Pesticides will not fully control pests, and will only provide partial suppression.
  • Green Alternative Pesticides will not have a full range of safety information such as human toxicity and environmental impact, which is necessary for the registration of conventional pest control products.
  • Green Alternative Pesticides will require extremely high inputs of active ingredient since they will otherwise be less effective - the rates and the frequency of application may be exorbitantly high.
  • Green Alternative Pesticides will require more personal protection for the user.
  • Green Alternatives like weed-burning flame-throwers may burn down buildings and homes…just like napalm!
  • Green Alternative Pesticides are not safer, not better, not more effective, and not lower-risk when compared to conventional pest control products.

Green Alternative Pesticides are bogus and dismal failures - they do not work.

If you should choose not to listen or read the foregoing impartial information from the Pesticide Truths Website, then you should perhaps read the testimony of one Doctor Keith R. Solomon, Ph.D. He is a Professor in the Department of Environmental Biology at the University of Guelph. He is also Director of the Centre for Toxicology.

He conducts research into the fate and effects of pest control products and other substances in the environment, exposure of humans to pest control products and industrial chemicals, and risk assessment.

Dr. Solomon also teaches courses in toxicology and pesticides. He is a Graduate of Rhodes University in Chemistry and Zoology. He holds M.Sc. degrees from Rhodes University and the University of Illinois, as well as a Ph.D. from Illinois.

Dr. Solomon has more than 30 years of experience in research and teaching in pesticide science and environmental toxicology. He has contributed to more than 150 scientific publications and reports in the fields of pesticides, environmental toxicology, and risk assessment.

He is a Fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences and received the 2002 American Chemical Society International Award for Research in Agrochemicals. In 2006, Dr. Solomon was awarded the SETAC Europe Environmental Education Award and the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Founders Award.

Over the years in the 1980s to early 2000s I interviewed Keith frequently on my Toronto-based radio gardening programmes always on the subject of the safety of pesticides; trying to quell the increasingly large chorus of nay-sayers who all spoke and preached from no base of science whatsoever!

Here is a summary Of Doctor Solomon’s Presentation to British Columbia’s Special Committee On Pesticides, November 8th, 2011

  • "There are no toxicological or health reasons that justify anti-pesticide prohibition.
  • Not every pest control product is highly toxic.
  • Not every pest control product is highly dangerous.
  • The federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency uses the precautionary approach to set guidelines for exposures for humans.
  • At least in home and garden use, most pest control products are actually very non-persistent.
  • There is really a lack of evidence linking pest control product exposure to human risks of cancer.
  • There is no evidence of any causal link between the use of pest control products and cancer.
  • Pest control products are less toxic than table salt.
  • Epidemiology studies are really based only on correlation and suggested links, and they cannot establish causality on their own.
  • If government officials want to impose a pesticide ban for political reasons, that’s fine. That’s within their mandate. But if they do that, they should be honest enough to admit that they are actually doing that.”

Lately, one of the more interesting aspects of this controversial topic is the lengthening list of jurisdictions that have either totally cancelled or substantially modified their original ban, which those who preach the need for banning chemicals tend to ignore. There are dozens of jurisdictions that stopped or rescinded or limited their Anti-Pesticide prohibition.

For example, let us consider one of the more recent such happenings—the nearby City of Port Alberni, B.C. (population almost 18,000) just under-an-hour’s drive from Parksville. Scott Kenny, a fellow graduate of The Niagara Parks Commission Botanical Garden and School of Horticulture is the parks person in charge there.

Despite its good intentions, the City of Port Alberni has rescinded its pesticide reduction by-law (a.k.a. Anti-Pesticide prohibition). In 2009, Port Alberni adopted its prohibition by-law against pest control products used in the urban landscape. It was imposed under the pretext of somehow protecting the environment from so-called non-essential chemicals.

Now, because of the failure of Organic Pesticide-Free Maintenance and the stunningly exorbitant cost of maintaining Green Spaces without pest control products, prohibition was rescinded.

Port Alberni will instead follow an annual pest management plan with an eye to reducing pesticide use in the city where it can.

Because of Port Alberni’s prohibition, Green Alternative Pesticides and Practices were shown to be dismal failures.

When Port Alberni’s 2009 prohibition was imposed, municipal employees implemented a series of measures that were ineffective:

FAILURE - manual cultivation was attempted but was found to be too labour intensive, particularly in times of reduced staffing.

FAILURE - propane blow torches were used by municipal employees on hard surface areas at baseball fields in 2010, and were ineffective since only the tops of weeds were burned and the roots remained unaffected.

FAILURE - vinegar solutions were tried next but again didn’t impact the plants’ roots, and the applications were ineffective except for controlling small weeds and soft plants.

FAILURE - bark mulching of shrub beds was used with moderate success by choking down weeds while keeping the soil moist and keeping the roots cool.

Anti-Pesticide prohibition led to Port Alberni being forced to spend stunningly exorbitant amounts of money.

Port Alberni’s Government Officials have used Fiesta Herbicide as an example of the exorbitant cost of organic pesticide-free maintenance. Port Alberni would have had to spend $32,000 to apply four applications of Fiesta Herbicide on city playing fields per year. In comparison, one application of Killex would cost only $1,600 to apply and would last four years!

Fiesta Herbicide was registered and approved for use in 2010 as a so- called Green Alternative Pesticide, and was quickly incorporated into Port Alberni’s weed control programmes not because of its efficacy, but because of Port Alberni’s decision that the imposed and unnecessary and unrealistic anti-pesticide prohibition which prevented municipal employees from using conventional herbicides that were truly effective as well as safe.

There is little debate about the fact that Port Alberni’s prohibition converted its green spaces into shabbier and dangerous pest-infested garbage dumps because Fiesta herbicide was a costly and dismal failure.

It is impossible for municipal employees to keep Port Alberni’s green spaces beautiful and safe by using so-called green alternative pesticides. There are no valid economical alternatives to replace products like Killex.

In fact, conventional herbicides, such as Killex, are deemed safer than Fiesta.

This has obviously turned into one of my longer articles here, and yet I have barely scratched the surface of the arguments against bans on “cosmetic pesticides”, and indeed, in favour of the continued use of safe, federally regulated pesticides.

I’ll likely have more on this in an upcoming article.

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