Scientist wants public aware of
Saturday, October 05, 2002
The public should be aware of the unintended impact
pesticides can have in order to make well-informed decisions
about the use of the chemicals, says an Environment Canada
research scientist based in Regina.
"I think there should be much more public awareness and
concern about pesticides, yes, but not because pesticides are
necessarily bad or necessarily good," said Don Waite, who
spoke to University of Regina students on Friday.
While there is a health department that looks at the human
health aspects, there is also an environmental aspect, Waite
The farm field may be an intended target for a pesticide,
but chemicals might move into waterways, wetlands, forest
areas or the atmosphere.
"I think we should be aware as Canadian citizens of how
they move and what effects they are going to have so we can
make a wise decision as to whether, first of all, there are
risks involved or not. There may or may not be depending on
People can then make an informed decision about whether
they wish to take those risks or not, Waite said.
Pesticides are chemicals registered by the Canadian
government for use in the Canadian environment, and they are
designed to be toxic, noted Waite.
"If they weren't toxic they wouldn't be of any use. They're
designed to solve certain problems in crop production, whether
the crop is a forest or a wheat crop. And it's a decision of
the Canadian people whether they want to use those chemicals
for cultural purposes."
Waite reviewed research he did in the 1990s that looked at
the use of the insecticide Lindane on canola seeds planted in
Saskatchewan fields. They were able to show that the chemical
gets into the atmosphere, and through work with atmospheric
movement they could show areas in the Arctic and around the
Great Lakes where the chemical might end up. And work by other
scientists in the Lake Ontario area showed increases in
lindane that seemed to coincide with the use of the chemical
on the prairies, Waite said, adding that lindane has since
been withdrawn by the manufacturer for use on canola seed.
"We can't actually say this molecule in Ontario came from
Saskatchewan, but it you apply the chemical at a certain time,
look for a bit of a time lag and then find it downwind,
there's a coincidental relationship. In other words, it may be
coincidence but isn't it an interesting coincidence that we
put it here at this time and it came and showed up there at
that time," he said.
Waite said globally there are 812 current pesticides.
Pesticides registered for use in Saskatchewan in 2000 included
118 herbicides, 54 fungicides and 38 insecticides.
2002 The Leader-Post (Regina)