As far as consumers, environmentalists and organic farmers are concerned, the May report from the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development is the best report to come out of Ottawa in many years.
Entitled “Pesticides: Making the Right Choice for the Protection of Health and the Environment,” this 212-page report is also of major interest to parents and grandparents who are concerned about the health of younger generations.
The environmental committee is presently chaired by the Honorable Charles Cascia, former federal minister of the environment. On page 184, the report recommends:
- Tax incentives for organic agriculture. The government should develop an organic agriculture policy for the transition from pesticide-dependent farming to organic farming. This policy should include tax incentives, an interim support program during the transition period, technical support for farmers, the development of post-secondary organic farming programs and enhanced funding for research and development in organic farming.
- A food-grading system. The committee recommends that the government work with industry to quickly put in place a certification organization for the Canadian National Organic Agriculture Standard. A labelling system should also be improved to provide consumers with better information on the intrinsic nutritional qualities of food products.
- Organic agriculture research. The committee recommends that the government grant appropriate financial resources for research, teaching and information distribution in the organic agriculture sector.
- Research into child vulnerability. The government should immediately develop and ensure adequate funding for a pesticides research program devoted specifically for child health. Research goals should focus on; the exposure of the fetus and the newborn to pollutants accumulated in the mother’s body; the neurotoxic effects of pesticides; children’s daily activities and their developmental and physiological characteristics.
On page 185, the report further recommends:
- Gradual reduction of pesticides for esthetic purposes.
- A national pesticide reduction protocol similar to what has been done in Europe and modelled on the National Packaging Protocol developed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.
- A new Pest Control Act that would prohibit the registration and re-registration of pesticides intended for cosmetic use.
- The development of a strategy for the gradual phase-out of pesticides used for cosmetic purposes to be conceived by government in partnership with the provinces, territories and municipalities.
The time to clean up our environment and produce the healthiest food possible is long overdue. Our health-care system is in crisis and there isn’t any doubt that pollution is attacking our immune systems and that we are becoming less able to cope with a growing number of illnesses.
To date, the above recommendations are just good recommendations. The environmental committee is going to require much political and public support to actually push the recommendations through to legislation. I urge everyone to obtain a copy of the report and circulate the information to friends, church and political associates, social clubs, labor unions and companions in a bar.