Every year, thousands of acres of Crown forest lands are sprayed with herbicides to kill hardwoods and plants that compete with softwood plantation seedlings. In the previous ten years, four petitions have been submitted to the Province of NB to ban spraying in our forests. Number Five was delivered on May 18, 2016. This one contained nearly 13,000 names signed by New Brunswickers who want the province to stop spraying public forests with glyphosate, the herbicide used in New Brunswick’s forestry industry and labelled last year as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization.
In light of news articles notifying residents of the 2015 herbicide spray program by NB Power and JDI Forestry operations, WEPAC sent the following letter to the premier and ministers in August 2015, expressing our concerns on the downstream harm caused by glyphosate products.
Dear Premier Gallant;
Back in the 60s, when Dr. Mary Majka first arrived in New Brunswick, she was moved to begin advocating for the environment after reading Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, which warned of the dangers of chemical spraying on human and ecological health. One of Mary’s first endeavours was to convince government to eliminate roadside spraying in favour of work crews and mechanical cutting. She was successful in short order because, in the words of one politician, ‘It was a common sense approach.’
We now have plenty of modern science to back up Rachel Carson’s predictions of the ill effects from herbicide and pesticide use. In particular, formulations containing glyphosate….including the latest from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in which a panel of 17 experts from 11 countries classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen based on evidence in human and animal studies. As you know, Health Canada is re-evaluating the effects. Several studies, including one in Canada, have found a link between occupational exposure to glyphosate and increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The Conservation Council of NB says this: “In the first eight months of 2010 alone, more than 70 peer-reviewed scientific studies have examined the ecological consequences in terrestrial and aquatic systems from using glyphosate-based herbicides and their biochemical interaction in mammals (including human), birds, fishes, crustaceans, worms, amphibians, bacteria and target and non-target plants. Majority of studies report adverse effects associated with exposure to low doses of glyphosate-based herbicides.”
Turns out what scientists thought were inert ingredients, were anything but in combinations. The debacle of Agent Orange showed us we can never be too cautious. We must learn from our mistakes.
Science has shown our soil biology is strongly disrupted by glyphosate, which is toxic to many beneficial micro- and macro-organisms including earthworms. It harms a wide range of microbes responsible for mineral uptake in soil. Glyphosate is retained and can be transported in soils.
Besides that being done by NB Power, the GNB mapping indicates areas slated for spraying south of the Turtle Creek Watershed and north of the Riverside-Albert water supply. Beyond our water supplies, many rural people forage for berries, nuts, mushrooms and greens. It is not only healthy and meditative, it is cultural. Our health and our enjoyment of outdoor spaces should not be sacrificed in favour of industry ambitions.
You are well aware that Quebec banned the use of glyphosate in forestry in 2001 and hired thinning crews. Nova Scotia is no longer using public funds for herbicide spraying of their forest and reducing clearcutting by 50%. Both NS and PEI will seek FSC certification, which means a ban on herbicide spraying.
However, New Brunswick taxpayers continue to fund silviculture on Crown land to the tune of $1,000/ha, according to Natural Resources Canada. Yet we have no say in how this is accomplished. Why? New Brunswickers would be much happier to see our money ensuring the health and continuity of our forests and contributing to our jobless rate by hiring work crews to thin selectively, instead of paying for the elimination of broadleaf trees in favour of monoculture tree plantations.
Trees are one of our best defenses against worsening climate change because of their carbon storage. Scientists know that not all species will survive the effects of global warming, and softwoods will be the hardest hit. It is equally important to protect the diversity in our forests to aid in withstanding new pests and diseases, not only for trees, but for the very survival of our wildlife. Broadleaf trees are essential in the food chain. The diversity of our crown forests MUST be protected at all costs.
Mary Majka has been well-recognized for her integrity, wisdom and advocacy work on behalf of wildlife and the environment. The common sense approach she employed in the 60s and 70s is still valid today. We urge this government to follow the lead of surrounding provinces and ban the use of herbicide spraying. Three petitions signed by thousands of New Brunswickers against herbicide spraying in the forest have been tabled in the New Brunswick Legislature in just over a decade, the most recent in 2011.
Please put New Brunswicker’s to work as thinning crews and respect the Precautionary Principle by banning the use of dangerous herbicides. Our health and the health of our forests and rivers depend upon these thoughtful, considerate actions.
Copies were sent also, to the following:
Hon. Denis Landry, Minister of Natural Resources (Denis.Landry2@gnb.ca)
Hon. Brian Kenney, Minister of Environment and Local Government (Brian.Kenny@gnb.ca)
Mr. Brian Keirstead, MLA Albert (Keirstead.Brian@gnb.ca )
Mr. Bruce Fitch, MLA Riverview (Bruce.Fitch@gnb.ca)
Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/groups/StopSprayinginNB/
Read about the May 2016 Protest at the Legislation and delivery of petition
*Check the GNB Mapping Tool to see if spraying will take place in your area.
*Conservation Council notes on herbicide spraying:
- http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/food-forager-wants-more-details-about-herbicide-spraying-1.3173944 (July 30, 2015)
- http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/nb-power-s-herbicide-essentially-non-toxic-to-humans-wildlife-1.3161385 (July 21, 2015)
- http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/scientists-call-for-ban-on-outdated-herbicide-spraying-1.1329392 (Aug 20, 2013)
*Open Letter to NB Chief Medical Health Officer from Council of Canadians re health impacts associated with herbicide spraying. (includes reference links to research)