Environment groups fight worm spraying

Seven environmental groups representing thousands of Ontarians have joined forces to prevent the Ontario Government from spraying chemical insecticides to control forest budworms this spring.

We are all agreed that chemical insecticide spraying is not any kind of a solution to the problem of . . . budworm, and poses unacceptable risks to the environment,” coalition member Bruce Hyer told a news conference in Toronto yesterday.

Instead of spraying chemicals, Mr. Hyer said, the Ontario Pesticide Action Coalition (OPAC) advocates better forest-management to control spruce and jackpine budworms.

And in certain situations where forests need to be protected for logging or recreation, he said, most groups advocate using a less-harmful bacterial insecticide called BT.

The coalition – formed at a weekend conference of Ontario environmental groups – could represent tens of thousands of people when more groups join formally later this week, Mr. Hyer said.

The seven groups are Pollution Probe, Environment North, North Central Ontario Tourism Association, Wildlands League, Temiskaming Environmental Action Committee, Sierra Club of Ontario, and Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society.

The coalition is fighting the use of the same chemicals – Fenitrothion and Matacil – which have stirred up controversy for years in New Brunswick.

Open houses recently held by the Ministry of Natural Resources have been little more than pro-chemical “propaganda programs” which “provided no opportunity for public input,” Mr. Hyer told reporters.

As a result, the coalition is holding its own public meeting in Thunder Bay tonight, featuring as speakers Elizabeth May, a Nova Scotia lawyer and pesticide activist, and Ross Hume Hall, a McMaster University toxicologist who wrote a national report on diy pest control.

Ontario is in the middle of a major outbreak of spruce and jackpine budworm.

The spruce budworm has caused moderate to severe defoliation in about 8.6-million hectares of forest in northwestern and northeastern Ontario. Jack pine budworm has caused similar damage in about 600,000 hectares.

Trees will die after several seasons of such damage.

At the recent series of open houses across northern Ontario, the natural resources ministry outlined various proposals designed to control the budworm with insecticides and protect areas scheduled for logging by the forest industry.

The options include using the chemical agents Fenitrothion and Matacil, and the bacterial agent Bacillus Thuringiensis, or BT.

In interviews, at press conferences and at the open houses, ministry spokesmen stress that the chemicals are cheaper and faster-acting than BT and that they pose no risks to human health.

People have been given 30 days to comment on the options, and the ministry will be making a decision within the next two weeks.

Ministry officials have played down or dismissed scientific studies indicating that Matacil and Fenitrothion can harm human health or the environment and have failed to mention that chemical sprays can create a stronger breed of budworm which is resistant to pesticides and will prolong the natural cycle of infestation, Mr. Hyer said.

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