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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An evaluation of British Columbia’s agricultural pesticide regulations Sanford, Donna Louise


Some scientists and industry observers are calling into question the sustainability of continued reliance on pesticides in agriculture, not only because of their toxicity to humans and the environment, but because pesticides enable the continuation of a system of agriculture that is ultimately unsustainable. Recognizing problems of pesticide misuse in British Columbia agriculture, the provincial government passed amendments to its Pesticide Control Act Regulations in 1988. This regulatory initiative provided me with an opportunity to examine pesticide regulation in British Columbia agriculture. My purpose was to evaluate pesticide regulation in British Columbia on two levels. First, I assess the extent to which British Columbia's amended pesticide regulations address current problems of unsafe handling and improper use of pesticides in British Columbia agriculture. Second, I examine pesticide use within a larger framework of sustainable agriculture and discuss policy approaches that could promote a shift away from reliance on pesticides in British Columbia agriculture. A review of literature revealed that a range of factors exacerbates the risks associated with pesticide use in agriculture, including insufficient training of farmers and farmworkers, lack of knowledge of English, functional illiteracy, and the absence of a rigorous enforcement program. The amendment to the Pesticide Control Act Regulation of greatest significance to the agriculture industry is one which requires growers to pass a certification examination in order to purchase and apply restricted pesticides on their own farms; iii this requirement took effect in January 1992. This requirement was intended to mitigate factors contributing to pesticide misuse noted above. Prior to this requirement, growers and farmworkers were able to use restricted pesticides with no training whatsoever. In preparation for the certification exam, growers receive a home study course with an instructional video and practice exams. This course is available in English only. Users of commercial class pesticides are exempt from the certification requirement. In order to place the evaluation of the new regulations in a wider context, I surveyed the following jurisdictions to determine what other approaches have been taken to pesticide regulation: Canadian provinces and territories, the states of Washington, Oregon and California, and the U.K. An evaluation of British Columbia's certification program revealed several factors that will limit its success in achieving its goal of improving safe pesticide practice. These include: the exemption of the large class of commercial pesticides; the absence of on-site training; the lack of training for growers in how to train their employees in safe practice; the absence of course and exam materials in minority languages; the lack of additional staff to enforce and monitor the new regulations; the lack of a formal evaluation plan to determine the success of the new program. I include recommendations as to how these issues can be addressed. I urge policy makers to address two issues outside the scope of the certification program that will assist greatly in achieving improved pesticide practice: implementation of mandatory occupational health and safety coverage for agriculture and improved pesticide labels. Finally I present policy options that would promote a shift away from reliance on pesticides in agriculture, based on experience of other jurisdictions, and on recommendations of industry observers. These include mandated reductions in overall pesticide use, as adopted in Denmark, Sweden and Holland; and the imposition of pesticide purchase taxes. I conclude that, based on the sustainable agriculture literature, significant reductions in pesticide use can only be achieved if whole agricultural systems are redesigned to encompass ecological imperatives and that for sustainability, policy makers must address the system of agriculture, not just the subsystem of pest control.

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