Wake-up call

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Every spring after cocooning myself in a bundle of mitts, sweaters and the quintessential maple-leafed toque, I enjoy getting my hands in the dirt and experience its moist, cool, rich and refreshing life giving sensations. The seeds I plant in our garden know what they are doing and during the summer and fall our family is blessed with an abundance of homegrown produce that not only feeds the body but also nourishes the soul.

On occasion, a few competing bugs seem to like what the seeds produce and I have been arming myself with a few chemicals to ensure most of the sweet green peas and juicy ripe tomatoes get to our plates.

Recently, however, I am beginning to doubt the wisdom of my chemical crusade against these bugs, because the collateral damage against myself, family and environment will likely be greater than on the bugs and their mutants I am focused on eliminating.

This became very clear to me a few days ago when I wanted to rearm myself with a white powdered insecticide labelled Rotenone, packaged in a colourful Green Earth labelled tube. I have used this so-called organic dust, made by Wilson Laboratories in Dundas, Ont., for a number of years, thinking this was something that would produce the least collateral damage. I was also influenced by the words on the front of the container, “Low toxicity insecticide for use on vegetables up to the day before harvest.” On the back of the container, “Nontoxic to people and pets,” was also reassuring. I trusted the information. Big mistake. This chemical is no longer being sold because of its toxicity. Instead, Wilson is selling other white powders like Sevin also packaged in attractively coloured tubes.

I find the fine magnifying small print on the back of the Sevin container alarming, if not scary. For example, it states, “If on skin or clothing, take off contaminated clothing. Rinse skin immediately with plenty of water for 15 to 20 minutes. If inhaled … call 911 or an ambulance. Then give artificial respiration. We are putting this stuff on our vegetables? None of this information was on the Rotenone container, yet it is off the shelves because of its toxicity?

Where is the logic and who is in charge of regulating this stuff? Clerks with little or no professional competence on the chemical implications of these toxic chemicals are the ones giving advice, assuring the customers that the powder will do the job. The system is broken and out of control.

Something else has also come to my attention in reference to the impact of toxic chemicals being used in our environment. The use of Dursban for mosquito control is an absolute abdication of responsibility by the City of Edmonton for the wellbeing of its citizens and those in adjoining neighbourhoods. Thank God for a group, Pesticide Free Edmonton, for raising some alarms and making the effort to wake people up on what we are doing to ourselves.

All the more reason why St. Albert Council should champion the Blue Dot Campaign and advocate for the rights to clean air, clean water and healthy food be enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Let’s not delay this decision and bury it in the pile of details of building out of place skyscrapers by a river with no water.

Wilf Borgstede, St. Albert

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