Scientists warn of pesticide peril at Perth meeting

Dr. Vicki Wojcik, research director for the global Pollinator Partnership, warned a large audience at a Perth event on April 6 that bees, flies, and other pollinators are threatened by the overuse of chemical cocktails in pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Photo credit and article by:
Matthew Behrens in Discover Perth

As Lanark County prepares another controversial season of roadside pesticide application targeting wild parsnip, a group of concerned residents who oppose the toxic implications of spraying held a standing-room-only public information session in Perth on April 6 featuring two high-profile scientists.

“I live in the land of poison ivy, and I’m no stranger to rashes,” said Dr. Meg Sears, a researcher and lead scientist with the national group Prevent Cancer Now. “Yet that is far more difficult to evade than wild parsnip.” Implying that concerns about wild parsnip are overblown, she pointed out that burns from the plant require a three-step combination of breaking the stem, getting sap on the skin, and being exposed to the sun. Casually brushing against it, she said, is unlikely to cause a rash.

In a wide-ranging presentation, Sears questioned the manner in which pesticides come to market, noting only single chemical elements – and not the final product as a whole – are subject to Health Canada screening. Notably, the state of New York declined to certify aminopyralid, the main ingredient in Clearview which, along with Truvist, is being used in Lanark County – after finding the company-supplied data inadequate.

“We can’t be healthy in a sick world,” Sears said, arguing common sense and education about the plants around us are better alternatives to releasing dangerous chemicals into the environment, where wind drift, as well as leaching into soil, fractured rock, and water tables poses much greater threats to human, animal and plant life. Sears said among the perils associated with pesticide use is the disturbance  of hormone signalling, leading to chronic diseases from prostate and breast cancer to diabetes and obesity.

Sears also warned that a “war on weeds” is bad for pollinators, whose key role in  ecosystem protection and sustainability was outlined by Dr. Vicki Wojcik, research director for the global Pollinator Partnership.

Wojcik discussed the many roles played by pollinators as diverse as bees, flies, birds, bats, butterflies, reptiles and small mammals.

One in three bites of food are pollinator-dependent, she said, as are 80 per cent of the 1,200 most common crops. Noting that “flies are actually wonderful,” given their essential role as pollinators for chocolate, tea, and coffee, Wojcik convinced audience members that “it’s a bit of a harder sell, but flies need love and protection too.”

Wojcik explored how much is at stake as pollinators face rapid population declines in direct proportion to the increasing use of insecticides, pesticides, and fungicides.
In Canada, $2 billion in crops are dependent on insect pollination (that figure is $217 billion globally), while a range of industries from dyes and textiles to fragrances and pharmaceuticals could also be at risk with pollinator declines.

Members of the anti-spraying group Friends of Lanark County plan to pressure local politicians to reconsider spraying in light of recent presentations questioning both the efficacy and safety of roadside spraying.

Among those speaking out is Elphin-based medical doctor Linda Harvey who, in a March 17 letter to Lanark Council, noted that the townships of Tay Valley, Mississippi Mills, and Rideau Lakes have successfully opted out of the spraying program.

There is “little or no solid data on how much of a problem this [wild parsnip] rash actually is, nor are we likely to get it unless we contract a formal study of our own,” wrote Dr. Harvey.  “In my experience as a physician in Ontario, the rash is not at all common.” Given this context, Harvey concluded that “the sprays, on the other hand, are toxic. Do not be fooled by claims of safety. Every pesticide that was ever on the market was considered safe when it came out. A long list of these have been banned as they were anything but safe.”

– See more at:

Letter from the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association

March 23, 2017

Re: Review of Lanark County Herbicide Spraying Decision for Wild Parsnip

Since 1881 the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA) has represented the interests of Ontario’s beekeepers.

Honey bees and wild bees are vital to a healthy ecosystem and they play a crucial role in Ontario’s agriculture sector. Over one third of our diet comes directly or indirectly from insect pollinated plants, and about 80 per cent of wild, flowering plant species would not exist without pollination.

Despite the critical importance of pollinators to the economy and the environment, Ontario is experiencing disturbing declines in pollinator populations. This is due to a number of interacting stressors including exposure to systemic pesticides applied to widespread plantings of cash crops (corn and soy) that has reduced available bee forage in many parts of Ontario.

The OBA supports the restoration of pollinator-friendly roadside strips or parklands that are not adjacent to crops with seeds treated with water-soluble systemic neonicotinoid pesticides.Research that sampled bees, pollen and comb has shown that these highly toxic pesticides translocate via groundwater to the adjacent flowering plants that bees may visit.

The OBA also recommends municipalities avoid chemical weed control. We have found a disturbing pattern where chemicals registered by PMRA as safe for bees, eventually prove tobe toxic to insect pollinators. New studies are now emerging linking herbicides to honey bee health.1 Research has also documented synergistic effects that shows mixing of agricultural chemicals may significantly increase their toxicity.

Jim Coneybeare

President, Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA)


Come to the Council Meeting April 12, 4:45

If you care about the roadside spraying issue we really need you to come out to the council meeting for a show of solidarity on Wednesday April 12th at 4:45 pm at Lanark County Office at 99 Christie Lake Road in Perth

We won’t be able to speak at the meeting. Goodness knows we have already told them everything they need to know…but we can listen, watch and show them that we are not going away! They have not even discussed our petition! It’s as if it didn’t even exist.

Councillors will be voting on a proposal for the Adopt a Road program which will allow folks to control noxious weeds as a community program. Sounds good, right? The truth is that it’s just not realistic for groups to be organized, motivated, trained and have time and the resources to pull parsnip all before the first week of June. It’s just not going to happen and that’s what they are counting on so they can spray more roadsides.

That’s not all.  This is meant to replace the option for us to have a no spray sign! You will not be able to request a no spray sign, not will they respect your own sign. If you don’t adopt your road or mow your frontage or if any hint of parsnip remains they can and will spray it.


So please please come out, bring a friend and try to make a difference. We need numbers there! Bring a homemade sign, your children, your pets and your beekeepers suits! You can print off the image below and bring it too! We will have posterboard and markers so you can make your protest sign on the spot! We will go into the Council chambers to hear the debate at 5:30pm

Vote against spraying! Yes to education, No to pesticides.

Dr. Meg Sears interview on Lake88

Listen to Dr. Meg Sears from Prevent Cancer Now in an interview on Lake 88 radio on April 4, 2017 as a preview to our Pollinators, People and Pesticides event taking place on April 6th.

Dr. Meg Sears, PhD, Senior Clinical Research Associate, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

“Avoiding GMOs and Chemicals in Your Food and Daily Life”

Meg Sears is an environmental health researcher in Ottawa, associated with the CHEO and Ottawa Hospital Research Institutes. She has particular interest in environmental contributors to chronic disease. Meg is also co-chair of Prevent Cancer Now (

Letter from Dr. Linda Harvey to Mayor and council

Linda Harvey B.Sc., M.Sc., M.D.
Elphin, Ont.
March 17, 2017

To: Mayor and Council
Lanark County
Re:Wild Parsnip

The parsnip situation has not gone away. Nor have local residents become any more complacent about the spraying program. There is a strong and growing opposition to the spraying of roadsides for wild parsnip. Perhaps another look at some of the issues is in order.

Consider the following:

In 2016 Lanark County budgeted $51,500 for roadside spraying and Lanark Highlands Township set aside ~$25,000, up from $0 the year before. In ten years, similar expenditures will add up to $250,000 and $515,000 respectively. What else could we be doing with this money?

Tay Valley Township and Mississippi Mills Township have successfully opted out of the spraying program. Now Rideau Lakes Township, just outside the Lanark boundary, has followed. This is an option.

Current OHIP diagnostic and billing codes do not allow the easy separation of photo-dermatitis caused by parsnip from all other dermatitis. Nor do they separate roadside exposures from exposures acquired on private property and in other non-target areas. We therefore have little or no solid data on how much of a problem this rash actually is, nor are we likely to get it unless we contract a formal study of our own. In my experience as a physician in Ontario, the rash is not at all common.
I suspect that if we include only those rashes which result from roadside exposures (which is what we will be preventing with a spraying program), and subtract out minor, superficial rashes that heal without scarring, there will be very few indeed. Perhaps none, in a good year.

The sprays, on the other hand, are toxic. Do not be fooled by claims of safety. Every pesticide that was ever on the market was considered safe when it came out. A long list of these have been banned as they were anything but safe. Aminopyralid is new. We do not know what its toxicity profile will be. I have corresponded with Health Canada about my concerns, and they assure me that they have a battery of tests they require the manufacturer to do and report results. If these are all satisfactory, the material is considered safe. These tests will not address my concerns; and surely you can see here the potential for problems with disclosure and honesty.

I urge you to look at the attached document entitled “ Kids on the Frontline”. It is an easily readable, factual summary of the effects of pesticides on children, particularly rural children. (If the attachment doesn’t come through with this letter, please Google “Kids on the Frontline”, it is well worth reading.) For a more technical presentation, see “2012 Systematic Review of Pesticide Health Effects” by the Ontario College of Family Physicians.

The parsnip may actually be remediating the soil on our roadways. Plants with a long fleshy taproot such as parsnip, or tillage radish [see Willian Dam seed catalog, 2017, p.84] or oilradish [see Organic Field Crop Handbook, Canadian Organic Growers, 1992, p. 142] actually act to loosen up compacted soils, scavenge nutrients from deeper layers, and provide a bit of compost when they die. All of the above plants have been used in this way. Could the parsnip be natures way of repairing the damaged soil along our roadways?
Heavy equipment work is very abusive to soil. In large projects often the topsoil is stripped away for use elsewhere. The remaining layers are compacted and disrupted in the course of work such as rebuilding or resurfacing sections of highway, or bridge and culvert work, or ditching, etc. Why not let the parsnip fix this? When it is done (in a few years, perhaps), the soil will again be suitable for other plants which will outcompete the parsnip and move in. This is the way nature works. Right now not much else can live in that damaged soil.

If you heed the adage “Follow the money”, it will lead you straight, by a short and direct pathway, to the chemical companies selling the herbicide. They are the winners in this. No one else is. Not the taxpayer, not the Township or County, certainly not the public being doused with toxic materials, nor the health care system that will need to take care of them in future and not the natural world. Not the pollinators and the other plants they depend on, not the farmers who depend on the pollinators. Only the chemical companies, who will take our money directly out of our community. Is this really what we want to support? Could it be we are all being taken to the cleaners?

I urge you to think carefully about the material you have just read.

Thank you for your consideration,

Linda Harvey

PS Also, upon carefully reading the Weed Control Act of Ontario, R.S.O. 1990, c. W.5, I note that Section 22 reads:

22.  Sections 3, 13, 16 and 18 do not apply to noxious weeds or weed seeds that are far enough away from any land used for agricultural or horticultural purposes that they do not interfere with that use.  R.S.O. 1990, c. W.5, s. 22.

Sections 3,13,16 and 18 describe the circumstances under which noxious weeds must be destroyed, including notice, expense, appeal, etc.

To my understanding, this Exception would include large stretches of the roadsides in Lanark County, both those under County jurisdiction and those managed by the Townships. How many of our roadsides border on registered conventional (non-organic) farms? This information should be retrievable from your tax base information.

Note the following in regard to Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa): The plant has a single long taproot and does not reproduce from root suckers or runners. The seeds are relatively heavy, and travel a short distance on the wind before falling to the ground. They have neither burs to cling onto passing animals nor fluff to allow wind borne migration.

Therefore only registered farmland within a few metres of a given stand of parsnips is at risk of being colonized and only these parsnips fall within the terms of the Weed Control Act.

This information renders large parts of your spraying initiative unnecessary, in regard to the Weed Control Act, not to mention potentially damaging to the environment and very unpopular with many of your constituents, as you know.

I would strongly suggest you consult your lawyers to see if there is a withdrawal or cancellation clause in the contracts you have signed in regard to spraying. You may want to pursue this route.

Thank you for your consideration in this.

Yours sincerely,
Linda Harvey
(613) 278-0819

A Letter from the Lanark Beekeepers Association

I am writing this letter on behalf of the members of the Lanark County Beekeepers’ Association listed below. We are concerned about the County’s plan to spray county roadsides and ditches with the herbicide ClearView to control wild parsnip.

The spraying of this herbicide could have far-reaching effects on bee colony health, honey production, and honey quality. Roadside plants such as dandelion, sweet clover, goldenrod and wild mustard are attractive to bees and are a major source of nectar and pollen for many beekeepers. If these plants are killed by widespread spraying, this loss of bee forage could affect honey production and colony health. As well, any contaminated nectar and pollen that is collected from sprayed plants will be carried back to the hive where it is either stored or fed todeveloping bees. The effect of ClearView, a relatively new herbicide, on developing bees is not known. We do know that this herbicide is very stable in water; it would therefore likely persist in honey, compromising the product that we sell as “pure” and “natural”.

We urge Council to reconsider the plan to spray herbicides to control wild parsnip and opt instead for targeted mowing that would have far less impact on our bees, our livelihood and the health of all pollinators in Lanark County.

Shelley Neilson
for the Lanark County Beekeepers’ Association
Shelley Neilson Michael Seidenbusch, Sandy Parks, Pat Neumann, Susie Osler, Donna Mae Klassen, Brian Scott,Glenn Chapple, Steve Bolger, Helen Carigo, Jack Kelly, Louise Kelly, Brad Mills, Shawn Kavanagh, Tim Snider, Sue Cole, Neil Carter, Carol Passfield, Amanda Brown, Jeff Brown,Tony Wilcox, Monica Wilcox, Richard Walker, Nancy Rattle, Terri Wright, Dianne Dawson,Monika Vogel, Martin Vogel, Robert MacKinnon, Krystal Kehoe, Ian MacLeod, Phil Laflamme, Mel Latham

Wild parsnip: It’s everywhere and it’s delicious.

“Parsnip flowers are a wonderful nectar source for flies and other small insects, and parsnips are a host plant for gorgeous black swallowtail caterpillars, which mature as one of our handsomest butterflies….

…The tastiest way to diminish any threat from the sap of the tall second-year plants is to dig and eat the roots of the first-year plants after frost. These are just as edible as their domesticated cousins, though our daughter’s infant name for them -“Rattails” -suggests their average size, and it’s important not to eat any of the related poisonous species, such as water hemlock (an Internet search, or any edible plant guide will give the identifying characteristics).”

From an  article in The Recorder 10/6/1


PETITION UPDATE: The Case against Roadside Spraying

Last week we presented the petition with 895 names on it to Lanark county councillors and staff. That is a lot of names collected in only a short period of time!

Please view my presentation that was recently posted. ( March 22, 2017). Mayor McLaughlin asked the Public works staff to report on where the spray program went wrong.

At the same meeting an Adopt A road plan was approved, allowing only insured groups to adopt their section of roadside ( by mowing, pulling with their neighbours) in an attempt to stop spraying in their neighbourhood. The Adopt A Road plan is just not practical for many people in the County. This may also mean that the No Spray signs may be a thing of the past.

The easiest thing to do would be to just abandon the whole idea of spraying altogether. After viewing my presentation, please contact your councillor to tell them just that.

Please be sure to copy County staff:

Name Title Ext. Email
Bill Dobson Warden 1100
Kurt Greaves C.A.O. / Deputy Clerk / Deputy Treasurer 1101
Leslie Drynan Clerk / Deputy C.A.O. 1502
Jennie Bingley Treasurer / Manager of Corporate Services 1320
Mary Kirkham Land Division/Planning Administrator 1520
Marie White Tourism 1530
Terry McCann Director of Public Works 3190
Janet Tysick Business Manager, Public Works 3110
Darwin Nolan Operations Manager, Public Works 3114

The lab rats of Lanark County

The Millstone March 16, 2017

Imagine a giant chemical experiment taking place in our county. For which we taxpayers are paying $51,500 per year.

Where we are the subjects – and the scientific method is non-existent.

“Wow!” you say. “Will we get any mind-altering experiences from this?” No. But you will get lots of dead roadside vegetation. And the future effects are unclear, but worrisome.

“Impossible!” you exclaim. Well, let’s review the evidence.

Having performed science experiments in school, we’re familiar with the scientific method. Using this established procedure, I’ll outline how Lanark County have conducted their own “experiment”.

First, the question: Why is wild parsnip a problem, and how should we respond? Well, wild parsnip can cause a nasty photosensitivity rash if, during its flowering phase, the plant’s sap gets on your skin. The remedy? Avoid sunlight on your skin until you wash off the sap. Once you learn to identify this metre-tall plant with yellow flowers, it’s easily avoided.

Second: Conduct background research related to the question. It seems reason was abandoned, as Lanark County, instead of analyzing this plant’s habits, seized on chemical warfare as the means to obliterate it. The fact that the spraying would miss whole swaths of wild parsnip, which would then likely reseed any bare spots, was…forgotten? The fact that more prudent jurisdictions had found safer weed management solutions was overlooked.