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.


The Friends of Lanark County and the National Farmers Union Local Chapter are pleased to present:


A speaking event that will interest members of the community who care about the pollinator crisis and human environmental health in general. Speakers will explore the effects and consequences of pesticide use (including roadside spraying) on human and pollinator health.

We welcome the following speakers:

Margaret (Meg) Sears Ph. D., an environmental health expert in toxins including pesticides in our environment, and

Vicki Wojcik Ph.D., an expert in new and emerging pollinator issues including the plight of our bees and the monarch butterfly.

Speaker Bios attached.

Date, Time & Place:

Thursday April 6, 2017 at 7 p.m.
McMartin House
125 Gore St.
Perth Ont.

This is a free event. Light refreshments offered.

Margaret (Meg) Sears Ph.D.

Meg is the Chair and lead scientist from Prevent Cancer Now. She was trained in Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto, Canada. She worked in energy research, then returned to academia to complete doctoral research in biochemical engineering at McGill University. With skills in scientific analysis and writing, Dr. Sears gained associations with Ottawa research institutes at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. Some highlights for Dr. Sears include: writing the Medical Perspective on Environmental Sensitivities for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, leading to a policy under the Canadian Human Rights Act; carrying out a scoping review on toxic elements (arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury) with Canadian Institutes for Health Research and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funding; and numerous collaborations with members of the Environmental Health Committee of the Ontario College of Family Physicians. A central interest is the conduct and interpretation of science in environmental health.

Vicki Wojcik, Ph.D.

Vicki has been working to protect and promote pollinators with Pollinator Partnership – the largest organization in the world exclusively dedicated to saving pollinators – since 2011. As Research Director she oversees P2’s research program, keeping on top of new and emerging pollinator issues and managing a program set that includes pollinator habitat conservation and landscape management assessments; understanding and enhancing agroecosystems; landuse and pesticide policy review; support for threatened and critical species; and ecosystem service assessments.Vicki joined the San Francisco team after completing her Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley. In 2015 she returned home to Toronto with the expansion of P2’s programs into Canada. Vicki’s interest in pollinators was sparked during her undergraduate studies at the University of Guelph and has continued ever since. Her graduate research focused on understanding how native bees use gardens and habitats in cities. This focus on pollinators in human-dominated landscapes has continued throughout her career. Vicki’s contributions to pollinator research and conservation include numerous peer reviewed papers, book chapters, policy pieces, planting guides, and technical manuals.

The 2017 petition is up and running!

It seems as if people couldn’t wait to sign their names at Seedy Sunday in Perth!

If you can help add names, or know of a location to circulate the petition, please contact us at: friendsoflanarkcounty@gmail.com

Sign and share the on-line petition at change.org

No-Spray Petition
To the elected Councillors of Lanark County and the Townships of Lanark Highlands,
Drummond North Elmsley, Beckwith and Montague:
Despite widespread public opposition to herbicide use, Lanark County and several of the Townships within it are making plans to spray our roadsides with toxic herbicides in 2017 in an attempt toeradicate wild parsnip.

The County and Townships are planning to use the herbicides Clearview and Truvist which destroy most or all broadleaf (i.e. non-grass) plants, including milkweed, a plant critical to the survival of the endangered monarch butterfly. Food species for local pollinators stand to be severely damaged or destroyed.

The herbicide Clearview contains aminopyralid which has been banned in other jurisdictions because of its ability to contaminate groundwater. Truvist can also leach into groundwater and contains aminocyclopyrachlor which causes tree death. Both herbicides have been implicated in lawsuits in the United Kingdom and the U.S.

Roadside pesticide applicators are not required to post signs after applying herbicides thereby increasing exposure risk for Lanark County families and their pets.

There is excellent medical evidence that pesticides can seriously affect human health, particularly in children (2012 Systematic Review of Pesticide Health Effects- Ontario College of Family Physicians,

Since an educational approach is the most effective way to prevent harm from wild parsnip, and because the herbicide use is unlikely to eradicate it, we the undersigned demand that the spraying program be cancelled for the 2017 spraying season and in perpetuity.

-On Tuesday March 7th a presentation against roadside spraying was made to Lanark Highlands council. New information about the issue was presented. Click to download the presentation.

March 22 is the next County council meeting in Perth.