Reader strongly opposes County spraying for Wild Parsnip

Open letter to Dr. Paula Stewart, Public Health Officer for Lanark County:  regarding the ill-conceived and dangerous plan to spray water-soluble poisons on our rural roadsides to try and control Wild Parsnip:

Dear Dr. Stewart, I can’t believe 3 years on I am still needing to write to you to express my utter astonishment that you are still maintaining your stance that spraying dangerous herbicides on rural roadsides is in the interest of human health and safety. You have heard so much detailed information from countless, well regarded experts in the fields of biology  and environmental science about the utter futility and stupidity of roadside spraying to control Wild Parsnip, that your stance is really confounding.

Because I feel so heartsick that this ridiculous spraying is on the agenda again this year in my neighbourhood, I need you to publicly answer me about the following facts which make your support of the spraying very troubling:

1. It is well understood that no one walks in rural roadside ditches .  I drive along many of these roads daily and can attest to this complete lack of pedestrians in the ditches, as can anyone living in rural Mississippi Mills. As such whatever grows there is of no danger to the public. If anything the real problem there might be Poison Ivy which has become rampant in recent years. As you are aware, merely brushing by this plant, it can cause terrible rashes and blistered skin. I AM an expert on these effects. To be burned by the sap of Wild Parsnip, one needs to break the stem and get the sap on their skin. This requires some effort.  Walking , running or cycling along a rural road is NOT a problem where Wild Parsnip is concerned.

Therefore, as in many other jurisdictions, a public awareness campaign would helpful to avoid contact with W.P.  Couldn’t you organize your office do that?

2. Farmers are justly worried about Wild Parsnip invading their valuable farming land. However since farmers who have land in conventional, commercial production are all, with the exception of organic farms, using agricultural herbicides already which prevents wild parsnip from invading their crops. So this argument is moot.

If you drive around Mississippi Mills you can clearly see that just beyond the sprayed ditches, Wild Parsnip growing thickly right up to the edges of commercial crops and in all the fallow land around the crops. I have photographed this phenomena from summer 2018 to illustrate this.

Highly  respected organic farmers who are producing lots of uncontaminated food for hundreds of local customers are also dealing with Wild Parsnip on their land and have reported that mowing the W.P. a couple of times a year is very effective in controlling it.
Again, I stress: the thickest Wild Parsnip seen growing in Mississippi Mills is in this fallow land on working farms.

Spraying the ditches here, near these farmer’s fallow fields is utterly ridiculous. As noted, the farmers are rightly worried about the invasion of Wild Parsnip, but why aren’t they required to deal with it on their own land? I think that is a provincial regulation regarding noxious weeds. Couldn’t they be required to mow it? Spraying the ditches next to all these fallow fields is totally useless .

Perhaps the farmers could receive a subsidy to help with the time and effort to control their own Wild Parsnip problem instead of the huge expense to uselessly spray many kilometres of public roadsides.

Couldn’t your office promote and ask council to implement this subsidy? There is obviously money to be spent on the problem.

3. The product slated to be used for this boom spraying (Clearview made by Dow) is a noted poison that has been banned in many countries and other Canadian jurisdictions. I am not a biologist or expert on the safety or dangers of herbicides but as a responsible citizen I have over 40 years educated myself by researching the most well respected, peer reviewed information on the use of herbicides generally.

In 1981 when I moved with my family and 2 young children to Ottawa, the practice of spraying 2-4D  along roadways and in PARKS was still a regular practice. Since I was already aware of the dangers of herbicides to the human health and especially children, I joined a large group of resisters to this spraying. We protested at city hall and stood watch on rotation 24 hours a day in our parks to stop the spraying until the government changed its plan and stopped the spray program. As you will have seen over the ensuing 35 years, we have coped just fine with all the very useful pollinating plants such a dandelions on public land. More to the point, 2-4D has been outlawed extensively around the globe as a result of the hue and cry against its use, as have many other pesticides.

To illustrate the dangers of herbicides generally it must also be noted that there is a huge global movement afoot to stop the use of agricultural herbicides like Roundup. Roundup ( made by Bayer/Monsanto) is now found to be in the tissues of people all over the world including in the breast milk of Inuit mothers. Roundup has been classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

Naturally the billions of dollars at stake have the herbicide corporations fighting back as they did with 2-4D. But its only a matter of time that Roundup and the other dangerous, but seemingly innocent agricultural herbicides are banned. This is happening currently around the globe with herbicides that kills bees.  The scads of information available about the dangers of Clearview proposed for our local roadside spraying is well documented by scientists WITHOUT ties to the manufacturer. This information is readily available.

Dr. Stewart: I challenge you to inform yourself about these studies and become a voice for the children in our town who will certainly be affected by this spraying.  This includes my 2 beautiful grandsons who I honour with this request to you. 

Clearview is particularly scary, not just because using it on roadsides where it is pointless, but because the rural roadsides are almost all ditches and collect water.  Clearview is known to be water soluble and find its way into waterways and ground water. We are all at risk from this spraying program. The MVCA should be screaming from the rooftops about this too!! Ignoring this FACT about Clearview is criminal.

Very problematic is that even the manufacturer ( Dow) details the very careful way Clearview must be handled. Handling, according to my interpretation, that would be impossible to implement with boom spraying which is so crude. All kinds of things must be factored before use according to the manufacturer, even wind speed to alleviate drift and it is not to be used near water collections areas.  As such specialized experts are required to apply the poison.

Can you please tell me the extent of this special training our boom sprayers are getting? 

Also, incredibly, there is another even more really confounding issue: There are places are slated to be sprayed that have NO Wild Parsnip. Last year residents on a number of rural roads were alerted by activists that their roads were to be sprayed. We all saw with our own eyes that there was NO WILD PARSNIP on these roads. So I ask you , what on earth is going on?  How could such sloppy work be going on in even sorting out where the plant is an issue?

I and many others need answers. We are frightened and disgusted by this baseless spraying idea. Mowing at a proper point in the growth cycle would help. But you already have heard on numerous occasions from experts that have pointed this out.

Why are you ignoring this information? 

All these facts make me skeptical that you are being true to your mandate as the officer in charge of protecting our health, relative to all the facts regarding managing Wild Parsnip that prove otherwise. Can you please explain your position on this?  A word from you would help the council rescind this costly, dangerous and useless spraying program.
I await your response:

Sincerely Chandler Swain, resident of Mississippi Mills.