CAPS Director Sets Ag Care Straight
Stoney Creek News - Wednesday Nov. 1, 2000
Pesticide realities based on sound scientific study
- a rebuttal by Bernard Frazer, CanadiansAgainstPesticides
In the October 25, 2000 edition of the Stoney Creek News, AGCare's Mary Lou Garr attacked my concerns over pesticide residue levels on produce available in Canada and the health risks that exposure to these residues pose to children She commented that "the realities of pesticide use in Canada simply do not mesh with his allegations".
Firstly, I made no allegations. "Allegations" suggest that the veracity of my statements are in question. I offered scientifically proven facts. The facts presented in Stoney Creek News Editor, Stephen Beecroft's editorial were culled from no less than fifteen independent studies. These studies were authored by highly respected scientists and physicians and published in renowned scientific and medical journals including the Journal of National Cancer Institute and the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (a complete bibliography is available at the CanadiansAgainstPesticides website www.caps.20m.com).
Secondly, Ms Garr tries to disguise the findings of the November 1998 CFIA report on pesticide residue levels on domestic and imported produce in Canada. She says "93 per cent of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed by Canadians contained no detectable residues at all".
In fact the CFIA report found:
Of the total 44,379 samples of both fresh and processed foods taken, 805 samples were found to contain residues that exceeded allowable limits and were therefore in violation of the Food and Drugs Act. And of the 44,379 samples taken, there were 10,682 samples that were found to contain residues.
It further noted that violations in domestic products have been increasing while violations on imported products have been staying constant or possibly decreasing.
In addition, an article published in May 1999, (Globe and Mail) noted a study showing that the number of residual pesticides detected in fruit and vegetables had doubled since 1994.
Thirdly, Ms Garr uses highly contemptible wording to suggest that children's health is fully protected under PCPA's regulations governing "maximum residue levels" allowed on food products. In fact, these MRL's are based solely on the effects of pesticide exposure on the average, adult male. Currently, there are NO regulations regarding MRL's that take into account the effects pesticide residues on children. There is good reason for this, scientists still do not know what levels of residue can be considered acceptable to a child!
Dr Kelly Martin, M.D. addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment to speak to this very concern. He notes:
"Studies of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides demonstrate that each of these compounds is more toxic to the newborn than the adult. This has very practical implications. For example, the presently acceptable levels of aldicarb on watermelons is such that a 10 kg child could easily consume enough of the pesticide to experience acute toxicity, including vomiting, seizures and respiratory failure1.
Pesticides are effective in killing pests through their neurotoxic effects. Infants appear to be particularly susceptible to the effects of these pesticides because they have incompletely developed acetylcholinesterase systems and their immature livers cannot detoxify these compounds2.
... The research demonstrates that more sensitive indices need to be used to monitor potentially vulnerable systems in infants and children, including the hormonal and reproductive systems, the immune system, and the neurological and behavioural systems."
In fact there is considerable research that not only confirms children's vulnerability to current allowable residue levels in our food chain, but also demonstrate links between exposure to these pesticides and many childhood and adult cancers, developmental/ behavioural/ neurological disorders and a host of other health issues.
Fourth, if Ms Garr is prepared to refute the findings of the many aforementioned scientific studies, than she must also refute the position of many other respected Canadian medical professionals.
The Canada Health Advisory Council, the Ontario College of Family Physicians, the Canadian Alliance of Physicians for the Environment, as well as countless Canadian pediatricians, family doctors, eminent oncologists and our very own Federal Minister of Health, Allan Rock are all in agreement that exposure to pesticides in the food chain and in the environment can have grave implications on the health of Canada's children. Furthermore, there is agreement among these groups that current legislation governing these issues is seriously flawed and must be changed.
Fifth, in a recent letter to me, Health Minister Rock discussed this need and the changes he proposes. He writes "The proposed new Act will strengthen the level of health and environmental protection provided by the current PCPA and foster a more open and transparent regulatory system".
If the current system is working as flawlessly as Ms. Garr alludes, why is Allan Rock rushing to drastically change it? The profound changes he proposes are epitomized by his intention to include the "Precautionary Principle" in order to fundamentally protect the health of Canadians. It states:
"When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically".
In fact, an ocean of scientific evidence brought forth in the last ten to fifteen years, including numerous epidemiological studies co-authored by the Canada Health Advisory Council's own, Dr. D.T. Wigle, establish very clear "cause and effect relationships" between pesticide exposure and "harm to human health".
Finally, I respect Ms Garr's desire to carry the 'party line', but it is time she and the Ag Industry face the facts. My child's right to health just happens to be a little more fundamental than the pursuit of profit.
For more information on the aforementioned studies, please visit www.caps.20m.com.
Bernard Frazer, Director CanadiansAgainstPesticides