Sierra Club opposed pesticide to be used in spray
ST. JOHN’S — Sierra Club environmentalists are appalled the province is doing a helicopter herbicide spray on woodlands this summer using a chemical opposed in neighbouring provinces.
Natural Resources has called tender for charter of a helicopter to apply the herbicide VisionMax in central and western Newfoundland, on about 348 cutovers and young plantations between August and September.
The herbicide has been opposed by the Sierra Club in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, with community campaigns in some areas to stop sprays.
This province has been using it since the 1980s, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
While manufacturer Monsanto has described it as a low-risk pesticide, the Sierra Club contends the active ingredient in VisionMax — glyphosate — is linked to respiratory problems, birth defects, miscarriages, cancer and is toxic to fish.
“It’s very worrying,” said Gretchen Fitzgerald, director of the Atlantic Canada chapter of the Sierra Club, although she added it’s nowhere as bad as the notorious pesticide DDT.
“One of the problems with pesticides in general is the studies are done by the folks who make it and done on non-humans,” she said.
Fitzerald said there is still mystery surrounding the way VisionMax works.
“It’s something I definitely would not want sprayed around myself and my family,” she said.
Fitzgerald said governments should be using selective cutting and allowing forest ecosystems to replenish themselves.
Sierra Club conservation chairman Fred Winsor, said Natural Resources fails to do consultations on pesticide use and the extent of spraying is little known.
“How many catastrophes do we need to have?” he asked.
“The forest itself is a natural system. We have overcut. ... We do know one thing with natural systems, if you leave them alone and permit them to grow, they will eventually grow back without all this tinkering.”
He said the effects of herbicides sometimes don’t come to light for a decade or more.
According to Natural Resources, VisionMax will be applied to Noel Paul River area (southwest of Grand falls-Windsor) and Big Feeder Pond area (near Bellburns on the Northern Peninsula).