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Mmmm…pesticides.

01.24.12

Dear whoever will read this, [this letter has been sent to the mayor and a number of city councillors]

I would like to add my voice to all the others asking the city for a non-essential or cosmetic pesticide ban.

I’m a local food writer heavily involved in the urban agriculture and foraging communities. I lead groups of Edmontonians to harvest backyard urban fruit with Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton. I go on forays with the Alberta Mycological Society to harvest mushrooms that are abundant in our city. I guide a fruit foraging event for Slow Food Edmonton. I write about wild foods for the Alberta Conservation Association, many of these foods being abundant in our city limits. NAIT’s Culinary Arts program has me take students out foraging in the city to inspire them to use the foods around them. In all of these cases, broad use of pesticides is a concern. In fact, one of the most common objections to folks using the foods around our city is that they don’t want to touch them because they don’t know what kind of chemicals they’ve been sprayed with. That’s just sad, and a deterrent to our citizens connecting with the food around them – which seems to counter the spirit of the ‘Food and Urban Agriculture Project’.

I often hear the City of Edmonton talk about the desire to be a world-class city. Perhaps then we should share the same level of protection other municipalities have when it comes to ingesting pesticides. Perhaps we need to be progressive on this front rather than last on the uptake. Sports fields are nice, but so are food and health. If you think pesticides are safe to eat, by all means feel free to eat all you like, but please don’t force the rest of us to in the name of protecting jobs.  –  Sincerely, Kevin Kossowan

Highbush Cranberries

8 Responses

  1. Joel says:

    Hi Kevin, minor quibble on behalf of chemists everywhere- “chemicals” should not be synonymous with “pesticide”. It’s so frustrating to see the local/organic food movement advertising their wares as “chemical free”. Chemistry has lots of interesting and relevant things to say about food, not just about pesticides and preservatives. It’s like equating all of butchery with the sort of things that go on inside industrial slaughterhouses.

  2. Kevin says:

    Joel – yeah, you bet. Fully agree. Thank you for weighing in.

  3. Deb Krause says:

    I’m lucky enough to have access to plenty of undisturbed country-side. Aspen and poplar groves, mixed boreal, wild blueberry and cranberry patches, and low -almost swampy- spots filled with wild hazelnuts.

    I would love to see Edmonton go pesticide free so that our small city (which Edmonton is), with our huge expanse of river valley, can build on the urban foraging movement that is being seen throughout North America.
    We are a very green city, leading the way in many areas, but the urban food movement (including foraging and homesteading) hasn’t been brought up to par yet.

    Maybe with the introduction of the “Food and Urban Agriculture Project” Edmonton will become the city that others strive to be… Wouldn’t that be lovely? :)

    I hope your letter gets noticed and that they draw on your experience as a Urban Homesteader.

  4. Greg says:

    Similar struggles in the country, where the RM is in the habit of going around spraying all ditches with herbicides for “weed” control. The grasses (and thistles) that survive are often baled and fed to cattle, out of frugality and to keep the neighbourhood looking nice.

    Show me the list of “noxious weeds” in any jurisdiction and I’ll show you an all-star cast of medicinal and beneficial wild plants.

  5. Mike Johnston says:

    Well said, I heard on CBC recently that they are “close” to approving this and are just looking at how to proceed. Heard it on their mayoral call in with Mandel. We shall see.

  6. MarkS-A says:

    I believe the mayor and councillors are behind you on this one, and have been for many years. Parks made the switch to Integrated Pest Mangement (where pesticide use is the last resort) many years ago.

    I went pesticide free in my garden many years ago, but it became unmanageable and now I follow IPM practice too. I have to learn to differentiate between a Canada Thistle from a Floodman’s Thistle (to kill the noxious one and not the beneficial wild one) but I am learning, thanks to ENG, OFRE, the others you mentioned, and this blog. Thanks!

  7. Good point. I’ve written my counsellor a couple of times on this. I’ve been fertilizer and pesticide free for more than a decade at my place and only last year ran into an aphid issue. Some gentle soap, some spraying with the hose, light cursing and manual removal helped. I also picked an unusual number of slugs last year. It would be nice if the school up the way didn’t spray each summer! I’m glad to hear we may be making progress.

  8. Sheryl says:

    I have had a nightmare with my pesticide loving neighbour – we have had numerous health issues as he sprays round-up all over the backyard and in all the flower beds several times a year. We can not do anything because Edmonton lacks a by-law. For those of you who care and want to do something like “Pesticide Free Edmonton” on facebook or contact me (Sheryl McCumsey) on there with a message. I am working on this as we have an election this fall and I think we should make it an issue. There are numerous studies published in the last year that make it very clear we need to do something. I believe people are dying.

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