Editorial Jan/Feb 2005

April 24, 2008
Written by Anja Sonnenberg
The debate over whether to ban the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes is a continuing saga, which doesn’t seem to have a foreseeable resolution in the near future.
Knowledge is Power In the Pesticide Debate

The debate over whether to ban the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes is a continuing saga, which doesn’t seem to have a foreseeable resolution in the near future. On one side, industry professionals and home gardeners fear that banning pesticides will lead to an uncontrollable infestation of weeds and pests; on the other hand, health professionals and environmentalists argue that long-term exposure to pesticides is bad for us and our environment.

According to a study done by StatsCan Census in 2001, the number of municipal pesticide by-laws adopted in Canada has increased to a total of sixty-six over the last decade. When all the current regulations and by-laws come into full effect the total number of Canadians protected from unwanted exposure to synthetic lawn and garden pesticides will grow to close to eleven million or approximately 35 per cent of Canada’s population.

From a garden centres perspective, this debate has already had an impact on your business, but you do have options on how you cope with it. It depends on what sort of attitude you assume when dealing with the pesticide bans – you can either find alternatives and solutions to the problem or you can grin and bear it. A possible solution to ease customers’ concerns when they stand bewildered in front of the rows of different products is to educate them. By providing excellent customer service and answers to their questions, you can help elevate some of their fears. Gardeners, especially young, first-time homeowners are choosing to stay away from concentrated products. You need to offer them a selection of ready-to-use products, as well as organic and other non-synthetic products. Integrated pest management is another vital tool you should teach your customers. Instead of treating the whole yard, tell your customers that they can spot spray specific areas that are infested with weeds or insects. Many customers use pesticides unnecessarily at the first sign of an insect in their garden, without even knowing if the insect is a pest. And of course plant selection is another method in reducing the amount of pesticides needed. Helping customers choose appropriate plants for their gardens will help maintain the health of the plants – a stressed plant is a magnet for pests and diseases.

A balanced approach is needed by both sides of the debate to find a solution, but in the meantime, knowledge is power. As garden centre owner/operators, it is vital to educate your customers and recommend the proper treatment for a customer’s pest problem. A combination of cultural and organic practices and pesticide, will reduce the total amount of pesticides needed to maintain a healthy garden. Some of the recently approved pesticide by-laws in Canada won’t come into full-effect until 2006, which will give you a little more time to develop a strategy plan to deal with the customer’s concerns and questions.

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