A new copy of The Grower arrived in the mail today. I was impressed by an article by Lilian Schaer about the progress Ontario is making in the handling of pesticides. The Grower website is not active, so rather than link to the article, I’ll do some quoting.
The Ontario government recently released the results of a long-term study it conducted into the presence of pesticides in Ontario’s municipal drinking water. The results showed a massive decreased in their presence in treated surface water, from 86 per cent in 1986 to only three per cent in 2006. And all of the incidences actually discovered in this recent round of testing were below the thresholds that Health Canada – the federal government body responsible for our food and health – have deemed to be acceptable.
Water sources sampled in this study represent about 90 per cent of Ontario’s municipal residential water systems, including many from agriculturally intense regions, were the vast majority of pesticides are used in Ontaio.
First of all, it’s an excellent indication that farmers are using crop protection products responsibly and that pesticide training programs are working. Over the last two decades, Ontario farmers have voluntarily reduced their use of pesticides by more than 50 per cent.
This is due in large part to a farmer-requested government program that requires all farmers to take courses on safe handling, use and storage if they want to buy and use crop protection materials – and certification has to be renewed every five years to make sure their knowledge keeps up with new advances.
These survey results also show that on-farm conservation practices such as grassed waterways and buffer zones around creeks and streams are making positive impacts on preventing pesticides from getting into water sources…. Over the last four years alone, Ontario farmers have invested approximately $120 million of their own dollars in on-farm environmental improvements, supported by government cost-share contributions of approximately $80 million.
The article also points out that measurement techniques are much more precise, and minuscule amounts of residue can be measured.
One industry expert I consulted explained it to me like this: if parts per million is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, parts per trillion is like finding a microscopic mildew spore on a piece of chaff in that haystack.
Impressive! We love the Ontario growers!