Question Period: Herbicides – Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mr. Coon: My question is for the Minister of Environment. Glyphosate, a herbicide that is sprayed over 13 000 ha of Crown land annually, at a public cost of $2.4 million per year, was recently classified as a probable cancer-causing chemical by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. One of the studies it considered found chromosomal damage in community residents after aerial spraying.

For years, New Brunswickers have been petitioning this House to end the spraying of this herbicide over our forests. Will the minister use his authority under the Pesticides Control Act to deny any further permits for the aerial spraying of glyphosate in New Brunswick, and to save taxpayers $2.4 million per year?

Hon. Mr. Kenny: It is up to our department to take a look at the regulations that are in place right now to see what the protocol is. I will take that question from the member under advisement and get back to the Legislature at a later date. Thank you.

Mr. Coon: I look forward to that response.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer published its findings in the Lancet, which I have reviewed. The agency found a link between occupational exposure to glyphosate and an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Glyphosate causes cancer by damaging chromosomes, which can result in mutations that lead to cancer. This is the herbicide that is in Roundup, which can be bought right of the shelf and applied to lawns by homeowners. It can be absorbed into the body and has been detected in the blood and urine of workers handling it.

Will the minister ban the sale of products containing glyphosate, as his predecessor did for 2,4-D, another herbicide that was demonstrated to pose serious health risks?

Hon. Mr. Kenny: It is my department’s utmost mandate to protect the environment and our citizens. With that said, I will get back to the member with some information and I will take this question under advisement. Thank you.

Mr. Coon: We have a situation here. We have another case of the regulations to protect the public health lagging behind the science detailing the health risks posed by chemicals in our environment. Whether it was lead in paint and gasoline, DDT spraying, radon gas in homes, dioxin contamination, or tobacco smoke, one time after another, time and time again, the regulations have lagged behind the science.

Under subsection 8(1) of the Pesticides Control Act, the minister may prohibit the sale, supplying, or use of a pesticide. Will the minister prohibit the sale and use of products containing the probable carcinogen glyphosate?

Hon. Mr. Kenny: These are serious questions that we are taking on the floor of the Legislature. With regard to air particulates and making sure that we have good air quality control in New Brunswick, I am very proud of the record the Department of Environment has right now with regard to air quality. However, there is work that can be done to move the province forward. At the same time, we are speaking with our counterparts, the Ministers of Environment throughout Canada, to get ideas of how we can move things forward.

Again, I will take that question under advisement. It is a very important question, and we will take it seriously. Thank you.
Video or audio of this transcript can be found here at the 21:20 mark