The Montreal Gazette,
Nation, Page A12
Pesticide sparks NAFTA fight
Kevin Dougherty Gazette Quebec Bureau
QUEBEC - The companies that make 2,4-D, one of the pesticides Quebec is committed to banning, will challenge the provincial regulation under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement - if the government goes ahead with the ban.
Donald Page, executive director of the Industry Task Force II on 2,4-D Research, said yesterday that the manufacturers will wage a costly battle against Quebec under the NAFTA provision that has allowed private U.S. corporations to successfully sue the Mexican and Canadian governments and win hefty settlements.
Page, whose task force is funded by the four North American makers of the weed-killer 2,4-D Dow Agro-Sciences, BASF, Nufarm Inc. and Agro-Gor SA - predicted Quebec will lose the Chapter 11 case.
"They (Quebec) are going to have to stand up in court and prove it (that 2,4-D causes cancer) and they can't. "There is no herbicide used in Canada that is a carcinogen," Page said.
"Unfortunately, the Quebec government is dominated by activists."
STUDIES COST $30 MILLION
Page said that the role of his task force is to manage the re-evaluation of 2,4-D that has been ordered by governments, using sophisticated testing technology; it's spending $30 million
U. S. to conduct new studies at independent, certified laboratories. The testing has been completed in Europe, he noted, and the European Union has attested that 2,4-D is not a carcinogen. He added that of the 140 studies done on 2,4-D "several have suggested links, but the great preponderance does not."
To say that 2,4-D causes cancer based on the minority of studies "is not sound science," Page said.
Epidemiological studies of 20,000 chemical-plant employees making 2,4- D showed no association with cancer; in fact, the studies showed 2,4-D plant workers lived longer, he said. Like the ban on DDT, after Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring suggested that DDT was killing off the peregrine falcon, a ban on 2,4-D would be harmful to society, he said.
"Rachel Carson has killed millions of people," Page said, arguing that DDT controlled mosquitoes carrying the malaria virus and, since its ban, there has been a resurgence of malaria in the developing world.
'IT IS POISON'
But Steven Tvedten, a Michigan man who spent 35 years in the pest-control business using 2,4-D, cholordane and other products but now preaches nat- ural pest control, questioned Page's defence of DDT, pointing out that mosquitoes are now immune to DDT. "I was in the pest-control business. I used to tell people it was safe enough to drink," Tvedten said, adding he would think: "The government would not allow it to be out there if it was poison."
Then, his child was stillborn and Tvedten became an anti-pesticide ac- tivist. "It is poison," he said. , Tvedten said that while industry- sponsored studies show that 2,4-D itself is not a carcinogen, the chemical soup of commercial herbicides, which include dioxins and other products, can be more toxic than 2,4-D itself, and can interact with other chemicals.
Tvedten said his pest-management company uses organic products as simple as chicken-manure compost to eliminate schoolyard pests, and decried the organo-phosphates still widely used.
"This is not better living through chemistry," he said. "This is madness."
Kevin Dougherty's E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.orgNational Editor: Victor Dabby(514) 987-2578
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