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Alta. to ban residential “weed-and-feed” use

The Alberta government says farm chemicals won’t be affected in its plan to ban the sale of combination herbicide-fertilizer products for home and garden use.

Environment Minister Rob Renner announced Thursday that herbicide-fertilizer combinations, commonly known as “weed-and-feed” products, will no longer be sold in Alberta starting Jan. 1, 2010.

The decision “will not impact the agriculture sector or the landscaping industry since these products are almost exclusively used on homeowners’ lawns,” the province said in a release. And products intended for spot application to weeds will still be available for sale and home use, the province added.

2,4-D, a Group 4 herbicide used in such weed-and-feed products, is “highly mobile” and commonly appears in water downstream of municipalities, the province said, when excess chemical runs off lawns into drainage systems and is deposited into creeks and rivers.

“More than 10 times the required amount of pesticide can be applied to lawns when weed-and-feed is used,” the province said.

The province acknowledged pesticide regulation is usually the job of Health Canada, through its Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). Also, the average amount of the herbicide 2,4-D in surface water downstream of Alberta municipalities is below the recommended federal threshold, the province said.

“Proactive stance”

But by banning weed-and-feeds, the province will have taken a “proactive stance to eliminate opportunities for additional unwanted substances to enter our waterways.”

“This is a simple measure that Albertans can take to curb the amount of chemicals entering our water,” Renner said in the province’s release.

2,4-D has been applied on Canadian farms as far back as 1946 and is also used in the landscaping, forestry and industrial sectors.

PMRA recently undertook a long-term re-evaluation of 2,4-D and ruled in May that the risk estimates associated with applying, mixing and loading 2,4-D products for label uses are acceptable for all scenarios approved for continued registration.

But that’s as long as the label directions are respected, including the limits on the amount of product handled per day for some formulations and uses, as well as the requirements for personal protective gear, PMRA said at the time.

PMRA in May also qualified its continued clearance for 2,4-D by saying new risk-reduction measures must be included on product labels and registrants must submit “additional confirmatory scientific information.”

The agency also noted in May some products and uses of 2,4-D are being phased out, “because the risks exceed current health and environmental standards or there was a lack of adequate data for assessment.” That number includes all products containing the diethanolamine (DEA) form of 2,4-D, as well as products for aquatic use.

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