Synergy Session: The Problem with Pesticides

Friday, February 12th
McCann Centre, 
Memorial University, St. John's

About the session:

Pesticides – insecticides, herbicides and fungicides – have played a role in expanding agricultural production for seventy years. They have been used to kill pests of all kinds, including insects, plant pathogens, weeds, molluscs, birds and microbes that destroy property, spread disease or cause a nuisance. Although there are benefits to the use of pesticides, there are also drawbacks, such as toxicity to humans and other animals. These drawbacks have tended to be underestimated until recent years. According to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 10 of the 12 most dangerous and persistent organic chemicals are pesticides. The use of pesticides has been connected to cancer, birth defects, fetal mortality and neurological disorders.

Pesticides have been found in pristine ecosystems far from the sources of application, including at both Poles. Pesticides not only affect target and non-target species (including species at risk) but contaminate human food supplies and sources of medical compounds. In the last few years, pesticides have contributed to a decrease in both domestic and wild bee populations by one third; this impacts human food production, as one third of food supplies depend on pollination by bees.

What is the situation regarding pesticides in Newfoundland and Labrador? What links have been established between pesticide use and health or agricultural problems in the province? What alternatives are there to pesticide use that might have less impact on health and agriculture? Are new policies needed to establish a better balance between the use of pesticides and their negative impacts on populations and crops?

About the speakers (click to view presentations):

Dr. Warren Bell has long been interested in a broad perspective on health, healing and disease and has embraced the transpersonal aspects of human experience throughout his four decades of clinical work. From attending childbirth through to palliative care and on to ecologically-based medicine, he has been oriented to this fundamental dynamic, as well as to a critical analysis of how we address health and disease. Dr. Bell is a family physician and Past Founding President, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. He has served in the past as President of the Medical Staff at the Shuswap Lake General Hospital in Salmon Arm, BC., President of Physicians for Global Survival, and President of the Association of Complementary and Integrative Physicians of BC. He has written extensively for the on-line National Observer on a wide variety of subjects of public interest.

Dr. Atanu Sarkar is a public health physician teaching at the Division of Community Health and Humanities in the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University. He is training in medicine in India and did his all major public health degrees from India. Dr. Sarkar worked with the United Nations for several years in India and also worked in Africa. He studied Environment at Queen's University before coming to Memorial University. He has been involved in water-related research for nearly two decades. At Memorial, he has been involved several research projects on water in NL.

Dr. Cora Young is an environmental chemist and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry of Memorial University. She completed her doctorate at the University of Toronto and did postdoctoral studies at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/University of Colorado. Dr. Young has expertise in the fate and transport of persistent organic pollutants. She and her group have developed new analytical methods for detection of these compounds in the environment, including in the atmosphere, in water, and in biota.


Additional Resources:

Follow-up information from Tara Morgan and Leah Madore, Government of Newfoundl

Follow-up information from Piotr Trela, Memorial University and Coalition for A

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment Blog