To the editor:
As of June 20, the Ministry of Forests started to carry out a spruce budworm aerial spraying program targeting areas in upper Glenrosa, as well as Bear Creek.
The product being used is called Foray 48B, which contains a bacterial spore known as Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki). This active ingredient will set to work destroying the digestive systems of all moths and butterflies in the feeding stage.
While Bt (a strain slightly different from Btk) occurs naturally to some degree in soil, Foray 48B contains other ingredients, including preservatives, that are a trade secret with the manufacturer.
No one, not even the government, is permitted to know what those ingredients are, yet Ministry of Forests officials claim nevertheless that they are safe and non-carcinogenic.
In other words—don’t worry, folks, product safety has been verified by a pesticide company and the government has everything under control, even if they don’t know what’s in the product.
Familiar reassurances, aren’t they?
Puzzled, we started to dig beneath the surface. We began by Googling Foray 48B. Everything we find that is of government origin tells us, on the surface, that this product poses minimal risk to humans, animals and the environment. It kills only lepidoptera (moths and butterflies).
Note: this includes the endangered Monarch butterfly, but that information seems to be beyond the scope of government literature.
Then we find other websites, including one called www.nosprayzone.org. “During a neighborhood spraying,” states nosprayzone,” one would expect to inhale more Btk spores than would be consumed in a year’s worth of food.”
In higher concentrations, the product can cause eye irritation, allergic reactions such as skin rashes and respiratory complications, especially in immune-compromised individuals.
It is interesting to read that, when sprayed, Foray 48B can spread for a radius of 20 km.
On further researching Foray 48B labels, one finds detailed warnings that the product should not come into contact with skin or eyes and should not be sprayed over waterways of any kind.
Consultation with Ministry of Forests officials in Kamloops and Victoria, however, paint a different picture.
This product has been extensively tested, they state, and no human health problems have ever resulted from the low concentrations that are used in aerial spraying.
Yet their own literature cites case studies conducted in communities as far away as Auckland, New Zealand, where hundreds of people reported ill effects after being exposed to spraying of Foray 48B. These people sought medical help.
Similar studies were conducted on Vancouver Island and in Seattle. As health personnel could not conclusively state that Foray 48B had been the culprit behind the presenting symptoms, the conclusion drawn by government (Health Canada) was that there was no correlation between spray programs and the fact that these people got sick.
It was also stated that the symptoms were mild and disappeared “relatively quickly.”
A B.C. government official even suggested that the symptoms could have been psychological—a “neurosis.”
Our family has repeatedly voiced our concerns to the Ministry of Forests. When asked if the government might attest to the safety of the product they intend to use, we were shocked to be told that “nothing can be considered totally safe.”
Instead, they prefer to state that there is “minimal risk” from the use of Foray 48B. If we are worried, we should shut our windows and doors during and after the spray period and we could also hose off our lawn furniture.
What about our human rights, we ask, to breathe fresh air and not be exposed to unnecessary allergens?
This is the answer from the forest entomologist in charge of the program: “We have the legal and regulatory authority to conduct this treatment on Crown land and have gone through due process.”
In other words, concerned citizens have no voice in the matter. We have no vote.
We may own the land upon which we live, but evidently the government owns the air. One official in Victoria actually indicated that we can protest, but in the end the government will do as it pleases.
We’ve suggested that warning signage placed in affected neighbourhoods is not enough, as many people will not take the time to read such postings.
Regarding mailouts to individual homes in target areas, we are told that it would cost so much money for postage that consequently there would be nothing left in the budget for the spray program.
As for our concern that pesticide spraying is like placing a BandAid on an ulcer and that the bigger issue of climate change should be a priority for all governments, we are told that the Ministry of Forests is mandated to deal with spruce budworm in this manner.
End of big picture.
Citizens opposed to Ministry of Forests aerial spraying programs near their homes can call Tim Ebata (Victoria) at 250-387-8739 or Lorraine McLauchlan (Kamloops) at 250-319-4262.
It doesn’t hurt to defend your rights and let your voice be heard—even if the government doesn’t want to hear it.
Sinikka and Jim Crosland,