GUYSBOROUGH COUNTY: It’s that time of year again, when forests in Nova Scotia are sprayed with pesticides.

Earlier this month, the Department of Environment issued six new approvals for pesticide spraying, which in total span approximately 1,351 hectares. The approvals for the privately-owned woodlots will be sprayed with the herbicide Vision Max, which has the active and controversial ingredient glyphosate.

Of the six approvals, three companies have been given the green light to spray forested lands in Antigonish, Guysborough and Richmond counties. They include MacMullin Forestry Consulting, JD Irving Ltd. and Century Forestry Consultants.

Scott Maston of Century Forestry Consultants said forestry is an easy target whenever it comes to talking about the use of pesticides and that it’s more widely used in agriculture.

“Keep into perspective that all the glyphosate-based products used in the world, forestry actually accumulates a very minor percentage of total use,” he said. “Forestry accounts for about one per cent, the industrial industry uses five-to-seven per cent, and with over 90 per cent of its total use is the agriculture industry.”

To control competing vegetation and allow unimpeded growth, glyphosate is applied to these privately-owned woodlots.

“As far as risks, which we’re applying in forest situations, we’re out in woodlots of people who want us to be there, we’re back in the woods, which is a significant distance out from public contact and we’re spraying on privately-owned property,” Maston explained

There are strict regulations in place that need to be followed to carry out these sprayings such as public notifications, buffer zones, wind speeds, certification requirements, and adherence to the information on product labels.

“With aerial-use there is a built-in GPS on the plane that won’t allow for the mechanism to open and the application to happen unless you’re inside the designated coordinates,” Maston said. “We also have to follow exact weather protocols, such as wind conditions and we need to notify anybody within a 0.5 km radius by writing of any proposed spraying.”

Bruce Nunn, a spokesman for Nova Scotia’s Environment Department said in an e-mail that applications are carefully reviewed by staff and inspections are conducted based on risk.

“Any pesticides used must be registered through Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency.”

Maryse Durette, a spokeswoman for Health Canada said glyphosate is a herbicide registered for weed management.

“Health Canada is committed to ensuring pesticides used in Canada are safe for human health and the environment based on available scientific evidence. The department regularly reviews approved pesticides to make sure they continue to be safe for use.”

In April of 2017, Heath Canada published the final re-evaluation decision for products containing glyphosate.

“The re-evaluation found that when glyphosate is used as instructed on the label, the risks to human health and the environment continue to be acceptable,” Durette said. “Health Canada continues to monitor new information related to glyphosate, including regulatory actions from other government organizations, and will take appropriate action if risks of concern to human health or the environment are identified.”