Margaret Miller on Glyphosate: I am glad she is talking to Chief Gloade

Margaret Miller, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Environment, was interviewed this a.m. about glyphosate spraying of forests on CBC’s Information Morning (Fri, Sep 16, 2016).


Two managed woodlots in Nova Scotia, the herbicide option at left: it’s poorly adapted to climate change and more flammable and much less supportive of biodiversity than the multi-aged, mixed woodlot at right.

She said glyphosate has been used on our forests for 30 years. It was re-evaluated by Health Canada in 2015 and deemed safe when used a directed. Twelve permits were issued this year; she didn’t know the total area, but over 3000 ha was mentioned in the introduction to the interview. It’s all on private lands and is not paid for by government as it once was.

Connolly asked about the permit process. Landowners must apply to the Dept. of Environment for use of specific products and are required to follow steps to mitigate risks, such as setbacks from wetlands, and not spraying within ½ km of residences. Signs are posted adjacent to the sprayed areas 48 hours before spraying. The department conducts random audits of the spraying process and looks for evidence of drift.

Connolly asked why we have restrictions if the product is safe. Miller reassured him that they are just being as careful as possible. She was asked if the public is consulted beforehand, referring to recent comments by Chief Gloade. Miller said that this was the first time in its 30 year history that anyone has asked for consultation about glyphosate spraying, but they are now having conversations with Chief Gloade and another chief.

Connolly asked about possible effect on other organisms that had been cited in previous interviews, e.g. on amphibians and bacteria. She said that there has been a lot of misinformation in social media, but they take their directions from Health Canada.

Connolly asked “wouldn’t it be less controversial if there was a more open process about approval?” Miller said that was a valid comment, but noted that glyphosate has been used routinely for a long time. Isn’t Roundup restricted asked Connolly. “I saw it in Cosco” the Minister replied, “as well as in my local hardware store”. She said there are some restrictions on use on private properties but did not elaborate.

Connolly commented that biologists have expressed concerns about creating conifer monocultures through the use of herbicides. She said that was not a concern and compared it to using glyphosate to control weeds in crops. The problem is the brush coming up after a clearcut; glyphosate is used to set it back, allowing the conifers to get ahead. Later on the forest develops normally she says, broadleaf species still coming in.


Well I’ve seen an awful lot of even aged conifer stands with only an occasional red maple or aspen amidst them. Compared to the mixed Acadian forest that develops normally on our landscapes, these conifer stands are clearly
– more flammable
– poorly adapted to climate change
– much less supportive of biodiversity

These are factors which you would hope enters into the discussions of herbicide use somewhere or another. Chief Bob Gloade has done us all a favour by raising such issues.

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