War on Weeds in Rural Canadian Municipalities
Manitoba farmers grappling with impacts and legality of municipal herbicide use
By Larry Powell
Feb 19, 2013
There, they became the first and only producers in the province at the time to market certified organic seedlings, such as tomatoes, peppers and medicinal herbs, to fellow growers. Over the years, their rural homestead became a gathering point for others who shared their passion for a simpler way of living.
While no longer officially certified as organic, the two were still producing their plants without the use of chemicals when tragedy struck in 2010. To their horror, as Neufeld put it, “Every single one of our plants curled up grotesquely and died!” He estimates this resulted in a revenue loss of $10,000.
They sent samples to a Winnipeg lab, which confirmed that the culprit was a potent weed killer, Tordon 101. With two active ingredients—picloram and 2,4-D—Tordon 101’s deadly nature has been known for over half a century. It is made by agricultural industry giant Dow AgroSciences Canada. Dubbed “Agent White,” the US military applied it, along with its infamous cousin “Agent Orange,” on the jungles during the Vietnam war in the 1960s.
The couple was unaware that their local government, the Rural Municipality (RM) of Morton, had in 2008 sprayed ditches near their home with the chemical. Neufeld mowed hay in those ditches to feed their horses and then used the composted manure to fertilize the greenhouse plants.