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Surrey's Silent Spring - BC ministry manufacturing consent for ecologically harmful North Surrey aerial spraying

Local residents oppose biotoxin spraying in working class North Surrey

by Roslyn Cassells - Canada's first elected Green

I Grieve Art Collective - on ecocide in Surrey at Hawthorne Rotary Park
I Grieve Art Collective - on ecocide in Surrey at Hawthorne Rotary Park


BC ministry manufacturing consent for ecologically harmful North Surrey aerial spraying

for immediate release - April 12, 2018 - North Surrey, BC

The BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources is employing its usual "say and spray" blitz attack on unsuspecting residents of North Surrey in the next few weeks when ministry officials plan on spraying the controversial biotoxin Bacillus thuringensis kurstaki in the area with scant notice ("you will receive a or two days before we spray." read an email I received from FLNR's Babita Bains today when I enquired about when the spraying would occur - according to Bains, possibly during the"first week in May" in the Fraser Heights community (spray map: ). 

Btk spraying has human health impacts and negative ecological effects on animals, birds, and insects and the eco-ravaged green space deficient zone of working class North Surrey is now the target of biotoxin spraying only months after city council voted to destroy the habitat of 18 endangered species in Hawthorne Rotary Park.

The purpose of this short-notice method is "to avoid extreme views of the antispray lobby getting to them (residents) first" according to a New Zealand industry and government funded study which looked at BC FLMNR's method of manufacturing "social license to spray" in our province ("Obtaining social license to spray: case study - gypsy moth programme BC, Canada" 2012 The Forest Owners of NZ..).  Apparently NZ residents have been in revolt after mass aerial sprayings resulted in human health problems and biodiversity impacts.  Short time between official notice and spraying commencing is a key tactic. Restricting access to members of the public speaking to groups at information sessions by not allowing microphones or loudspeakers fall into their hands is one of the many sneaky tactics this province employs to "spray us like roaches and get away with it" as Surrey resident Cheryl Dans commented.

The bug spray is being used to kill Gypsy Moths according to BC's FLNR, although it is known that it also kills many other species of butterflies and moths, and causes food shortages for birds, bats, owls, and other wildlife at a time when they are struggling to feed their young, some of whom eat a diet comprised of 80-90% insects, with species such as chickadees eating in their diet a whopping 50% of caterpillars (the larval stage of butterflies and moths targetted by Btk).  Other species such as owls enjoy the adult moths, while some wildlife eat the eggs of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).

Btk is known to cause respiratory problems and eye problems for humans.  Research shows links to immune modulated diseases being triggered by exposure to Btk.  A 2004 New Zealand government study reported an alarming array of symptoms including vomiting and stomach cramps, diarrhea, coughing, congested nose, headaches, sore eyes and throat, and asthma. Although the BC government website says Btk is "safe", the site also suggests residents in spray areas "close their windows the evening before spraying and stay indoors until the droplets have cleared the air".  The site also suggests that "any sprayed fruits and vegetables should be washed before they are eaten." Those handling Btk are recommended to wear respirators, goggles, and gloves" according to a Material Data Safety Sheet on Foray 48b, the trade name of the spray, which reports that it contains 13% Btk, and 87% secret ingredients.  Past sampling and independent testing of Foray 48b showed it contained lye, sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid, methyl paraben and potassium phosphate (Insecticidal Fact Sheet: Bt. C Swadnerer, 1994).  Spray often drifts for kilometers outside of the official spray site.

Opt-Out alternatives are not offered to BC residents as in other jurisdictions where residents can refuse to have their home sprayed with the biotoxin. FLNR says Gypsy Moths effect forestry and agriculture industries by defoliation, but entomologists Professor Mark Ascerno and Jeffrey Hahn say that if trees are healthy it takes at least 3 years of serious defoliation to impact the tree health seriously, and management tactics should take that into account.  The biggest threat to trees hands down is urbanization and human activities, not Gypsy Moths.

A number of research papers point to the negative effect of Btk on rare and uncommon species, but also cite the importance of the effect on common species like the dear little chickadee.  "Rare species are of concern because they are thought to be more easily extirpated by disturbances like Btk spraying than common species" (Miller J.C. 1990. Effects of microbial insecticide BTk on non target Lepidoptera...), however, "conservation considerations should also include reductions of common species because they can contribute the most to certain ecosystem processes." (Hammond P.C. and Miller J.C. 1998 "Comparison of the biodiversity of Lepidoptera within 3 forested ecosystems")

BC Forest Practices Branch reports by L. Sopuk and K. Ovaska between 1999-2003 show increasing effects of one spray application in 1999 over 4 years, with many populations never recovering fully.  Particularly effected are the Spotted Towhee and Bushtits - "in 1999 Spotted Towhees occurred at significantly lower numbers in sprayed than unsprayed plots after Btk treatment..." and in 1999 and 2000 "consistently fewer adult Bushtits on the sprayed than unsprayed plots."  Conclusions advised future spray programs to "minimize spray areas to reduce effects on songbirds...particularly rare species."  The first two years of the study showed that "species richness, diversity, and total abundance of Lepidoptera was lower in the areas that were sprayed with Btk than surrounding unsprayed areas" and "the 2000 data indicated the scale of the impact was greater...84%.  These reductions may have been harmful to other animals that depend on Lepidoptera as a food source."  By year 4 "recovery was only partial".

Planting resistant crops and trees, and utilizing methods other than devastating populations of insects, birds, and other wildlife would be preferable to the status quo.  Hell no, we don't want spraying in our community!  Contact your Forestry, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Doug Donaldson at to voice your opposition!

City Council Candidate and local resident Roslyn Cassells is a former elected Green Party Park Commissioner from Vancouver.  Cassells took the City of Surrey to BC Supreme Court earlier this year citing SARA violations against endangered species in Hawthorne Rotary Park. 

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