Chemical Industry Convinces Toronto Flower Show to Ban Film
UPDATED AS OF 3:28 p.m. Dec. 1
TORONTO — Reaction to the news that Canada Blooms has opted to ban the film A Chemical Reaction has brought instant shock and even outrage from environmental supporters across North America.
“I am disappointed that your show will not allow A Chemical Reaction to be viewed,” wrote Lori Descoteaux in a letter to Canada Blooms, the nation’s largest flower show. “How can you sleep at night knowing that the chemical industry has influenced your organization to prevent people from knowing the truth about poisoning our future, our children!”
“It’s preposterous that the leadership would take this action,” said Sherie Pooler of London, Ontario, in an email to SafeLawns. “The film depicts a true story, a story that should bring Canadians a great deal of pride for taking the lead on something and doing the right thing.”
“Wow, that is really disappointing on several fronts,” wrote Lisa Gue, the Environmental Health Policy Analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation.
After a reportedly contentious meeting at the offices of Canada Blooms on Monday, the organization’s Board of Directors opted to cancel a contract to show the documentary film, A Chemical Reaction, about the first town in North America to ban lawn and garden pesticides. The film had been scheduled as a marquee event followed by a panel discussion on Saturday, March 19, 2011.
Members of Landscape Ontario, the province’s trade association representing the lawn chemical industry, had been pressuring the show’s organizers ever since Canada Blooms issued a press release Nov. 23 announcing the film as a part of its schedule. According the general manager of Canada Blooms, the landscape industry blamed the film and the SafeLawns Foundation for the province-wide ban on lawn pesticides that was enacted on Earth Day 2009 — but announced on Earth Day 2008.
“An open dialogue took place regarding the many changes that have taken place the past years with a great deal of credit provided to your film and your organization’s work,” said Gerry Ginsberg in an email that announced his organization’s decision to ban the film from the show. “At the conclusion of the debate a vote was requested on whether your film and program should be presented — and in a close vote to not present your film, the motion was approved.”
We had warned Mr. Ginsberg that the chemical lawn care industry would take offense to the screening of A Chemical Reaction and we had cordially agreed to have a member of Landscape Ontario as a part of the panel discussion following the film. We had no indication, however, that Canada Blooms was even considering canceling the film screening until Monday’s email.
We found it highly erroneous for Landscape Ontario to even suggest that A Chemical Reaction had anything at all to do with the province’s ban on pesticides, which was announced by Premier Dalton McGinty — a full two months before our film crews entered Canada for the first time in June of 2008. The film premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival in August of 2009, four months after the ban had been enacted.
Since that time, the film has been screened across Canada, many times in conjunction with the Canadian Cancer Society, which has long emphasized the links between lawn pesticides and cancer. The film appears to be helping to persuade other Canadian municipalities and provinces to enact pesticide bans similar to the ones in Ontario and Quebec. The fact that Landscape Ontario was able to convince Canada Blooms to turn away the film is an obvious example of how contentious this issue remains — nearly 20 years after Hudson, Quebec, took the historic first step of turning away the chemical companies.
A long-time newspaper editor, Jim Duff, predicted as much at the conclusion of the film, just as credits roll.
“The chemical industry will never, ever give up,” he said. “They just regroup and keep coming back to fight.”
Almost immediately after word of the film’s ban, some SafeLawns followers talked of showing the film in Toronto during the flower show at a nearby venue. We will certainly consider that as a possibility. In the meantime, Canadians can purchase the film from the Canadian Cancer Society: http://convio.cancer.ca/site/PageServer?pagename=GEN_CAN_fight_home&s_locale=en_CA.
By mid-day Tuesday, Ginsberg was apologetic in a call to the SafeLawns offices.
“We are just a staff acting on behalf of a Board of Directors and this decision was beyond our control,” he said. “We were allowed to speak about the reasons why we contracted to bring you to the show, but in the end Landscape Ontario presented a motion to the Board and the democratic process prevailed in the vote.”
The executive director of Landscape Ontario issued a statement, which was posted by garden writer Doug Green in this post: http://blog.douggreensgarden.com/landscape-ontario-forces-cancellation-of-organic-lawn-film/. Here is the statement by Tony DiGiovanni of Landscape Ontario (and one of two ex-officio members of the Canada Blooms Board): “First of all we are not the chemical industry. We represent the all those that design, install and maintain gardens, green space and landscapes and all those that grow and sell plant material. Second of all we do not feel we should be politicizing or polarizing people at a garden show. Canada Blooms is meant to be a celebration of horticulture and floriculture. We are not against showing the film nor are we against free speach (sic) and debate. In fact we encourage it. We just do not feel that Canada Blooms is the correct venue for doing this.”
Here is a listing of the people who sit on the Board of Directors of Canada Blooms:
Peter Guinane – President and Co-Chair – Landscape Ontario
Janet Rowley – Vice-President and Co-Chair – Garden Club of Toronto
Gerald Boot, Landscape Ontario
Mark Cullen, Landscape Ontario
Michel Gauthier – Ontario – At Large
Jacqueline Tilford-Clarke, Garden Club of Toronto
Joyce Johnson, Garden Club of Toronto
Roz Titley, Garden Club of Toronto
Jeff Olson, Landscape Ontario
Elaine Solway, Garden Club of Toronto
Bob Adams, Landscape Ontario
Tony DiGiovanni, Landscape Ontario