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Chemical Industry Convinces Toronto Flower Show to Ban Film

A Chemical Reaction, a movie the chemical industry doesn't want you to see

A Chemical Reaction, a movie the chemical industry doesn’t want you to see

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:

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: 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

Ex-Officio Members

Elaine Solway, Garden Club of Toronto
Bob Adams, Landscape Ontario
Tony DiGiovanni, Landscape Ontario

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
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  • Kathleen Christensen

    Wow! Outrageous and sad. But it’s a testament to the power of the work you’re doing. Thanks, and keep at it!

  • Georgiette Kasoli

    I, for one, will not be attending the show this year in protest. And I will certainly let them know.


  • Hank

    You just know this cancellation would never be approved of by the vast majority of our good Canadian friends.

    Try again next year at this show and others like it.

  • Cristina da Silva

    Thanks for the update, Paul.

    It’s a step back for Landscape industry when their organization, Landscape Ontario, bans a movie on banning lawn chemicals. So sad.

    I’ve contacted the Landscape Ontario about this. I’ve been told they (Landscape Ontario and Canada Blooms) will issue an official statement on the ban.

  • Mike Mosely

    When you see something like this it begs the question: Why would ANYONE hire a chemical lawn contractor. If they have nothing to hide, why are they afraid of a film? Clearly they need some public relations coaching, though. This is the best boost your film could ever get.
    Mickey Mosely

  • Lynn

    Great! Canadians need to boycott the Canada Blooms flower show. People’s health and especially our children are more important than a few potheads.

  • Cindy Saucier

    This is ludicrous! I saw this film and it historical and is about Canada’s education campaign about the health dangers of pesticides and finally the ban. Those of us who were there along the way and appreciated the ground-breaking work that the City of Hudson lay down and helped those other communities who followed in their footsteps. Russell Township was ahead of the province too and we couldn’t have done it without the work of people like Dr. June Irwin, and the Supreme Court Justice. Paul Tukey is a pioneer in the U.S. and I wish him nothing but the best and keep up the good fight!

  • John Abbott

    How can Landscape Ontario and their members live with the application of chemicals in carrying out their work in the face of the evidence that links pesticides with cancer and other life threatening diseases.
    When will they wake up and either go “natural” or find another line of work.

  • Tara Dillard

    A great sign Paul, you are making a difference. The winds against you are getting stronger.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  • Frank Spillman

    I’m really, really surprised that Landscape Ontario would make this kind of ignorant decision. The fact that you were willing to stand there with them on a panel discussion should have been taken as an opportunity for a valuable public forum — and what better place than the nation’s top flower show.

    I watched the film and I’ve heard you speak. You’re not Michael Moore. You’re not out to embarrass anyone.

    Shame on Tony DiGiovanni and the rest of the landscape industry in Canada for being so small minded.
    Frank Spillman

  • TimFromLA

    Sad day when Canada becomes more and more like us.

  • jodi (bloomingwriter)

    As a garden writer with a strong interest in gardening without the use of manmade chemicals, I’m saddened and disappointed by the actions taken by Canada Blooms. I will be spreading the word about this via my Facebook pages, via my blog, and any other medium I can think of that will get the message out quickly. Certainly I will not support Canada Blooms by coming to the show next year, if this is the sort of stand they wish to take.

  • Tom Kelly

    Once again, those who think they are defending their industry are the ones equally responsible for destroying it.

    • Charlotte Hardy

      Mr. Kelly,
      When you say “equally responsible,” what does that mean exactly? Who is the other party responsible for destroying the industry, other than the industry itself. Is it Mr. Tukey in your view? Just to be clear?
      Charlotte Hardy

  • Susan J. DeMarco

    Chief Seattle in 1854 said “Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.”
    When will people get it!!! It is not about money or ego or power…it is about doing the right thing!! Will Toni DiGiovanni let his children/grandchildren play on a lawn that has just been sprayed with chemicals?? No Toni?? Then do the right thing.

  • Cindy

    Canada Blooms should be ashamed :( I don’t know of one person not affected by Cancer:( Children are the most vulnerable….SHAME SHAME SHAME!!!

  • Charlotte Hardy

    Since when is a flower show not the right venue to have a discussion — call it debate if you want to — about the right products to use on our lawns and gardens? Doesn’t Tony DiGiovanni understand how ignorant that comment makes him sound? Or does he really think we’re all that stupid? Oh, wait, maybe we are . . .
    Charlotte Hardy

  • Penelope Prince

    This is gross. Disgusting. Lawn pesticides are banned in Ontario, folks. Get over it. What’s wrong with showing a movie about how it happened at a flower show for God sakes? Let the man tell us how to have beautiful lawns without pesticides. Let us LEARN!
    Penelope P.

  • herman rogers

    You have always been so helpful to us who are getting started in organics. I have never met someone so knowledgeable and sharing of that knowledge. It makes no sense at all to my why the Canada Blooms flower show wouldn’t want to share that knowledge with their attendees who, presumably, want nice lawns.

    I’m sure you must be so disappointed, but don’t lose faith in your vision. You’ll get there.
    Herman Rogers, your loyal convert

  • http://n/a K. Jean Cottam

    This blog is virtually unanimous in condemning the decision to keep the famous film out! What a scandal. I had seen the film last winter at the University of Ottawa. This film is brilliant and entertaining. And above all, it is truthful. There is no shameful and unscrupulous propaganda, such as that promoted by the pesticide industry. Everlasting shame to Landscape Ontario for banning it! I too feel that Canada Blooms made a very, very big mistake by rejecting the film and doesn’t deserve any public support in the future. Its name Canada Blooms should be amended to “Canada Blooms a.k.a. Obedient Puppet of Landscape Ontario.

  • vicki

    Wow. Shame on Canada Blooms!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    All gardeners–and vendors–should boycott the show!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Peter Scott Kettenbell

    As a fan of the little town of Hudson taking Big Chemical to the Supreme Court of Canada, and winning with a precedent setting decision, I find it unconscionable that the Toronto Flower Show has given in to Big Chemical by banning the film
    Hudson: A Chemical Reaction.

    We Canadians, once upon a time, used to live in a Civil Society. Now, we have Big Oil, Big Banking and Big Chemical running our media and our Parliament. This is just another disgusting example of big business assuming that they have the right to think for us.

    My children were patients of the courageous MD; Dr. June Irwin who is portrayed in the film. One of my brothers is one of the 15% of North Americans who is Hypersensitive to pesticides. His throat would close if he ate from a salad bar where there were pesticide residues on the greens. When Dr.Irwin began her educational crusade after seeing so many children like my brother, I was quoted in a Quebec newspaper saying that “My brother and other persons like him are the canaries in the coal mines for the rest of Canadian society.”

    Today, courageous scientists like Mel Visser, Author of the book Cold Clear & Deadly are the (Insiders) who are doing their best to save us from ourselves as we are overtaken by endocrine disruption and immune system deficiencies which cost our heath care system billions.

    As not for whom the bell tolls, it does indeed toll for us!

    Peter Kettenbeil

    Montreal, Quebec

  • Ellen Fine

    To the Organizers and Board of Canada Blooms_

    I am very surprised and displeased that you have made the decision to cancel a screening of “A Chemical Reaction” at your upcoming fllower show. We at the The LEAH Collective and The LEAH Advocacy Group have a mission to create awarenes, education and legislatin on the dangers of lawn care pesticides and their more healthful alternative philosophies and approaches. We feel this film is an important educational tool to aquaint the general public and landscapers with the health problems that continued usage of cosmetic pesticides.

    Mr. Tukey’s fillm speaks to a particularly Canadian experience of Hudson, Quebec and their efforts to limit the use of products deemed dangerous by The Canadian Cancer Society and needs to be viewed by the general public. Please see their extensive website on the subject and contrast this with the American Cancer Society’s sparse mention of the problem. Canada is truly in the vanguard of this awareness.

    The LEAH Collective showed it to over 100 NH legisltors last winter while they were deliberating on the phase out of lawn care pesticides on school properties in NH. Many legislators from both sides of the aisle thanked us for opening up their eyes with this film and the problem of sick children and an environment damaged by the constant use of these products.

    Plase reconsider your decision not to screen the film. While some in the the chemical lawncare industry continue to use products banned by the government of Ontario, many landscapers are adhering to the law and we in the United States look to Canada as a shining example of a caring society, that employes the precautionary principle and is able to present this film. Quite simply, it is a matter of Free Speech and I have never thought of Canada as a place where this would be denied.

    Best wishes in reconsidering the important showing of this film.

    Ellen Fine
    The LEAH Collective
    The LEAH Advocacy Group
    Waterville Valley, NH

    • Michele

      I couldn’t agree more Ellen. I’m a big advocate of natural lawn care after years of infertility and now being the parent of a 3 yr old toddler in Michigan. With more and more neighbors signing with the the ever-cheaper lawn-spray companies I find you can’t even leave your windows open in the Summer. Some companies are up to 6 & 7 applications a season. Being surrounded by lakes and filled with golf courses you would think Michigan would restrict the more dangerous pesticides in favor of safer alternatives. My family and most friends agree after they’ve seen research, but it’s amazing how ingnorant and assuming that we’ve been. The chemical companies can show comercials about killing bugs, but we can’t show commercials about the potential effects on children. 5 yrs ago I would’ve thought if they sold it in the store, than it was safe. Pre-parenting and being involved in my work, I also assumed our government had our best interests in mind always. It very sad to wake up and smell the coffee, realizing we will always trail behind Canada and Europe regarding safety standards. And how people have been brainwashed over the years to think their yard has to look like a PGA Tour golf course. Very sad. I hope Michigan makes headway soon….

  • Mitchell Bruce

    What a catastrophically stupid motion by Landscape Ontario. What were they thinking? Did they not realize that banning the film was only going to fire up the people who read this blog, as well as all the environmentalists across Canada and elsewhere. It certainly does show you how small-minded the green industry has become.

    Mitchell Bruce

  • John R

    You people are pathetic. All of you. Did you really think you were going to be able to hold off the chemical industry forever? The fact is that the pesticides Ontario banned are totally safe. Justice will prevail and I, for one, applaud Landscape Ontario for kicking Tukey’s ass the hell out of Canada. It’s about two years too late as far as I’m concerned.
    John R.

    • Kermit Lauson

      The whacko pesticide junkie William Gathercole is reporting the “John R.” is John R. Keenan, the Operations Manager at Wright Lawn Care. I think if people are going to take cheap shots at you, they ought to at least provide their full name.

      Mr. Tukey, let me know when you’re going to be be back in Canada and I’ll buy you lunch. There are a lot of us up here who consider you to be a hero and I think it’s important that you know that.
      Kermit Lauson, Toronto in pesticide-free Ontario

  • A Concerned Doctor

    What a sad state of affairs. The fellow claims that he doesn’t want it to be political, but by accepting the film and then rejecting it, he’s being quite political. Wonder what a boycott would mean to the show?

    A Concerned Doctor

  • Loree Zephyr

    The darkest hour is that before the dawn

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    • m.t. kaufman

      Just catching up on new like this here in January….

      Ajax, ON, based mfr and LCO Environmental Factor – - I wonder how they reacted to film cancellation?

  • landscape gardening company

    Great! Canadians need to boycott the Canada Blooms flower show. People’s health and especially our children are more important than a few potheads.

    landscape gardening company

  • Lisa

    I agree that the film should be shown, but Landscape Ontario sponsors Canada Blooms. It’s like PHAC having a vaccine conference with a film included that shows vaccines do cause harm. It’s just not good business! Here’s the thing. You the consumer want gorgeous healthy full plants when purchasing hanging baskets for example. We the grower have to meet that demand or you consumer will not buy our product. The consumer wants the product BEFORE the plants are mature so the grower HAS to use chemicals to produce your lush, healthy plants early to bring to market. Most of the growers of plants showing at Canada Blooms use all kinds of chemicals, especially for Canada Blooms! Unless you are an organic grower (I am) then of course the pesticide issue is a heated debate and not one the agri-factory farms want to embrace.

  • Alex Zalewski

    I have to put in a few words here.

    First of all let me say that Landscape Ontario is a large association it has members from all fields in the landscape industry including Design/construction/nursery operators and growers/and maintenance.

    Some lawn care companies created businesses that revolved around the application of pesticides. These companies were severely injured by the bad on cosmetic pesticides, and some of them are still disgruntled about this.

    That is not too say that all members of Landscape Ontario feel the same way, please check out our website

    for an example of a *proud* member of Landscape Ontario who are completely organic and focused on creating beautiful gardens with a sustainable purpose.

    please do not let the ONE member of Landscape Ontario sitting the that board for Canada blooms who posed the ban of the film sully the reputation of the entire Landscape Ontario Association! If the association was asked to vote on this issue (witch i will be attempting to make happen) im sure the film would be screened at Canada Blooms!

    thanks for your time to read this,

    have a great day

    Alex Zalewski
    Designer and Consultant
    Bachelor of Environmental Studies
    Certified Landscape Technician
    Parklane Nurseries limited

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  • Jo Sippie-Gora

    How long is the movie “A Chemical Reaction”? We would like to screen it publicly, but can’t find length anywhere…

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