Subject: Healthy Golf: Promises not kept, opportunities squandered in Ontario


November 19, 2020


Promises not kept ~ opportunities squandered

Prevent Cancer Now releases report on Integrated Pest Management

Pesticides and Ontario Golf Courses

OTTAWA, Ontario - The Ontario Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Act (CPBA, 2008) permits Ontario golf courses to use the more toxic pesticides, contingent upon minimizing pesticide use with Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Ten years later, in 2018, neither the IPM Council of Canada nor the Ontario government could answer whether or not Ontario golf courses had actually reduced pesticide use.

Ontario golf course IPM agents have to maintain certification with ongoing education, and file annual reports on the IPM Council of Canada website, under Regulation 63/09  of Ontario’s Pesticide Act.

Prevent Cancer Now examined reports from 16 higher-end Ontario golf courses to determine whether use of pesticides had declined. Pesticide data archived by the IPM Council of Canada was extracted over the years 2010 to 2017.

Total pesticide use (equivalent hectares) by 16 Ontario golf courses

 2010 to 2017 

Key findings include: 

  • overall, use of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides increased between 2010 and 2017 (bar chart above); 

  • three fungicides, three herbicides and all insecticides used on the studied Ontario golf courses have been identified as “highly hazardous” by international authorities (e.g., World Health Organization, European Union and US EPA);

  • a small number of courses fared better than others applying one fifth the amount of pesticides (measured as equivalent hectares treated) compared with high users (line graph below); 

  • golf courses that were certified under the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf exhibited lower herbicide use when variation of use was higher, which is a possible indication of IPM implementation.

Pesticide use (equivalent hectares) by each of the 16 Ontario golf courses

2010 to 2017

Courses A, B, C, E, H, K and O are certified under the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf. Courses D, F, G, I, J, L, M, N and P (9) were not certified. The data includes outliers that were re-checked against the online IPM reports.

Prevent Cancer Now is very concerned.  “Many of the pesticides used on Ontario golf courses are convincingly associated with cancer plus a host of other problems including neurodevelopmental and birth defects, respiratory issues such as asthma, immune dysfunction, cardiovascular and neurological diseases, and disruption of hormone actions,” states Meg Sears, Chair of Prevent Cancer Now.

"IPM reporting is in disarray. Neither the Ontario government nor the IPM Council of Canada seemed to care," states Sears.

  • Not all golf course filed pesticide reports required under Regulation 63/09 of the Ontario Pesticides Act.

  • Fewer than 1/3 of Ontario golf courses had complete data online, as of 2019.

  • The archived data on the IPM Council of Canada website is not in a form that can be easily extracted, tracked or analyzed. It would also be easier for IPM agents to input data using an online form.

“Collecting data and letting it sit is not a solution to healthier landscaping. The IPM Council of Canada missed and continues to miss opportunities to utilize its data, combine the data with other parameters (e.g. weather), share success stories and spread the learning,” says Robin McLeod, former chair of the Coalition for a Healthy Calgary.

For the safety of staff, golfers, adjacent communities and for environmental sustainability, it is time for the golf industry to live up to promises made in 2008. Ontario golfers and neighbours of golf clubs should press for nothing less.

For recommendations, more in-depth information and images, please access the Summary and Full Report.

Meg Sears, PhD

Chair, Prevent Cancer Now



Prevent Cancer Now is a Canadian organization of science and health professionals, and concerned citizens, who work to “stop cancer before it starts,” by addressing environmental contributors to cancer through science, education and advocacy.

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