Poisoning the Golden Mile

text and photo by Cherlynne Sweet

spraying in Oliver, BC
Spraying in Oliver, BC, 40 feet from HWY 97

• Oliver, BC, is called the wine capital of Canada. Many orchards have been replaced by vineyards and from Kelowna to Osoyoos there are now approximately 300 wineries. My partner and I owned a health store in Oliver for 18 years and during that time noticed many changes, one being the increased chemical spraying in the valley. I have sent several articles to the local newspapers, with no response. Of course, I understand their hesitation as this is the economy of the valley. Yet I find it rather deceptive of the “town fathers” to encourage this as a retirement area. Many people in the past have retired here with health problems hoping the fresh air and pure water would make them feel better, only to find out their health deteriorated.

If you talk to the farmers in the Okanagan, they will tell you that, in order to have a sufficient crop, chemical spraying is inevitable and that the economy of the valley is at stake. The politicians spin the same yarn. To that, I say “horse bunkie!” We live in a world of environmental and ethical concerns, including global warming, garbage recycling, outdoor burning and vehicle exhaust so why must we use toxic chemicals on our food?

The truth about chemical spraying in the valley will shock and disgust anyone with a conscience and the fortitude to listen.

Fungicides, pesticides and herbicides are all used regularly in the orchards and the vineyards. How do I know? Well, it isn’t rocket science; just drive the Golden Mile anytime on any day of the week. On several occasions, my car has been washed with the chemical overspray. I know they are chemicals as opposed to a non-toxic water solution – indicated by some agencies – because my eyes start to water, my throat gets dry and scratchy and my breathing becomes laboured. And a dead giveaway is that the person driving the tractor, which is pulling the chemical sprayer, is suited up like an astronaut.

Several countries have banned chemical spraying and genetically modified products yet Canada is still forging ahead trying to find stronger and more potent killers. Did you know that soy is the largest GMO crop in Canada? And did you also know that ginseng is one of the heaviest sprayed crops in the world? These two products are supposed to be healthy. Have you looked up into the sky on any given day and noticed a helicopter dropping mosquito killer on us?

Since I have lived in Oliver, I have noticed a high rate of miscarriages, infertility and birth abnormalities, not to mention allergies, asthma and cancer. When we owned the health store, we saw the horrendous effects from chemical spraying on numerous individuals. The transients working in the orchards and vineyards would come in with puffy faces, rashes and difficulty with breathing. Their eyes were burning and their throats were dry and scratchy. They described their work environment, noting how the sprays lingered in the air and on the ground, with the residue clinging to the leaves. I began to do my own research and I also worked in a vineyard for a season. My findings were the same.

At first I thought that spraying of chemicals was strictly regulated and enforced by some government agency. It turns out the enforcement and regulations are on the honour system. The label on the chemicals suggests how to use the product with minimal consequences, but puts the responsibility entirely on the user. Spraying programs are extensive: from pre-bud to bud-break to six-inch shoots, to two to three-inch flower clusters, etc. This particular program is for fungicides; there are other programs for pesticides and herbicides. The manufacturers’ recommended standards of application may be within the range of “low risk” by a single grower, but what about repeated spraying by hundreds of growers?

The active ingredient in a fungicide is sulphur, which itself is not harmful in small doses, but what about the other 20% of undisclosed chemicals in the formula? The chemical company does not have to divulge the entire formula, as it infringes on their patented rights.

The following quote is from an environmental information sheet provided by the manufacturer on a fungicide used in the vineyards and orchards: “No risk management necessary to protect wild mammals and birds. Sulfur, the active substance, is of low toxicity to mammalian and bird species. The risk to wild animal and birds feeding on treated areas is low due to the limited amount of residues likely to be consumed….

“No risk management necessary to protect aquatic life. When this product is used according to the label instructions, there will not be sufficient contamination of water to present a risk to aquatic life… No risk management necessary for soil and groundwater. Sulfur is moderately persistent in soil and of low mobility. Use of this product according to the label presents low risk to groundwater…”

In school we were taught about the water cycle. Elementary, my dear Watson – water evaporates and forms clouds. When the cloud becomes too heavy or runs into a mountain, it releases and it rains. The rainwater goes into the ground and eventually travels to the rivers and the lakes, which then travel back to the ocean and the cycle starts again. Am I to believe that when it rains, the chemicals, with “low mobility” on the plants and on the ground, are not washed away into the rivers and eventually into our water supplies?

Am I also to believe that the water being sucked up by the plant’s root system, along with the chemicals that are “not expected to have adverse effects,” is not in every cell of the plant’s body and its fruit? Am I to believe that when I drive the Golden Mile and see people suited up like astronauts, on tractors, with chemical spray spewing 20 feet into the air that “there is not sufficient contamination to present a risk to life?” Get real.

Cherlynne Sweet lives in Oliver, BC. Her accomplishments include teaching art, furniture making and photography. She is an artist and an award-winning journalist. She has operated her company Phoenix Design for 20 years. www.cjsweet.ca

7 thoughts on “Poisoning the Golden Mile”

  1. I grew up in Naramata/Penticton. When first moved to Naramata my parents rented a cherry pickers cabin in the orchards, so close that the trees were basically touching it. The landlord heavily sprayed everything including the garden my parents planted, my Dad watched him mix things that were not supposed to be mixed and in amounts way exceeding what was recommended. My whole childhood was one health issue after another! Epilepsy, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, chronic infections (Ear and throat) now as an adult I have Hashimoto’s, reynauds, suspected lupus and celiac. IBS and too many allergies to count. My Sister also has health issues. I really suspect that the sprays had something to do with it and I would love to find more articles that could substantiate that. If you have any further information to share I would be very grateful!

  2. They have done studies about this kind of spraying in California, Costa Rica, Argentina…Results – elevated rates of cancer.



    There is nothing healthy or romantic about living near and all of these wineries that are spraying so heavily. But money always trumps health and people accept fiction over fact in many cases.

  3. I don’t know where you get your information from but you are pretty cynical. Anybody who knows anything about natural healing knows that garlic is full of healing properties. Try not to be quite so untrusting and do a bit of research. Good luck.

  4. “Did you know that soy is the largest GMO crop in Canada? And did you also know that ginseng is one of the heaviest sprayed crops in the world? These two products are supposed to be healthy.”

    Supposedly healthy yes, but they are just part of a long list of ‘food as medicine’ myths. Like the myth of garlic, or Echinacea, or vitamin D, or red wine, or glutin-free, or (my favourite) antioxidants. Myths all.

    Antioxidants are the biggest myth of them all by far. Lol!

    Welcome to the real world. You’re growing up.


    • Poisoning our food supply..thus poisoning the earth, it’s creatures, and our water supply is the ultimate in stupidity. Man is an intelligent species, I am positive that we could figure out natural, clean ways of dealing with pests, molds, etc. The agri business, the massive corporations-they care nothing for people in general, it is their wallets that dictate, not their consciousness.
      The comment by Klem about food myths is ridiculous…food IS medicine and has been proven as such over and over again-Vitamin D is a myth? Go see your doctor, he will set you straight, maybe before you spew any more disinformation you should educate yourself. ANY crops sprayed with the poisons that Monsanto, Sygenta, and Bayer produce will eventually kill us all, as they are currently killing our pollinators, and causing super weeds to proliferate in the meantime. Oh, and Klem, one thing you’re correct about? GMO’s- wheat, soy, and corn-stay away from them, they’re poison too.


Leave a comment