An owner of Prince George foraging and wildcraft business is crying foul after learning a pair favourite spots for collecting her product have been sprayed with a controversial herbicide.
Jennifer Cote, owner of Moose Mushrooms and Mud, had travelled to two cutblocks she had previously scouted and at both locations, she found signs indicating it had been sprayed with a herbicide containing the chemical glyphosate.
The signs say people should avoid the area for 72 hours, but, according to James Steidle of Stop the Spray, recent research shows berries can have more glyphosate than what is allowed in stores the following year.
Cote erred on the side of caution and did not harvest any of the berries, forgoing hundreds of pounds in the process.
“There’s so much up there, and it can’t be touched. It really frustrates and saddens me,” said Cote in a statement issued by Steidle, who has long campaigned to eliminate use of herbicides in B.C. forests.
Cote uses the huckleberries to teach people how to make jams and jellies.
“I put three or four different jellies on the class. As soon as you put huckleberries on the list people are like woohooo...people look forward to the huckleberry jam,” said Cote.
“It’s a gourmet jam to some people as you don’t commonly find huckleberry jam in the grocery store. The reason you don’t find huckleberry jams in the grocery stores is because huckleberries cannot be grown commercially, like cultivated blueberries.
"Having huckleberries for wild-food classes is really awesome on the repertoire as it gives people a chance to taste some of the local and wild food that people may not otherwise be familiar with.”
Steidle said Canfor is behind the spraying which is used to clear cutblocks of deciduous trees and other types of vegetation to make way for seedlings of spruce, pine and fir that form the basis of lumber production in the Central Interior.
He has said that not only does the herbicide kill valuable species but pose a health hazard to people too, noting that glyphosate, the active ingredient, has been linked to cancer.
"Prince George area forests are the most heavily sprayed in British Columbia. One hundred percent of 2021 interior aerial spraying was conducted in P.G. regional forests, to the best of our knowledge," Steidle said. "The public is not notified beforehand and there is nothing the public can do to stop it.
In a statement, Canfor spokesperson Michelle Ward said the company no longer uses herbicides on leading stands of deciduous trees and, instead, relies on manual brushing on those sites.
"Our limited herbicide application is reserved for sites where it is required in order to meet legal reforestation requirements, and is done in strict accordance with Health Canada requirements. We continue to investigate ways to further reduce the use of herbicides going forward," Ward added.
Cote said the spraying has hurt her way of making a living.
“My hope this year was if I had enough of this wildcraft product in stock, not only could I run a few jam and jelly classes with the huckleberries, but I could also host a few ‘wild dessert’ classes and have a ‘wild-food-to-table social’ to talk about ‘all things wild,’" Cote said.
"There is a growing sector in which people want to know about wild, local food. Wild food helps reconnect us with the land. It can be part of people’s food security system and it provides a source of natural food, free from chemicals and sprays. Wild berries sprayed with herbicides are no longer ‘natural’.
“It’s not just about lumber, it’s about other people’s livelihoods and food security.”
Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen