Battling to stop unlawful and lengthy “phase-outs” of neonicotinoid pesticides

David Suzuki Foundation et al. v. Canada (Health) et al.
Photo by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay
Program area – Healthy communities Status: Closed
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Ecojustice went to Federal Court in December 2019 to challenge the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s (PMRA) two-year delay in implementing risk mitigation measures of certain uses of the neonicotinoid pesticide Thiamethoxam.

Thiamethoxam is toxic to bees and other pollinators. It is used on a wide range of fruits and vegetables that are intensively cultivated, such as cherry trees and legumes. It is systemic, meaning it is taken up through leaves or roots and spread throughout the plant. It cannot be washed or peeled off crops.

In April 2019, the PMRA released its final decision in its re-evaluation of the risks of Thiamethoxam to pollinators. In this re-evaluation, the PMRA concluded that risk mitigation measures are needed to protect bees and other pollinators from the harms posed by Thiamethoxam. These measures include cancelling certain uses of Thiamethoxam, restricting times when the neonicotinoid pesticide can be sprayed, and updating its labels. However, the PMRA decided to delay implementing these risk mitigation measures for two years, even though the Pest Control Products Act does not allow for such a delay. The PMRA calls the lengthy two-year delay a “phase-out”.

Ecojustice went to court to fight for bees and other pollinators, and to protect them now, not two years down the road. Unfortunately, the court decision gives the PMRA and the pesticide industry extra time to complete their paperwork and phase out or restrict the use of Thiamethoxam. The mitigation measures will still be implemented, just not as quickly as they should be, and, in the meantime, bees and other pollinators will pay the price.While this case was not successful in speeding things up, it is encouraging that the court’s decision reinforces the imperative of science-based decision making. (David Suzuki Foundation et al. v. Canada (Health) et al., 2019 FC 1637.)

Ecojustice and its clients continue to urge the PMRA to prioritize protecting the environment and human health from unacceptable risks of harm from pesticides. Canadians and pollinators depend on this. We will continue to look at all opportunities to use the law to protect pollinators and human health from toxic substances.

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