Fighting to improve glyphosate regulation in Canada

Safe Food Matters Inc. v. Attorney General of Canada
Chafer Sentry via CC BY 2.0
Program area – Healthy communities Status: In progress
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Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum, non-selective herbicide that is most commonly used as a weed killer. First introduced by Monsanto as the active ingredient in their herbicide, Roundup, the product is used by many, including farmers on crops and home gardeners in their backyards.

Glyphosate is registered in Canada for spraying on the following crops after they’ve started growing: wheat, barley, oats, chickpeas, flax, lentils, mustard, dry beans, canola (GM), peas, soybean (GM), faba beans. Scientific studies have shown that when glyphosate is used on crops that are not physiologically mature, this results in an accumulation of glyphosate residues in the seeds of the crops.

This means glyphosate’s presence can be found in our food, our water and where our children play.

Glyphosate poses an unacceptable risk to human health. The World Health Organization has concluded that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen to humans. But in spite of this science-backed conclusion, glyphosate continues to be used widely in Canada and around the world.

In April 2017, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) released its re-evaluation of glyphosate.
Understanding the risks that glyphosate poses, environmental and health organizations — including our clients and Safe Food Matters — requested Health Canada strike an independent review of the PMRA’s decision on glyphosate, stating that the PMRA did not properly account for all the relevant human health and environmental impacts when it made its decision.

Health Canada refused the request — and the federal court dismissed Safe Food Matters application to judicially review the decision.

When the PMRA fails to act with appropriate precaution, as is the case with its re-registration of glyphosate, the right to request reviews of decisions gives Canadians an important tool to hold the PMRA accountable for protecting our health and the environment. We believe that the Federal Court’s decision seriously limited the scope of that tool — making it effectively impossible to use.

We’re going to court now to make sure that Canadians can continue to hold the PMRA accountable when it ignores relevant science or makes decisions without enough science.

Canadians should be able to count on regulators to follow the law and apply the precautionary principle to ensure there is rigorous, independent science when it reviews pesticide registrations. When they fail to live up to those responsibilities, Canadians must be able to request independent reviews of these decisions.

A win in this case will uphold public participation rights under the Pest Control Products Act and ensure Canadians have a say in what’s allowed to be put into the air, water and land we all depend on.

Key developments

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