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: Victory
Overview
Ecojustice’s position & impact
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Glyphosate is a 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.

In Canada, glyphosate can be sprayed on numerous crops after they have started growing, including wheat, barley, oats, and chickpeas among others. Scientific studies have shown that when glyphosate is used on plants in their early growth stages, glyphosate residues accumulate in the seeds of the crops. Runoff from farmers’ fields can spread residue into our waterways and through entire ecosystems.

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

Glyphosate poses an unacceptable risk to human and ecosystem health. A recent review of scientific studies found strong experimental evidence, in animal models and in vitro studies, of glyphosate toxicity in reproduction and development as well as related metabolic and disease consequences. Several of these studies show significant health consequences for mothers, fetuses, and offspring, even several generations after exposure. Despite these concerns, glyphosate continues to be used widely in Canada and around the world.

In April 2017, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) released its re-evaluation on glyphosate which failed to consider its impact on human health — including evidence submitted by our clients and Safe Food Matters (a non-profit corporation dedicated to protecting the health of humans and the environment).

In response, environmental and health organizations – including Safe Food Matters and our clients David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence, and Friends of the Earth Canada – requested Health Canada strike an independent review of the PMRA’s decision on glyphosate, stating that the PMRA failed to properly consider all the relevant human health and environmental impacts in its decision-making process.

Health Canada refused all requests to review its decision. In response, Safe Food Matters launched a lawsuit challenging this decision. However, this judicial review was dismissed by the Federal Court.

In February 2022, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the lower court’s decision, ordering the PMRA to reconsider Safe Food Matters’ objection to its approval of the pest control product glyphosate. Ecojustice represented the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence, and Friends of the Earth Canada as intervenors in the appeal to support Safe Food Matters and advocate for an open, accessible independent review process.

Following this victory, Ecojustice submitted a letter on behalf of our clients to federal Minister of Health, Yves Duclos, once again asking for an independent review panel to reconsider the health concerns the groups raised in their previously submitted notices of objection, as well as new evidence that has come to light related to glyphosate’s impact on reproduction and the human microbiome.

When the PMRA fails to act with precaution when evidence exists of potential harmful impacts of chemicals on human health or the environment, 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 are fighting to ensure that people in Canada can continue to hold the PMRA accountable when it ignores relevant science or makes decisions without enough science.

People in Canada 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, people in Canada 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 is allowed to be put into the air, water, and land we all depend on. An independent review panel would ensure the PMRA must adequately consider the health and environmental impacts of glyphosate.

Key developments

Press release

Court orders Health Canada to re-consider objections to approval of dangerous pesticide

Glyphosate poses an unacceptable risk to human health  Toronto, Ont./ Traditional territories of several First Nations including the Wil...

February 4, 2022

Press release

Environmental groups head to court to support challenge to Canada’s approval of harmful pesticide

Groups say glyphosate poses an unacceptable risk to human health Toronto, Ont./ Traditional territories of several First Nations includin...

December 9, 2021

Press release

Environmental groups enter legal challenge of glyphosate approval in Canada

TORONTO – Environmental groups will be heading to the Federal Court of Appeal in support of a case related to the Pest Management Regulato...

October 21, 2020

Press release

Health Canada will not investigate evidence of manipulated science in evaluation of the controversial pesticide, glyphosate

OTTAWA — Health Canada announced that it will not take further steps to address major concerns about the scientific credibility of its de...

January 11, 2019

Blog

The notorious “Monsanto papers” and their role in Canada’s approval of glyphosate

Glyphosate is one of the most common weed killers in the world. First introduced by Monsanto as the active ingredient in their herbicide, Ro...

November 12, 2018

Press release

Health Canada’s glyphosate evaluation flawed, environmental groups charge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Widespread use of glyphosate, the world’s most extensively sold pesticide, will continue in Canada despite inter...

April 28, 2017

Blog

Time to get glyphosate off our shelves and out of our fields

Glyphosate poised for re-registration despite unacceptable health and environmental risks For the last six years, Canadian regulators ha...

June 11, 2015

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