We’re fending off a second attempt to shut down our lawsuit against pollinator-killing pesticides

Today, we’re back in court to fend off a second attempt by industry and government to shut down our clients’ case against the continued registration of bee-killing pesticides without the scientific studies required to assess their risks to pollinators.

Meanwhile, the science on neonicotinoids (neonics) and pollinators only becomes clearer — the widespread use of these pesticides is exposing bees and other pollinators around the world to dangerous levels of toxic contamination, killing bees and collapsing their colonies. Sadly, it has become harder for pollinator species to do the awe-inspiring work of pollinating our food and flowering plants.

But here’s the trouble — as we’ve seen over the past few months, government and industry do not want this case to get a hearing, where a judge can decide whether the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s (PMRA) ‘approve first, study the science later’ approach is legal.

We first filed this lawsuit on behalf of Friends of the Earth Canada, David Suzuki Foundation, Wilderness Committee, and Ontario Nature, in July 2016. Our case argues that the PMRA’s approach doesn’t comply with its own legislation, the Pest Control Products Act —a law that seeks to protect people and the environment from the risks posed by pesticides.  

Since then, we’ve been fighting hard to make sure this case goes to a hearing.

Bees and pollinators are fascinating creatures that are critical to the survival of our ecosystems. They pollinate 90 per cent of our wild plants, and 30 per cent of the world’s crops. Without them, much of this plant life would die off.

Neonicotinoids interfere with a bee’s central nervous system. When bees come into acute contact with high levels of the insecticide, the consequence can be death. But often the more pernicious effects of neonicotinoids come from chronic, low level exposures to neonicotinoids in the nectar and pollen of treated plants, or in the vegetation and waterways surrounding fields where neonics are used. The troubling science shows that chronic exposure to neonics can harm bees and bee colonies by impairing their ability to forage, fly, reproduce, and keep their colonies clean.

The world’s largest study on neonics, published in a June issue of Science, showed widespread evidence of population decline and shortened lifespans in domesticated and wild bees populations exposed to neonics. A separate study, conducted in Canada and published in the same journal, discovered that prolonged exposure to neonicotinoids affects honey-bee health in corn-growing regions. In September, the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides previewed its updated survey findings that neonics represent a “major worldwide threat to biodiversity and ecosystems.” Finally, in October a novel study showed that honey samples from across the world are contaminated with ecologically concerning levels of neonics, and contamination is highest in North America.

In July, my colleague Julia Croome and I went to bat against nine lawyers from the Government of Canada and several multinational pesticide companies. The result? The judge determined that the case deserves to be heard so the court can determine whether the PMRA’s continued approval of neonicotinoid pesticides is legal.

Today, we’re up against a second attempt to shut down this case, but we’re optimistic that the law is on our side.

Decision-makers in the European Union, France, and Ontario have already opted to heavily restrict neonicotinoid use. Rather than follow these precautionary examples Canada has taken years to study the problem and allowed for even more widespread use of neonics, letting the market become dependent on these risky pesticides

This case is an example of the great endurance litigation demands. Thanks to your support, we’ve not only been able to launch this lawsuit, but we’ve been able to successfully resist repeated attempts to block our clients – and pollinator species – from getting their day in court. Thank you!

When our lawsuit it is finally heard, it could set an important precedent that would force Canada to take a more precautionary and science-driven approach to pesticide regulation.

This won’t be the last time we stand before a judge to fight for pollinator species and our environment, so stay tuned.  We’ll keep fighting, thanks to you.

P.S. Did you know? Ecojustice represents Friends of the Earth Canada, David Suzuki Foundation, Wilderness Committee, Ontario Nature, and every one of our clients free of charge. When you donate to Ecojustice, you aren’t just supporting a single organization, you’re helping strengthen an entire movement.