Feds shielding from review products toxic to bees

OTTAWA and MONTREAL – The federal government is unlawfully shielding from review pest control products containing a pesticide banned in Norway, environmental groups said today. The government cancelled plans to carry out a mandatory special review of products containing the pesticide difenoconazole after Syngenta, the company that manufacturers these products, asked the Pest Management Regulatory Agency to terminate the review. A fungicide, difenoconazole is used in several neonicotinoid products that are toxic to bees.

“When a pesticide used to grow food is deemed harmful enough to be banned in another country, how can Canada still approve it for use within our borders?” asked Sidney Ribaux of Équiterre. “Canadians expect our government to step up and protect its citizens and the environment from dangerous substances like difenoconazole.”

Under the Pest Control Products Act, when another Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member country bans an active pesticide ingredient for health or environmental reasons, the Minister of Health is required to initiate a special review of all registered pest control products containing that active ingredient. The Minister must then examine the reasons for the ban and decide whether to continue approving the products for use in Canada.

Last year, in response to a lawsuit filed by Ecojustice lawyers on behalf of Équiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation, the federal government agreed to review the approval of 383 pesticide products containing 23 active ingredients — including difenoconazole — already banned for use in European countries. Many of them have links to cancer and water contamination.

The federal government has since decided that it will not review registered pest control products containing difenoconazole, although it has been prohibited for all uses in Norway since 1998 due to its persistence in soil and water and toxic effects on aquatic organisms. The groups assert this decision is unlawful.

“Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency refuses to move forward with this mandatory review, and as a result we are reactivating our lawsuit,” said Lara Tessaro, Ecojustice staff lawyer. “At a time where public concern for pollinator health is at an all-time high, the agency appears to be unlawfully shielding from review toxic pesticide products that are harmful to bees.”

“The regulation of pesticides in Canada should be on par with leading international standards,” said Lisa Gue, senior researcher and analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation. “The health of Canadians and our environment should be the government’s top priority.”