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A large tractor drives along a flat field and sprays the crops. In the background a wind turbine sits against the cloudy sky.

Chafer Sentry via CC BY 2.0

press release

Environmental groups call on the federal Minister of Agriculture to support pesticide reductions at COP15

December 12, 2022

Sustainable Agriculture strategy launch must be matched by Canadian ambition and action on pesticide reduction. 

MONTREAL/ TRADITIONAL TERRITORY OF THE MOHAWK AND HAUDENOSAUNEE PEOPLES — Canada needs to take a stand at COP15 to reduce pesticide use, urged environmental groups today, as federal Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau announced consultations on a sustainable agriculture strategy. 

Target 7, under the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework, focuses on reducing pressures on biodiversity and promoting sustainable use. Pesticide companies have lobbied nations at COP15 to remove language from Target 7 that would commit the parties to pesticide reductions.

Environmental Defence, Ecojustice, the David Suzuki Foundation and Friends of the Earth, agree Canada needs to take a stand against any industry claims denying human health concerns and species decline associated with pesticide use.

Pesticide use has experienced unmitigated growth globally, causing significant impacts on biodiversity. Sales of pesticides in Canada increased by a staggering 30 per cent in the last ten years. Pesticides, used largely in agriculture, can contaminate soil, water, and other vegetation. In addition to killing insects or weeds, pesticides pose health risks to a host of other organisms including birds, fish, beneficial insects, non-target plants, and humans. The groups say a reduction in toxic pesticide use and elimination of highly hazardous pesticides must be an outcome of COP15 negotiations. 

Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada said:

“Pesticide use is rapidly accelerating in Canada. From 2019 to 2020 alone there was an 8.4 per cent increase in pesticide use in Canada. Similar rapid expansions of pesticide use are seen globally. In order to move towards a sustainable food system in Canada and globally, one that does not harm bees, birds, butterflies nor pollutes water and soil, a targeted commitment to pesticide reduction is essential. Canada needs to eliminate excessive and unnecessary uses of pesticides and shift towards ecologically positive pest management systems and less toxic alternatives.”

Laura Bowman, lawyer, Ecojustice said:

“Pesticides are causing biodiversity loss and this problem is only worsening. Canada needs to reform the federal pesticides management system to ensure that Canada better controls the rapidly expanding use of pesticides.” 

“Clear recognition of the need for pesticide use reductions would align Canada with the approaches of other countries, including those in the EU which has legislated commitments to reduce pesticides by 50 per cent.”

Cassie Barker, Toxics Senior Program Manager, Environmental Defence said: 

“We can reduce pesticide use and enhance food security. Pesticide over-use contributes to human rights abuses against migrant workers, destroys biodiversity in forests, infringes on Indigenous rights and food sovereignty, and contributes to unsustainable food system practices such as monocropping large areas of land for animal feed. 

“Big agriculture is over-using pesticides with virtually no oversight – spraying every day instead of using pesticides judiciously to control pest outbreaks. We need to shift towards agroecological approaches to managing food that focus on efficient, stable and renewable food production.”

Jay Ritchlin, Director of Nature Programs, David Suzuki Foundation said:

“Canada’s Minister of Agriculture needs to make clear reducing overall pesticide use and risk are essential. Toxic pesticides harm human health and the environment. An explicit pesticide reduction target in the Global Biodiversity Framework and a stronger approach to regulating pesticides in Canada can rapidly and drastically reduce pesticide presence in the environment, our food and our bodies.”