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press release

Groups going to court to stop continued use of dangerous pesticide

June 14, 2021

Chlorpyrifos should be banned immediately 

OTTAWA/TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE ALGONQUIN ANISHNAABEG PEOPLE – Ecojustice, on behalf of Safe Food Matters and Prevent Cancer Now, has launched a judicial review of Health Canada’s decision to allow a three-year phase-out of the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos, following its announcement on May 13, 2021 that chlorpyrifos’ use and products are cancelled.  

Chlorpyrifos is a dangerous pesticide that has been demonstrated to be a risk to human health and is notorious for its potential to cause brain damage in children. It has been banned in Europe, and the US EPA is expected to propose a phase-out by the end of June.

Yet, Health Canada is allowing the continued sale of chlorpyrifos for two more years, and is allowing the agricultural and pest control industries to use this dangerous chemical until December 2023. 

Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has been re-evaluating the use of chlorpyrifos since 1999 and has already restricted its use in certain circumstances due to the dangers it poses to human health. 

The groups argue that when cancelling the pesticide, the PMRA failed to consider its threat to human health when it allowed such a lengthy phase-out. 

Health Canada is aware of international evidence and expert consensus that chlorpyrifos is likely harmful, acknowledged even by the United States. It provided no justification for endangering the health of Canadians and the environment by allowing the use of this toxic chemical for three more years. 

Daniel Cheater, Ecojustice lawyer said:

“Ecojustice, on behalf of our clients, is asking the federal court to find the three-year phase-out of chlorpyrifos unlawful. The sale and use of this pesticide must be banned as soon as possible. 

“This case can set a precedent by setting a clear threshold for what the PMRA considers an ‘acceptable risk’ when making decisions about the regulation and cancellation of pesticides.”

Safe Food Matters President, Mary Lou McDonald, remarked:

“The Pest Management Regulatory Agency has known for well over a decade, or should have known, about the neurotoxic effects on infants and children, yet has done nothing for two reasons. The PMRA follows what the US EPA does. The EPA was delayed by Trump, and the PMRA’s decision-making was delayed. The PMRA is also beholden to and relies on industry science, without conducting systematic reviews of published scientific literature. 

“It’s time Health Canada and the federal government step up to bring scientific integrity and resources to the PMRA so it can actually do its job properly and protect Canadians from the harms of pesticides.” 

Prevent Cancer Now Chair, Meg Sears stated, 

“Chlorpyrifos has been a high-volume chemical and is the last of many insecticides from WWII nerve agents. For decades it was known to harm the nervous system. 21st century research confirms genetic damage and that lower doses may interfere with reproduction and development.

“Health Canada relies on industry supplied data and has yet to respond to the clarion calls of scientists to eliminate toxic exposures. Environmental and human health will only be protected when regulatory approaches to human health are evidence-based and eliminate the use of toxic pesticides. The PMRA requires the direction and wherewithal to follow and use all of the science.”


Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.

Safe Food Matters Inc. is a Canadian non-profit corporation, engaged in policy issues on pesticides and crop production technologies that harm Canadians and the environment.  It is the only group taking Health Canada to Court over the continued registration of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, and would like to see improvements in the risk assessment process used by Health Canada.

Prevent Cancer Now is a Canadian science-based non-profit group that aims to stop cancer before it starts, including by eliminating adverse exposures that contribute to development of cancer. Prevent Cancer Now advocates for stronger science for regulation, legal reform, and use of least-toxic approaches, including for pest control.