OTTAWA — Health Canada announced that it will not take further steps to address major concerns about the scientific credibility of its decision to maintain the registration of glyphosate for another 15 years. Environmental and health groups are disappointed by Ottawa’s decision not to strike an independent review of its evaluation of this herbicide, despite concerning evidence that industry-manipulated science features in the assessment.
“We maintain that the scientific process at Health Canada appears to have been compromised by manipulated data and flawed analyses. Today’s decision continues to entrench glyphosate-based agriculture in Canada at the expense of our health and the environment. Meanwhile, other countries like France are implementing plans to phase out glyphosate and encouraging healthier, more sustainable food production,” said Annie Bérubé, Director of Government Relations at Équiterre.
Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in Canada and worldwide. It is sprayed on major staple food crops including corn, soy, canola, wheat, oats and barley. Glyphosate is found in our waterways, drinking water, and about one third of our food products.
In 2015, the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency panel of independent scientists classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen”. In 2018, a California court found that Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) glyphosate-based pesticides contributed to an American citizen’s cancer, and that Monsanto knowingly covered up the risks. Over nine thousand court cases have been brought forward by cancer patients in the U.S.
In April 2017, after concluding a 7 year evaluation of risks, Health Canada re-approved glyphosate for continued use in Canada with minor risk mitigation strategies. In July 2017, Équiterre, David Suzuki Foundation, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Prevent Cancer Now and Environmental Defence objected to this decision under the Canadian pesticide law, demonstrating that the evaluation dismissed or did not consider scientific evidence of risks to health and the environment. The groups requested that the Minister of Health establish an independent expert review of the decision as is allowed under the legislation.
In 2018, Ecojustice legal counsel and scientists conducted a review of the materials contained in what’s known as the “Monsanto Papers,” internal documents that show Monsanto knowingly manipulated scientific papers without disclosing their involvement. “Our review, which we shared with Health Canada, showed that the PMRA relied on science that has been implicated in alleged misconduct by Monsanto,” said Dr. Elaine MacDonald, Healthy Communities director at Ecojustice. “We are very disappointed Health Minister Petitpas Taylor is ignoring the potential impacts glyphosate could have on human health and the environment by relying on tainted science.”
“The only way that Canadians can rest assured that they are protected from the risks of pesticides such as glyphosate is to see evidence that their government is making decisions based on complete, credible, independent science. Health Canada’s cancer risk assessment gave weight to studies that were edited or changed by Monsanto, a company that has a vested interest in keeping glyphosate on the market. This should constitute one of the strongest reasons for an independent review,” said Elaine MacDonald, Director of Healthy Communities at Ecojustice.
 This decision continues to be appealed by Monsanto Company.