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A bumblebee hangs from a flower upside down.

Photo by Ric Jackson

press release

Statement: Court decision gives pesticide industry extra time to complete its paperwork while bees and other pollinators pay the price.

February 19, 2020

TORONTO – Environmental groups renew their call for the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (the PMRA) to act swiftly to implement registration amendments to curtail the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. These are systemic pesticides, and when plants absorb them, they are expressed in their nectar, pollen and other tissues, which are then toxic to bees and other pollinators.

On behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation, Équiterre, Friends of the Earth Canada, and Wilderness Committee, lawyers from Ecojustice argued in court that the PMRA’s systemic delay in implementing restrictions on the use of Thiamethoxam – a neonicotinoid pesticide – is arbitrary and unlawful.

Unfortunately, the court found that the PMRA can delay implementing amendments to the use of this pesticide, even though there is no express authority to do so in the Pest Control Products Act. The court accepted the PMRA’s assertion that the two-year delay was science-based – although it mirrors the arbitrary timeline set out in the Agency’s Policy on Cancellations. The court did not review the scientific record.

On a positive note, the court affirmed that PMRA decisions must be science-based and acknowledged that the PMRA’s current policy on phasing out the use of pesticide products is not the only alternative.

Rob Wright, Ecojustice lawyer said:

“The court’s decision affirms that the Pest Control Products Act requires the Pest Management Regulatory Agency to prioritize the protection of Canadians and their environment from the risks associated with pesticides. However, we are disappointed that the court accepted a two-year delay in restricting the use of these pesticide products. Until the mitigation measures are implemented, bees and other pollinators will pay the price.”

Lisa Gue, senior researcher and analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation said:

“It is disappointing that the court green-lighted the PMRA’s policy of delaying pesticide cancellations, even when the risks are not acceptable. If there’s a silver lining, it is the court’s expectation that pesticide decisions must be science-based. In the case of Thiamethoxam and other neonics, there is overwhelming evidence of harm. The European Union implemented its ban on outdoor agricultural uses of the chemicals in less than a year. We see no reason why Canada continues to drag its feet.”

Charlotte Dawe, conservation and policy campaigner at Wilderness Committee said:

“Glaciers are melting faster than the time it’s taking the PMRA to phase out these damaging pesticides. The clock is ticking, we don’t have the luxury of taking two to three years changing labels if we want to recover imperiled pollinator populations. While we delay phasing out these toxic chemicals we’re pushing pollinators closer to the brink year after year. Enough stalling, it’s time to ban them.”

Nadine Bachand, project coordinator Équiterre said:

“We are very concerned by this confirmed delay in protecting our pollinators and our environment. The PMRA should listen to scientists around the world and no longer delay any restrictions on these harmful pesticides.”

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

PMRA has declined to phase down neonics used for field crops and grain, which means millions of hectares of agricultural land are contaminated every year with seeds coated with neonics. They’ve delayed the implementation for phase-down for most ornamental plants including herbs such as lavender and rosemary for two and even three years. Now the court has favoured industry interests over those of bees at risk of poisoning by agreeing with the two and even three year delay.  Why does it take two years to change labels on pesticide products when every year kills off more bees?