Each level of government (federal, provincial/territorial, municipal) within Canada has powers related to pesticide regulation. Unlike the provinces, the three territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nanuvut) have no inherent sovereignty and have only those powers delegated to them by the federal government.
While they are often reported as Cosmetic Pesticides bans, even when most synthetic pesticides are ‘banned’, the legal instruments (statutes, regulations and bylaws) are not true bans because they permit the use of cosmetic pesticides for a number of exceptions.
The federal government, through Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) administers the Pest Control Products Act 2002 (PCP Act) which assesses and registers all pesticides and decides whether and how they can be used. However, Health Canada is advised on pest management programs, and product registration by a volunteer Pest Management Advisory Council which includes the leader of Canada’s “plant science” and traditional chemical pesticide industry, CropLife Canada. The Canadian Environmental Law Association reports that when an OECD country bans a pesticide for human health or environmental reasons, subsection 17(2) of the Act requires the Minister to automatically review all registered products containing that pesticide to determine if changes to the Canadian registration are needed. To date, this important mechanism has been largely ignored by the Minister. Indeed, subsection 17(2) of the Act has only been implemented on one occasion, after public interest organizations filed a lawsuit to compel the government to initiate a special review of 23 pesticides banned in the EU.
While Health Canada officially disagreed with the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s determination on glyphosate, in partnership with the US EPA, it recently announced it will update Roundup’s label directions to reduce human and environmental exposure.
Changes to Roundup’s label will include:
- A statement that application should only be done when the potential for drift to residential or populated areas is minimal
- Agricultural workers will be advised not to enter fields for 12 hours following application
- An environmental hazard statement will inform users that the product can be toxic to non-targeted species
- Spray buffer zones will be recommended to protect land and aquatic habitats from unintended exposure
- Precautionary statements to reduce the potential for run-off of glyphosate into aquatic habitats
The Federal legislation is generally far weaker than that of provinces and municipalities. Nine (of ten) provinces have some restrictions on at least some cosmetic pesticides in place because of concerns about risk to human health and the environment, in many cases despite their approval by Health Canada (Federal Govt.). In their review, ‘Cosmetic Pesticides – Provincial Policies & Municipal Bylaws: Lessons Learned and Best Practices’, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment outlines very serious failings by PMRA in the registration process.
These include a number of scientific concerns with the federal pesticides approvals process. ‘For example, the process relies heavily on animal studies conducted by manufacturers that do not always reflect the impacts that can occur among humans. The tests are conducted on active ingredients in a pesticide product in isolation from other chemicals in the product so they do not reflect the impacts of all of the chemical ingredients combined. The tests do not address the cumulative effects that can occur as a result of multiple exposures from many different sources at different stages in life. Nor do they capture endocrine disruptors that can produce adverse health effects by disrupting the hormone systems that regulate growth and development.’
In 2010 PMRA banned the use of pesticide-fertiliser products (weed n’ feed) but not their chemical ingredients. Products containing 2,4-D in the absence of fertiliser are still permitted.
Note that glyphosate is not necessarily included in restricted pesticides in provinces or municipalities.