Introduced in April 2003, the Quebec Pesticides Management Code addressed the use and sale of lawn pesticides. The regulation targeted 20 active ingredients that were classified as carcinogens at that time (including probable and possible carcinogens) by at least one of the following specified reference agencies: the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Toxicology Program, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union. These 20 active ingredients regulated are found in approximately 200 lawn pesticides, which are now banned. Herbicides banned included Chlorthal dimethyl, and all chemical forms of 2,4-D, MCPA, and Mecoprop.
Implementation of the Code was phased in over three years. The ban on the use of pesticides on public and municipal lawns came into effect first, in April 2003. Next, the sales ban on domestic-use pesticide-fertilizer mixtures and pesticide combination products (e.g., herbicide-insecticide mixtures) took effect in April 2004. Retail display restrictions prohibiting self-service customer access to domestic pesticides containing the banned active ingredients have been in force since April 2005. Finally, the sale of all domestic pesticides containing the banned active ingredients and the use of these products on private and commercial lawns were banned in April 2006. Golf courses are not subject the Code but, from 2006, were required to submit pesticide-use reduction plans every three years.
The Code further restricted pesticide use inside and outside places frequented by children, such as early childhood centres, day-care centres, child drop-in centres, kindergartens and family-run child-care facilities, as well as preschools, elementary schools and high schools. Only bio-pesticides or 14 active ingredients considered least likely to have any toxic effects can be applied inside or outside these establishments. This list was developed based on parallel requirements in the U.S. School Environmental Protection Act.
Dow AgroSciences, under the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), brought a suit against Quebec (Beyond Pesticides, June 1, 2011) challenging the ban on their product (2,4-D) and seeking $2 million compensation. Environmentalists suspect that Dow intended to dissuade other provinces from following Quebec’s lead and banning the cosmetic use of pesticides like 2,4-D. Dow dropped the claim without compensation or changes to Quebec’s ban in the settlement which was reached on May 25, 2011. The settlement reinforced the right of municipalities and provinces to ban pesticides.
In 2015 a study which was used to develop the Quebec Pesticide Strategy 2015-2018 found that 10% of pesticides sold in Quebec are used in urban environments, especially for lawn and green space maintenance. The ban on pesticides for lawn maintenance in 2003 led to an overall drop in herbicides used in that environment. Synthetic herbicide use declined, with residents turning more to bio-pesticides, less dangerous to health and the environment. The requirement that golf course owners produce pesticide reduction plans also reduced per-hectare quantities of pesticides used on golf courses by 15% between 2003 and 2011.
The new strategy plans to go further to protect public health. Objectives include strengthening compliance with pesticide laws, raising applicator certification requirements, increasing buffer zones, and tripling the number of pesticides banned for use in urban areas from 20 to 60. Owners of golf courses who use the greatest amounts of pesticides are required to reduce their use of highest-risk pesticides by 25%. The new plan also contains far-reaching measures to protect bees through banning the use of all neonicotinoids on lawns and flower beds for aesthetic purposes. However, their use in agriculture remains a problem.
It is also worth noting that herbicides have not been used in forestry on public lands in Québec since 2001. Their use on private lands continues, but the Québec government no longer gives any subsidies to private lots that use herbicides.
There are few studies examining the health risks of GMOs but there are many studies about negative effects associated with pesticides use, particularly glyphosate. The safety of GMOs has not been demonstrated and there is an increasing recognition of their potential risks, particularly because of GMO resistance to pesticides. The Demand Labelling Campaign in Quebec points out that because of its use on GMO crops, it is the highest selling pesticide in Québec. Glyphosate sales increased from 71% between 2006 and 2011 in spite of the Quebec government’s intent to reduce pesticides use. They demand the right to know what they are eating.
Municipalities must adhere to the Pesticides Management Code but may also adopt more stringent restrictions on pesticide use.
Glyphosate has not been banned.