PLANET IN PERIL (PinP) "where science gets respect!" Amid yet another humanitarian crisis, UNICEF supplies vaccines for a massive cholera vaccination campaign targeting Rohingya refugees. Photo: UNICEF/Roger LeMoyne
Friday, 11 November 2016
This Story Will Make You Angry
This is a story of an arrogant government agency more dedicated to helping pesticide manufacturers to profit than doing its job to protect human health and the environment.
It’s a story that will make you angry.
It proves beyond a doubt that pesticide management in Canada must be fixed.
Here’s our story. It starts three years ago.
Back in 2013, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) was faced with the evidence of catastrophic bee kills by neonicotinoids used to coat corn and soy seeds. Honey beekeepers were finding millions of dead and dying bees during spring planting. No one knows how many millions of wild bees were also killed on contact since no one was counting wild bees.
The European Union had just decided to ban the use of three neonicotinoids until more research has done on their impact on bees - thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid.
Faced with millions of dead bees and the important precautionary steps by the European Union, PMRA announced it was launching a three-year review of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides.
“Right on!” we said.
But then the PMRA broke our hearts by quietly re-registering clothianidin in July 2013. How can you be concerned enough to review a pesticide and re-register it “conditionally” at the same time? How is that reasonable?
So Friends of the Earth followed the rules and filed a Notice of Objection in September 2013. We were clear that this product should be taken off the market until the review was done.
So we filed. Nothing was heard for 6 months when we received a letter saying our objection had enough science to be considered. The two more months passed and the PMRA said it would get back to us in the fall of 2014.
We had reasonable expectations based on what the Pest Control Products Act says – that the Health Minister may establish a panel to review a decision in response to an objection if there is evidence of "scientifically founded doubt."
But when you and I question the PMRA, it takes over 1000 days.
As if that’s not bad enough, PMRA told us in July that rather than follow the rules and establish a “review panel” of independent scientists it had conducted its own preliminary review in secret and determined no action was required.
The PMRA investigated its own decision to re-register clothianidin, denied public participation and disallowed our objection. PMRA said it contacted independent scientists but didn’t disclose who or what the scientists had to say. Critically, we were denied an opportunity to testify!
We don’t let the police investigate themselves anymore but apparently it’s alright to have pesticide regulators investigate themselves and their decision to allow inadequately tested bee-killing pesticides to be spread on millions of acres!
Where is the justice? Why would you and I trust these regulators?
“Canadians need to have faith in their government’s honesty and willingness to listen. I expect that our work will be informed by performance measurement, evidence, and feedback from Canadians,” said Prime Minister Trudeau in his mandate letter to Health Minister Philpott.
Yet, her Pest Management Regulatory Agency continues to behave in the same arrogant anti-democratic manner it did under the Harper Government.
It gets worse. Next month, the PMRA is about to release the results of their in-house review with US EPA of the three neonics: thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid.
We made progress this year. Getting rid of “conditional registrations” of pesticides was a great victory, but the arrogance of the PMRA demonstrates we have a lot more work to do. Our Bee Cause Campaign relies entirely on your individual donation. So please make your contribution today.
Friends of the Earth Canada
Senior Policy Advisor
Friends of the Earth Canada