Montreal, November 22, 2015 – Équiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation welcome the Quebec government’s decision to regulate the use of the most hazardous pesticides, including atrazine and neonicotinoids. The Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change, Mr. David Heurtel, announced today at a press conference that he will introduce legislation this winter to amend the Pesticides Act, essentially spelling the end for pesticides that pose the greatest risk to human health and the environment. From now on, these pesticides will need to be prescribed by an agronomist, who must provide a rationale for their use. In addition, the number of pesticides banned for use in urban areas will increase from 20 to 60.
After years of work on this file, the minister’s announcement represents a major victory for environmental groups. “We are very pleased that Quebec has committed to significantly reducing the use of pesticides that pose the greatest risks to Quebecers’ health and their environment, including the health of farmers, who are of greatest concern since they are in closer contact with pesticides than the general public. Quebec has shown itself to be a pioneer on this issue, because it is the first jurisdiction in North America to restrict the use of atrazine,” says Sidney Ribaux, executive director of Équiterre.
Some of these pesticides are subject to stringent regulations in other parts of the world and other provinces. Atrazine has been banned in the European Union since 2004, and Ontario government passed legislation this year to reduce the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated seeds by 80% by 2017.
“We have the right to live in a healthy environment. Many of the pesticides that are regulated in Quebec are suspected of having troubling impacts on human health and the environment. This is the case with atrazine, whose impacts on amphibians are well documented. There are also suspected links between exposure to atrazine and intrauterine growth restriction,” says Karel Mayrand, director general for Quebec with the David Suzuki Foundation. Mr. Mayrand also points out that “neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides now recognised as one of the causes of the decline of bee colonies, may also affect the human brain and nervous system.”
According to Équiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation, Quebec’s approach paves the way for legislation on other hazardous pesticides such as glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified in March 2015 as probably carcinogenic to humans. The presence and concentrations of glyphosate in Quebec’s rivers in farming regions have increased in recent years, a phenomenon linked to the spread of genetically modified crops that are resistant to Roundup.
Quebec is also following the lead of Ontario and Nova Scotia, which have banned the use of all synthetic pesticides for esthetic purposes, by increasing the number of active ingredients prohibited in the province from 20 to 60. Équiterre and the Foundation have campaigned for many years to bring about this change. The situation to date was absurd: pesticides that were banned from being used in cities like Montreal were nonetheless approved for sale in these same areas by the provincial government! Updating Quebec’s Pesticides Management Code will uphold the precautionary principle advocated by our neighbors by banning almost all synthetic pesticides for domestic use.
The two environmental groups also welcomed the government’s plan to tax pesticides according to their level of toxicity. “Just as we did for tobacco, alcohol and gasoline, we have to send a price signal if we want to reduce pesticide use; since the level of taxation will depend on the level of toxicity, farmers will receive an indication that will help them make a choice,” says Sidney Ribaux, who also made this recommendation to the government recently.
The organisations will be watching to see how the new strategy is rolled out and will call for the introduction of agri-environmental best practices (farming methods, etc.) that make the use of pesticides a last resort. They will also recommend that support be given to farmers who wish to switch to organic practices and those who simply want to use fewer pesticides, particularly through better farming practices.
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For more information:
Project Manager – Collective Choices, Agriculture and Pesticides
(514) 213-3287 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Manon Dubois, Communications Director (Quebec)
David Suzuki Foundation
(514) 679-0821 / mdubois@davidsuzuki