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Équiterre calls on Quebec to ban the most hazardous pesticide used in the province

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Montreal, September 11, 2015 – Équiterre launched a petition today calling on the government of Quebec to ban the sale and use of atrazine, a synthetic herbicide that is among the most widely used pesticides in Quebec and which has a range of impacts on living organisms. According to the latest report on pesticide sales in Quebec (2012), atrazine is the pesticide that contributes the most to the risks to the environment (15.9%) and human health (13.6%). Because of its potential for groundwater contamination, this herbicide, used mainly for weed control in corn farming, has been banned in the European Union since 2004.

Of the 460,000 hectares of corn grown in Quebec in 2012, roughly 130,000 hectares were sprayed with atrazine. According to the latest water monitoring report for Quebec’s agricultural regions, published by the ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, atrazine is one of the pesticides most frequently detected in surface waters in Quebec, found in 98% of samples.

The herbicide has a range of impacts on living organisms. “Atrazine is recognized as an endocrine disruptor, which means that it can have an effect on the hormonal balance of an organism, therefore potentially affecting its growth, development and reproduction, for example. In particular, it causes tail malformations in tadpoles and delays their development, and can turn male frogs into females. For example, a 2010 study by a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, found that after exposure to atrazine, 10% of adult male frogs displayed female sexual characteristics and 75% became sterile. This is very worrying,” says Monique Boily, adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Although little epidemiological data exists regarding the effects of atrazine on human reproduction and development, there are suspected links between exposure to atrazine and intrauterine growth restriction, premature birth, birth defects and decreased sperm quality. In addition, children are more vulnerable to atrazine exposure, due to the role that the endocrine system plays in their development.

“If a country considers a pesticide too harmful to be used for producing food, how can the same product be less harmful here?” asks Sidney Ribaux, executive director of Équiterre. “The government of Quebec has a duty to protect public health and should ban this hazardous herbicide without further delay,” he says.

Members of the public are invited to sign the petition here :

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For more information:

Nadine Bachand
Project Manager – Collective Choices, Agriculture and Pesticides
(514) 213-3287 /