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Why do our governments authorize dangerous pesticides?

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When I was a child, doctors used to smoke in hospitals—in front of patients! And my friends used to smoke in lectures at university! Tobacco companies have known for a long time that cigarettes are bad for our health, but they funded studies saying the opposite and discredited independent studies that suggested tobacco was a concern. And our governments trusted their bogus studies.

Today, few doctors or researchers will tell you that tobacco is harmless.


When it comes to pesticides, recent reports by Radio-Canada and Le Devoir show that we still have a lot of work to do.

Some researchers say that pesticides developed specifically to kill insects, weeds and fungi pose no risk to human health or non-target species, including useful insects like bees, birds and frogs. Those researchers are generally supported by pesticide manufacturers and distributors.

The federal agency that approves pesticides in Canada recently admitted to a journalist that it primarily uses industry studies to determine product safety and efficacy.

Recent investigations by journalists Thomas Gerbet for Radio-Canada and Sarah Champagne for Le Devoir show that the public funding granted to some independent researchers of the Centre de recherche sur les grains, a grain research centre, is controlled by industry and powerful farming lobby groups.

In a recent open letter, researchers made a heartfelt plea for research funding in this field to be increased and to be granted to industry-independent research centres.

As Quebec has just restricted the sale of five of the most dangerous pesticides and Ottawa is considering stricter regulations for the use of neonicotinoids, or bee-killing pesticides, this would be a good time to rethink research funding in this area.

Industry-funded research should not be our only source of information, and agronomic advice given to farmers should be independent, too. In the last few days, journalists have once again revealed that this is not the case. The government should make sure it is, either by funding independent agronomists, as suggested by the Union des producteurs agricoles [farmers’ union], or by hiring its own agronomists, as suggested by the Syndicat de la fonction publique [public service union].

Pesticides are a serious threat to the health of pregnant women, children, farmers and their families—and all Canadians. I’m willing to bet that in 20 years, we’ll realize that they’re as big a threat as tobacco.

And yet there are alternatives to using most pesticides, which are often less expensive than synthetic pesticides and still protect farmers’ yields!

Governments started acting to reduce smoking when they stopped believing biased industry studies.

When will our governments act to eliminate pesticides?