Media Release

Cosmetic Pesticide Bans Unaffected by DOW-Quebec Deal

May 30 2011

Toronto – The legal challenge by DOW Chemical of Quebec’s ban on the pesticide 2,4-D came to an end last week. In a deal that saves face for the DOW Chemical company the ability in Canada to ban the unnecessary use of pesticides is unaffected.

After reviewing the decision, CELA Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan noted that “the Quebec government simply brought the language of their ban more in line with the federal statute by no longer describing 2,4-D as a “dangerous” product. But nor did they call the controversial pesticide safe.”

Pesticides approved for use in Canada cannot be described as “safe” but rather their use is deemed acceptable when label directions are followed. “The label is a regulatory instrument in Canada basically like a permit in other environmental emission contexts. It includes protective measures and warnings. Allowable concentrations and allowable uses are described according to federal regulation,” Ms McClenaghan said.

Describing a pesticide as "acceptable” means that it works to kill, maim, or disable reproduction, or otherwise be harmful to some living thing considered a pest and is not disallowed based on a risk assessment. "The determination of acceptable risk, via risk assessment is in no way an entirely scientific exercise. Gaps in the scientific information are filled with “expert judgment,” which is essentially for informed guesswork,” McClenaghan added.

“The Quebec government has given nothing away legally with this agreement and existing or future municipal or provincial pesticide bans are unaffected,” stated Ms McClenaghan. Rather, the statement by Quebec saves face for Dow and supports the view that Dow would not have won this case. “When this NAFTA challenge was launched, it appeared to be an advocacy device by Dow to try to scare off Ontario and other provinces from cosmetic pesticide bans. The small amount of money claimed by Dow supported that view.

“I am extremely happy no money was paid in this settlement, not even a token amount, and the Supreme Court decision on the Hudson bylaw and all municipal and provincial bans are still on firm legal footing,” stated McClenaghan.

For more information:
Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director 416-960-2284 ext 219 theresa@cela.ca