14 Jan 2019
Health Canada rejects bid for an independent review of Roundup
There is something wrong with Canada’s regulation of pesticides.
A year and a half ago Friends of the Earth filed what’s called a Notice of Objection questioning Health Canada decision to re-register glyphosate for 15 years – glyphosate is a key component of Monsanto’s herbicide RoundUp. As usual Health Canada investigated itself, concluded it was right and dismissed our objection. This is how it always goes. Every time Friends of the Earth and other organizations have filed objections Health Canada has refused to establish an independent review. The only difference in this case was the speed of the response. Our neonicotinoid objections took three years to be rejected. Glyphosate only took a year and a half.
As our Notice of Objection pointed out there are growing concerns about Roundup especially how Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) has attempted to manipulate the registration process in both Canada and the United States. A U.S. Jury awarded over $200 million to a Dwayne Johnston who contracted cancer after being exposed to Roundup in the course of his work.
In June 2015, the International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization determined that Glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans. This designation, also known as Group 2A carcinogen, is the second highest carcinogenic rating just below designating a substance as a known human carcinogen. Given these developments you’d expect a significant rethinking by Health Canada. Instead it went into industry reassurance mode. After all, Health Canada would have to admit it made a mistake if Roundup were found to cause cancer.
The pesticide regulations entitle us to file an objection to a decision by Health Canada’s Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency. It’s a process designed to ensure the public is protected. However the government has let us down by not ensuring “Objections” get a fair hearing. A successful “Objection” only results in the establishment of independent review. But that happens only if the PMRA decides it is necessary. So when we file an objection to a PMRA decision and ask for an independent review, the PMRA reviews its own decision and concludes it was right. We don’t have any means to question Big Brother. This is the problem that plagued police forces for years and lead to the establishment of independent complaint bureaus.
It is important to note what happened with bee killing neonicotinoid pesticides. The Notices of Objections filed against the registration of clothianidin were studied by the PMRA for three years and rejected. A year later the same PMRA proposed banning them after studying water-based residue that affects aquatic insects.
A government agency no matter how honest, good intentioned and professional cannot investigate itself. Justice requires independent review. As long as this internal review process continues, Health Canada and its Pest Management Regulatory Agency will continue to lose credibility and, with it, the trust of Canadians.