Chemical/ Input: GLYPHOSATE
Glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in the world, by far. It is sprayed on lawns, growing crops, fields, and roadsides, and also on Canadian forests. It works by killing good bacteria (which allows pathogens to take over), and also by binding minerals so they can’t do their job. Glyphosate is now found everywhere: in our urine, mother’s breast milk and placenta, and in all areas of the environment, including drinking water and in forests far away from agricultural spray zones.
The problem with this is glyphosate is harmful. It is toxic to freshwater and land plants, freshwater algae and marine/estuarine invertebrates and marine fish. [It also probably causes cancer in humans, according to the specialized International Agency for Research on Cancer. The cancer risk is underlined by the 2020 ATSDR Toxicological Profile on glyphosate of the US Department of Health, which found positive associations for lymphohematopoietic cancers.]
A reassessment of glyphosate is needed to get it off of our shelves, out of our environment and out of our food.
Safe Food Matters’ work targets the regulatory process surrounding the approval of glyphosate. We objected to the 15+ year Canadian re-registration of glyphosate, went to Court to get Health Canada to properly respond to our objections, and won! Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) was directed by the Court to follow its Guidance and reconsider the objections. PMRA did reconsider them, and rejected them again on September 29, 2022. In our view PMRA did not follow the Guidance of the Court, made an unreasonable decision, went against the purposes of the Act, and created a new legal test that cannot be satisfied. On October 31, 2022, we sued them again on these grounds, and in January, 2023 we put the concept of “regulatory capture” before the Court in an Amended Notice of Application. See Filings.
On January 20 2023 we also sued PMRA for allowing a glyphosate product to be renewed without considering the risks posed by more recent science. Ecojustice is our counsel for this “Product Renewal Case”, and we are co-applicants with David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence Canada Inc. and Friends of the Earth Canada. See this Press Release for more detail.
We also campaigned against a three and four fold increase of the Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) of glyphosate allowed in certain foods. The increase was put on hold, and PMRA embarked on a “Transformation Agenda” to transform certain aspects of its approach to pesticides. We are watching the MRLs, and participating in the Transformation Agenda consultations. On January 23, 2023 we joined other groups in issuing a letter expressing our concerns to the Minister of Health.
See below for more detail on our glyphosate work.
I First NoO Court Cases: 2019-2022: Background, Federal Court and FCA win
SFM filed a notice of objection (NoO) to the 2017 registration of glyphosate, and asked for a review panel, PMRA dismissed the NoO, and SFM sued in 2019 and in 2022 prevailed in the Federal Court of Appeal. The Court ordered PMRA to look at the NoO again and respond in a way that shows it is working to protect Canadians and the environment.
SFM expects that if it prevails, an independent scientific review panel will be established to review the registration of glyphosate. This would be the first such panel on glyphosate in Canada, and it will be a public proceeding at which the public can make representations.
Below is a detailed summary of the history of the file. Other summaries and announcements can be found here:
– Early summary: Summary of Health Canada Court Case: Glyphosate (2019-07-30)
History of the First NoO Court Case File
PMRA 2017 Reregistration
Since Glyphosate was registered for use prior to 1995, a review of its registration was to be initiated by April 1, 2005 (s. 16 Pest Control Products Act). The reviewing agency was PMRA.
The preliminary review took 10 years: it finished in 2015. It went final in 2017. By this time Glyphosate had been on the market for almost 40 years.
PMRA decided to allow Glyphosate products to stay registered in Canada until the next review in fifteen plus years. The Proposed Re-evaluation Decision (PRVD 2015-01), and the Re-evaluation Decision (RVD2017-01) both held that the PMRA’s evaluation of Glyphosate products indicated that they do not present risks of concern to human health or the environment when used according to label directions.
2017 Notices of Objection are Filed
Safe Food Matters and 7 other objectors were given 60 days to file Notices of Objection (NoO) to the registration decision, and they did. At the end of June, 2017 they filed their NoOs and asked the Minister of Health to establish an independent panel of persons to review the reregistration decision.
The NoOs presented scientific rationale and evidence to support their objections that the PRVD2015-01 evaluation of the health and environmental risks of Glyphosate was not valid.
2019 NoOs are Rejected
PMRA took 3,883 hours to review the NoOs, and took a year and a half to provide a response. The objectors wrote to PMRA in December, 2018. On January 11, 2019 PMRA finally responded. It rejected the request for a review panel.
In its response, PMRA presented a form letter to each objector, indicating that the objections did not “raise scientifically founded doubt about the validity of [PMRA’s] evaluation of the health and environmental risks of Glyphosate.” It then attached an appendix to each letter in which PMRA countered or ignored the science and arguments raised. The response to SFM’s objection is here: [Insert]. 20190117 PMRA Response to Notice of Objection
PMRA has not provided information to the objectors concerning the qualifications it required for the reviewing scientists.
2019/20 Federal Court
Safe Food Matters and its president Mary Lou McDonald in February 2019 filed for the Federal Court to review PMRAs rejection of its NoO on the basis that the rejection was unreasonable. Here is the media release on filing: Going to Court! (2019-02-12)
They claim PMRA made many mistakes:
- It did not examine preharvest use (desiccation) of glyphosate and the risk of increased levels of Glyphosate in food that this use causes;
- It ignored evidence of markedly increased consumption of foods sprayed pre-harvest (like chickpeas);
- It used outdated dietary exposure models and old information on diet from the 1990s and from the US;
- It ignored the fact that labels on spray containers can’t work for all crops, including indeterminate crops that are always growing new seeds/ beans and therefore always attracting glyphosate;
- It ignored the evidence that the labels aren’t followed anyways (as shown by the PMRA’s own statistics); and
- It reduced the safety factor imposed by law for spraying Glyphosate around children. without the required scientific rationale.
On January 30, 2020 the case was heard. See: Federal Court Follow-Up (202-01-31). On February 13, 2020 the Federal Court Judge held, in written reasons, that the NoO did not show a scientifically founded doubt about the validity of the evaluations, and that the case be dismissed. See: Federal Court Releases Its Decision (2020-02-14)
2020/21/22 Federal Court of Appeal
On March 13, 2020, Safe Food Matters filed for appeal of the decision of the Federal Court Judge. It argued that the Judge erred in her approach of her review of the PMRAs decision to reject the NoO and that PMRA’s rejection decision was unreasonable. See: Safe Food Matters Appeals Decision (2020-03-21)
On October 7, 2020, Canadian environmental groups Friends of the Earth, Environmental Defence and David Suzuki Foundation, represented by Ecojustice, were granted status to intervene in the case. The parties present to the court at the end of December, 2021. See: Glyphosate in Court December 9, 2021 (In French: Le glyphosate en cour 9 décembre 2021).
A backgrounder to the appeal written in English and French in October 2021 can be found here: Backgrounder to Appeal/ /Document d’information sur l’appel
SFM was not impressed with the conduct of PMRA during the court case. See this article pointing out SFM’s views that PMRA did not follow the letter or intent of the law, and that its behaviour was problematic: Safe Food Matters, But Not to Health Canada? (2021-10-21) (And in French: La salubrité des aliments est importante, mais pas pour Santé Canada? )
On February 2, 2022, the Federal Court of Appeal held that the rejection decision of PMRA was unreasonable, and that PMRA must revisit the NoO, and in so doing take into account the “Guidance” offered by the Court. This “Guidance” should prove useful to other regulators when responding to the public, which will prove useful in other cases.
– See Safe Food Matters Wins Glyphosate Court Case! For the personal story behind the case, see: A Small Group of Thoughtful, Committed Citizens Can Change the Law.
The Guidance of the Court (para 65) said that when PMRA decides on the NOO of SFM for the second time, it should explain how it has regard to various factors, including:
- Consideration of the primary objective of the Act (which is to prevent unacceptable risks to individuals and the environment from the use of pest control products)
- What the “scientifically based approach” of PMRA (when it re-evaluates a pest control product) actually means;
- The role and tasks of PMRA when it reviews a notice of objection
- The role and purpose of a review panel when it receives a notice of objection (referred to it by PMRA) and how this contrasts with the role and purpose of the PMRA
- When an objector tries to show a “scientifically founded doubt” about the validity of the evaluation, what is the threshold for that standard
- The criteria that would determine whether the advice of an expert review panel would assist in addressing the subject matter of the NoO.
PMRA took from February 2, 2022 until September 29, 2022 to respond to the NoO – approximately 8 months. It indicated the delay was because it was working on integrating the Court’s Guidance into the PMRA’s approach to future decisions in respect of Notices of Objection. And it decided to reject the notice of objection and not establish a review panel. So we sued again. See “Second NOO Court Case File”.
II Second NoO Court Case: 2022-Current: Federal Court “Merry-Go-Round”
The Federal Court of Appeal in its decision on the First NOO Court Case provided Guidance to PMRA on how it should go about making its reconsideration decision on the Notice of Objection submitted by SFM in 2017. Well, the way PMRA “integrated” the Court’s Guidance was not very encouraging at all. It completely ignored at least three of the Guidance points. It also had no regard to the purposes of the Act, which is to protect Canadians and the environment from the risks of pesticides, in the way it responded to many of the objections.
But, most significantly, PMRA established a new test that set a standard for an objector that cannot be met – as is therefore completely at odds with the text and purposes of the Act. It essentially rendered the NoO provisions of the Act inaccessible to the public. And it did not provide SFM any notice or opportunity to comment on this new test, which was not procedurally fair.
In crafting the new test, PMRA completely thwarted one of the Act’s “three pillars supporting the purpose of protecting public health and the environment” namely ” and stated by the Court. This is the third pillar of “the opportunity for public participation to enhance decision-making and increase public confidence in it” . We have no confidence in the the public participation mechanisms of the Act. Full Stop.
2022 Federal Court “Merry-Go Round” Case
As a result, on October 31, 2022 we filed for judicial review of the decision of PMRA to reject our notice of objection. See our post about how the Federal Court of Appeal did not want such a “Merry-Go-Round” case to ensue. On January 20, 2023 the Court allowed the Notice of Application for judicial review to be amended, to bring in the concept of “regulatory capture” of PMRA.
The Court filings and documents on the case are on the Page “Filings”
III Product Renewal Court Case
In December of 2022, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency renewed the registration for the glyphosate herbicide “Mad Dog Plus” for five more years. The product, which contains glyphosate as the active ingredient, is used on a variety of crops and trees. The PMRA renewed the registration without updating the risk assessment for glyphosate or looking at new science.
Safe Food Matters and other organisations are calling for PRMA to conduct a full risk assessment on product renewals, and indicate that this assessment needs to review and consider current science on glyphosate. Otherwise the Minister cannot have a “reasonable certainty of no harm” arising from the product, which is the standard by which the Minister is supposed to implement the Pest Control Products Act. On January 20 2023 we sued PMRA on this issue. Ecojustice is our counsel, and we are co-applicants with David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence Canada Inc. and Friends of the Earth Canada. (See Filings)
IV Maximum Residue Limits for Pesticides and Transformation Agenda
In Spring, 2021 PMRA proposed to increase the levels of Glyphosate in food. Safe Food Matters and other groups started a campaign to enlist public comments, and the response was overwhelmingly against the proposal. As a result, the Government announced a “pause” on the increases, and embarked on a “Transformation Agenda” for PMRA.
- Health Canada Wants to Increase Glyphosate in Food (2021-07-10)
- How to Take Action on Glyphosate (2021-07-17)
- Update: Comment ‘til September 3 on Glyphosate MRL Increases (2021-07-21)
- UPDATE 2: GOVERNMENT PAUSES MRL INCREASES, AND WILL REVIEW PARTS OF THE ACT; BUT MORE IS NEEDED (2021-08-08)
- Pesticide Reform: Letter to Ministers (2021-08-15)
- 2023 01 23 Letter to Minister on MRLs
The confidential test data for the proposal was provided to Safe Food Matters only after the public comment period had closed, and SFM discovered significant shortcomings in the data. SFM provided its comments explaining these concerns to PMRA in April, 2022 (pursuant to an agreed upon extension). PMRA must publish its response to the comments if it ever increases the MRLs under the proposal. See: Glyphosate MRL Proposal Not Based on Sound Science. (And in French: LMR de glyphosate non fondées scientifiquement)
The problems include: overestimation of maximum residue limits (MRLs); different exposure scenarios than in Canada; outdated, irrelevant dietary consumption data; and ignoring data that showed residues increase, instead of decrease (as was assumed), following the spray date.
Safe Food Matters also provided comments to the consultation on the “Targeted Review” of the PCPA launched in March, 2022. The comments, and a summary of them, can be found here: Comments on Targeted Review of PCPA. Smaller posts about the three objectives of the review are here:
- Consultation on Targeted Review of Pesticides Act: MRLs and Continuous Oversight
- Consultation on Targeted Review of Pesticides Act: Improved Transparency
- Consultation on Targeted Review of Pesticides Act: Real-World Data and Independence
For easy access, the filings on these work streams are also below, and in the Filings (Court and Regulatory) link on the home page:
2022 04 13 – Comments to PMRA on GLY increases in PMRL 2021-01
2022 07 07 – Comments to PMRA on Targeted Review of PCPA
V Other Glyphosate Work
- PETITION E-4127: SFM has been working with other civil organizations and Canadians on a Parliamentary petition to ban glyphosate and reduce pesticide use. The electronic version of Petition e-4127 closed for signature on January 13, 2023 with over 18,000 signatures. The petition will be presented to Parliament, and the Minister of Health has to respond. See “It’s Time to Ban Glyphosate“.
- In May, 2021, SFM provided a submission to the New Brunswick Standing Committee on Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship that points out the flaws with the assessment of glyphosate conducted by PMRA. See this article for a summary: Why is Glyphosate Still Allowed In Canada?
And the submission is here:
- In September, 2022, SFM and Mary Lou McDonald appeared on a panel presentation entitle “A Future Without Glyphosate: Is it Possible?” The presentation was part of the screening of the release film Into the Weeds. See this IMPACT page for actions, including signing the petition to BAN GLYPHOSATE. The presention is below.
What You Can Do
*Support the PETITION to ban glyphosate and reduce pesticide use. Tell you MP that you support it so he/she/they know when it is presented to the House.
* To avoid dietary exposure, eat organic foods. They are not sprayed with pesticides.
* In particular, avoid eating seeds, beans, kernels – any seed of a crop – that are not organic. Because glyphosate is systemic, it moves through the system of the plant right to the seed.
– See our early posts:
- Glyphosate in our Food (2017-02-25)
- GLYPHOSATE IN OUR FOOD II: HIGHEST LEVELS IN LEGUMES & CEREALS BECAUSE OF FARMING “DRY-DOWN” (2017-09-14)
* Because glyphosate chelates minerals, replace key minerals in your body. These include magnesium, sulfur and B12. See literature on this subject, including:
- Sulfate’s Critical Role for Maintaining Exclusion Zone Water: Dietary Factors Leading to Deficiencies
* Because glyphosate kills good bacteria in your stomach, replace good bacteria in your diet.