Forest Spraying 1: Based on Faulty Approval

 

Pesticides are being sprayed on Canadian forests, killing the diversity of forest life. The resulting harms are plant and animal death, destruction of forest foods, and accelerating forest fires.

How is this allowed?

  • The registration approval for this use of pesticides comes from the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada, the agency responsible for “managing pests”. The licenses to spray are then granted by the provinces. (Quebec has banned forestry spraying since 2001.)
  • PMRA says that unwanted trees and brush are “pests”.  Pests are defined in the “Pest Control” law to include “a plant…  that is injurious, noxious or troublesome”.
  • So trees are a troublesome pest? The forest industry and PMRA think they are.  The aim of industry is to “harvest” one type of tree “crop”, usually evergreens (conifers), and get rid of the leafy trees (broadleaf) that get in the way – the pests.

The PMRA Glyphosate Approval

  • Glyphosate is the pesticide mostly used on Canadian forests, approved for use on forests by PMRA in preliminary and final approval documents (PRVD 2015-01 and RVD2017-01).
  • PMRA in its approval says the value of glyphosate in forestry is:

    It can be applied at various stages in the forest regeneration cycle including site preparation, conifer release and stand thinning stages. (PRVD p.43)

  • “Site preparation” means killing unwanted forest growth (mostly leafy trees). “Conifer release” means  “releasing” the conifers from competition from other growth after replanting. “Thinning” means killing some of the desired planted trees.
  • PMRA registered glyphosate for spraying on huge tracts of forest (>500 ha).

Unfounded Assumption

  • PMRA’s approval is based on the assumption that glyphosate is used only once every 50 to 80 years on forests and therefore the risk of harm is extremely low. It states:
    • G]yphosate products ……are used in forestry to prepare the site for reforestation which requires that the products be applied only once per silviculture cycle; typically equating to once every 50 to 80 years. (Response to comment 2.25 RVD p.51)

    • [G]lyphosate is used for forest site preparation and plant release (conifers and deciduous trees) after trees are harvest. This use is expected to occur once every 50-80 years. As such, glyphosate exposure to forest is extremely low. (Response to comment 2.4 RVD p. 57)

  • This assumption is without evidence and UNFOUNDED. PMRA elsewhere in its approval makes it clear glyphosate can be used frequently:
    • The PMRA approved label allows 2 applications per year on forest and woodland sites, and sets out a “rate per year”, in Appendix IIa of PRVD (p.67).
      • (NOTE: PMRA just adopted this rate “from the label of PCP # 29308,” Syngenta’s Touchdown Pro herbicide, indicating no assessment was done on this rate.)
    • Also, “the product labels state that repeat applications may be necessary” . (Footnote to Appendix IIA)
    • PMRA’s value statement, quoted above, indicates glyphosate can be used “at various stages in the forest regeneration cycle.”
  • The products are intended for use annually. The labels for products used on forests indicate it can also be used on annual weeds. (See Section 4.0 of the labels for Visionmax (Bayer Label 27736) and Timberline 360 (Albaugh Label 34209)
  • NO EVIDENCE has been provided to support the assumption that spraying occurs only once every 50 years. There is ample evidence that spraying occurs much more frequently (from British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick, at a minimum (more in another piece).
  • There is NO PROHIBITION anywhere on spraying more than once every 50 to 80 years

PMRA’s Own Assessment Shows Harm

  • PMRA’s very own environmental risk assessment shows bird and animals are directly harmed by spraying, to alarming levels:
      • The PRVD shows PMRA modelled levels of risk (risk quotients) that exceeded the level of concern (LOC)  for wild birds, and plant eating animals. Acute toxicity was up to 11 times higher than the LOC, even after the risk assessments were refined.  Any LOC greater than one indicates an “adverse ecological response” and raises red flags. (Tables X.23 – X.25, pps. 213-216 RVD)
  • PMRA is aware that “the use of herbicides in forestry operations can reduce biodiversity (for example, loss of grasses, raspberry and non-crop tree species, such as birch or aspen) in the application areas for a period of time.” (Response to Comment 4.3, RVD p. 59)
  • PMRA labels point out the product is “TOXIC to aquatic organisms and non-target terrestrial plants”, and then establish spray buffer zones for just aquatic habitats (not terrestrial). These are NOT effective mitigation measures (more in another piece).
  • Yet PMRA has not gathered or examined data on the effects of glyphosate spraying on forests in particular. In fact, it only recently established a technical working group for forestry with other departments in 2023. (Responses to Petition 484).

No Justification for Spraying

There is no valid basis for the approval of spraying pesticides on forests. Forest species are not pests;  they contribute to biodiversity. The assumption that spraying occurs only once in decades is not evidence-based, and contrary to what PMRA allows and elsewhere states. This one approval is the basis for a myriad of harms to the environment and should be rescinded.

Safe Food Matters is suing the PMRA over its approval of a glyphosate product used in forestry. Other parties are David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence Canada, and Friends of the Earth Canada, being represented by Ecojustice.  The case is expected to be heard in 2024.

Updated May 4, 2024.

This post is part of a series on Forest Spraying being published, including posts on the faulty federal approval, unsafe food and ramped up risk of forest fires.

It’s Time to Ban Glyphosate!

Glyphosate, the world’s most-used herbicide, is almost impossible to avoid.  Glyphosate is in your water, in much of of the food you eat, in the soils growing that food, in forests, rivers and streams, and in wildlife.

The science is clear to us. Glyphosate is harming our health and the environment. Yet pesticide regulators are still “monitoring” the science and refusing to take action.

On September 15, 2022 the courageous film producer, Jennifer Baichwal, filed a citizen’s petition to Parliament to ban glyphosate and to reduce pesticide use.  Until January 13, 2023, residents of Canada can take action by signing Petition e-4127. …Read More

Comments on Targeted Review of PCPA

Some types of Foods Affected by Pesticides, Gene-editing

This post provides the detailed comments submitted by Safe Food Matters to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s (PMRA’s) consultation on the “Targeted Review” of the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA).

Comments SFM on Dis Dic 2022-01vFinalDownload

By way of background, In Summer, 2021, there was public outcry to proposed increases to “maximum residue limits” of pesticides in food, and this consultation was the result. Discussion Document 2022-01 set out 3 objectives, and asked for answers to questions on each. The list was set out in Annex 3.

We previously wrote about …Read More

Consultation on Targeted Review of Pesticides Act: Real-World Data and Independence

This post is about providing comments on the third objective of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s (PMRA’s) consultation on the “Targeted Review” of the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA).In Summer, 2021, there was public outcry to proposed increases to “maximum residue limits” of pesticides in food, and this consultation (set out in Discussion Document 2022-01) is the result. The extended deadline for comments is June 30, 2022.Below at the heading “Objective 3 – Increased Use of Real-word Data and Independent Advice/Evidence” are our comments on the third and last objective. Our thoughts on the first and second objectives were provided …Read More

Consultation on Targeted Review of Pesticides Act: MRLs and continous oversight

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is consulting with the public on the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA). In Summer, 2021, there was public outcry to proposed increases to “maximum residue limits” of pesticides in food, and this consultation is the result. The deadline is June 30, 2022.

Discussion Document 2022-01 sets out 3 objectives, and asks for answers to questions on each. The list is in Annex 3.

Here are our thoughts on the first objective, “Modernized Business Processes” and related questions.

NOTE: This consultation is on a “Targeted Review” of the PCPA, but PMRA says it will also take comments on …Read More

Consultation on Targeted Review of Pesticides Act: Improved Transparency

This post is about providing comments on the second objective of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s (PMRA’s) consultation on the “Targeted Review” of the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA). In Summer, 2021, there was public outcry to proposed increases to “maximum residue limits” of pesticides in food, and this consultation (set out in Discussion Document 2022-01) is the result. The extended deadline for comments is June 30, 2022.Below at the heading “Objective 2 – Improved Transparency” are our comments on the second objective. Our thoughts on the third and last objective, “Increased Use of Real-word Data and …Read More

Glyphosate MRL Proposal Not Based on Sound Science

PMRA’s Proposal to increase glyphosate in legumes is not consistent with science or the law
Here’s an update to the glyphosate MRL story, the story of Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s (PMRA) proposal to permit more glyphosate in foods.  Safe Food Matters Inc. (SFM) and Prevent Cancer Now (PCN) received information on the “confidential test data” underlying PMRL 2021-10 (the Proposal). The data was received from PMRA on January 28, 2022, more than eight months after the date it was requested, May 12, 2021. 
The groups report that the scientific and legal basis for the Proposal is ill-founded. This article provides a summary …Read More

Lawsuit slams lack of transparency in Health Canada’s management of chlorpyrifos

PMRA sticks to three-year phaseout despite evidence chlorpyrifos causes brain damage in children

OTTAWA/TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE ALGONQUIN ANISHNAABEG PEOPLE —

Ecojustice, on behalf of Safe Food Matters and Prevent Cancer Now, is headed to court to fight for greater transparency, consistency, and accountability in how Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) makes decisions regarding harmful chemicals that impact the health of Canadians.

In a lawsuit filed on Thursday, the groups challenge the PMRA’s Second Phaseout Decision regarding the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos. This decision maintains the three-year phaseout period set out in a previous decision from the PMRA, also being challenged …Read More

Glyphosate in Court December 9, 2021

Glyphosate will be under scrutiny by Canada ‘s Federal Court of Appeal on December 9, 2021.  Safe Food Matters Inc. wants a review of the 2017 decision that allowed the product to stay registered in Canada for another 15 plus years.
This case differs from other glyphosate cases. This one is about the actions of the regulator, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), not about whether the chemical causes cancer.
Mary Lou McDonald, President of Safe Food Matters Inc. stated:

“We don’t think PMRA performed a valid assessment of glyphosate before making its registration decision. We gave them a notice with detailed and …Read More

UPDATE 2: GOVERNMENT PAUSES MRL INCREASES, AND WILL REVIEW PARTS OF THE ACT; BUT MORE IS NEEDED

On August 3, 2021, the Government of Canada announced it would pause proposed increases on Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) of pesticides, including MRLs for glyphosate. There was public outcry to the proposed increases, and the Ministers of Health, Environment and Climate Change and Agriculture and Agri-Food heard it.
The Government says it will review specific provisions of the Pest Control Product Act (the Act), including the initiation of the review process. Safe Food Matters, Prevent Cancer Now, Friends of the Earth and other NGOs have serious concerns with the way the Act has been managed for years by the Pest Management …Read More