Battling to stop unlawful and lengthy “phase-outs” of neonicotinoid pesticides

Ecojustice is going to court to challenge the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s (PMRA) unlawful two-year “phase-out” period of certain uses of the neonicotinoid pesticide Thiamethoxam. What the PMRA calls a “phase-out” is really an unlawful delay in implementing risk mitigation measures the PMRA itself concluded are necessary to protect pollinators. We are challenging this unlawful delay in Federal Court.

Thiamethoxam is a neonicotinoid pesticide which is toxic to bees and other pollinators. It’s used on a wide range of fruits and vegetables that are intensively cultivated, such as cherry trees and legumes. It is systemic, meaning it is taken up through leaves or roots and spread throughout the plant. It cannot be washed or peeled off crops.

In April 2019, the PMRA granted “full” registration to all Thiamethoxam pesticides that were previously conditionally registered. At the same time, the PMRA released its final decision in its re-evaluation of the risks of Thiamethoxam to pollinators. In this re-evaluation, the PMRA concluded that risk mitigation measures are needed to protect bees and other pollinators from the harms posed by Thiamethoxam. These measures include cancelling certain uses of Thiamethoxam, restricting times when the pesticide can be sprayed, and updating its labels. However, the PMRA has decided to delay implementing these risk mitigation measures for two years even though the Pest Control Products Act does not allow for such delays.

Previous case

After a long build-up, Ecojustice went to Federal Court in November 2018 to challenge the conditional registration of Thiamethoxam pesticides. We argued that these pesticides were unlawfully registered in Canada due to lax oversight by the PMRA. Unfortunately, in April 2019 we received a decision that we were not successful – the court declined to consider the merits of the case based on mootness grounds, and so did not rule on the legality of the PMRA’s decisions to register the neonic pesticides at issue.

This is a new and separate case, challenging the legality of delaying necessary risk mitigation measures for Thiamethoxam pesticides through what the PMRA calls a “phase-out” period.

Why is Ecojustice involved?

Ecojustice is challenging the PMRA’s unlawful delay of implementing risk mitigation measures that the PMRA itself concluded are necessary because the pesticide puts pollinators at risk. There is no statutory authority for this delay.

We are heading back to court because we are concerned that the PMRA isn’t living up to its responsibilities as a regulator. Although our first neonics case was unsuccessful, the PMRA must not be allowed to undermine the precautionary nature of the Pest Control Products Act by allowing products that harm pollinators to continue to enter the ecosystem.

What would a win mean?

A win in this case would challenge the PMRA’s unlawful “phase-out” period. A victory for Ecojustice and our clients would see the immediate introduction of risk mitigation measures for Thiamethoxam, and potentially any other products with a similarly unlawful “phase-out” period.

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