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West Coast Environmental and Josette Wier have obtained a court order requiring Health Canada to conduct a special review of one use of common glyphosate-based pesticides (such as Roundup) mixed with an ingredient known as POEA. There is conflicting evidence about the toxicity of the mixture (which forestry companies spray on ephemeral wetlands and intermittent streams, but not on permanent watercourses) to amphibians. Accordingly, the precautionary principle requires Health Canada to conduct a “special review” of the pesticide, on public request.Health Canada argued that the “special review” was unnecessary, because it already knew about the danger to amphibians, and was already planning a “regular” review of the same pesticide A full re-evaluation is also taking place in the US.

“[98] … there is conflicting evidence that the pesticide in issue presents an acceptable risk to amphibians in ephemeral wetlands which are aerially sprayed with the pesticide in silviculture. .. there is an uncertainty about whether the pesticide will harm amphibians in this environment. The Regulatory Agency recognizes that the pesticide is toxic to amphibians in bodies of water and for this reason the pesticide cannot be sprayed over or close to bodies of water. ..

[101] With opinions within the Regulatory Agency on both sides of the question as to whether the pesticide presents an unacceptable environmental risk to amphibians in ephemeral wetlands, the precautionary principle would require that the Minister initiate a special review into that issue…

[107] .. The special review will be narrower than the comprehensive re-evaluation being conducted in the conjunction with the United States. For this reason, the special review will be targeted and possibly quicker. The applicant is entitled to a proper analysis as to whether the pesticide in issue presents an environmental risk to amphibians inhabiting ephemeral wetlands which are subject to the aerial spraying of the pesticide in silviculture.”

The applicant’s original demand for review had been largely based on a variety of human health claims, which were abandoned, for undisclosed reasons, during the hearing.

A copy of the Honourable Mr. Kelen’s decision is available at: http://canlii.ca/en/ca/fct/doc/2011/2011fc1322/2011fc1322.html

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