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The pesticide crisis in Quebec : Time for a Change

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An unprecedented crisis is shaking the world of agriculture and public agricultural research. Équiterre has been fighting this situation for years. It has to stop!

What we learned recently :

  • The Ministère de l'Agriculture des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation (MAPAQ) failed to release studies conducted in fields across Quebec by the Centre de recherche sur les grains (CÉROM), a grain research centre, “showing that corn yield increased by just 0.5% for farmers using neonicotinoids and soybean yield did not increase at all” when the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte aux changements climatiques (MDDELCC) was in the midst of reviewing the new pesticide regulations.
  • MAPAQ has considerable difficulty gaining access to information at CÉROM and is kept out of major decisions regarding research on pesticides.
  • CÉROM’s board of directors is dominated by the private sector and industry, stakeholders often in conflict of interests, such as grain farmers, pesticide suppliers and seed suppliers.
  • CÉROM managers and board members put pressure on researchers when it came to interpreting and disseminating research project results.
  • Most of the agronomists who can recommend pesticides have industry ties.
  • Industry has a continued strong presence and influence in regulating pesticide use.
  • At the federal level, Health Canada admits to using manufacturers’ studies to authorize pesticides (read Thomas Gerbet’s report, in French).

MAPAQ funds this research with public money, so it must be transparent in disseminating results.

In a rare occurrence, eminent researchers and professors responded to these revelations by speaking out publicly. They called for funding to ensure research on pesticides is conducted independently. Read their Open Letter « Pour un fonds de recherche indépendant sur les pesticides » published on March 12 in Le Devoir.

ÉQUITERRE IS TAKING ACTION

Équiterre has sent a letter to Premier Couillard calling on him to:

  • Significantly increase research funding and to immediately assign the management of funds to support research on pesticides to another ministry instead of MAPAQ.
  • Stop funding non-independent research.
  • Suspend CÉROM’s funding immediately and redirect it to researchers, research institutes or organizations without industry ties or conflicts of interest.
  • Conduct a public inquiry into government funding for agricultural research and why MAPAQ studies on neonics were not released when the government was reviewing draft regulations for banning them.

Équiterre is still waiting for an answer and will keep you informed of any developments. In the meantime, you can read this post for more details and media press review (French only).

There’s a lack of transparency at the federal level, too. So please call on the health minister to ban all neonic pesticides—they’re deemed ineffective most of the time.

QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE
Who legislates on the pesticide issue? Differences between the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

The federal government registers pesticides, assesses their risk and authorizes their sale and use in Canada. Provincial governments can ban the sale and use of pesticides that have been registered by the federal government in their province. Municipal governments have the right to ban the use but not the sale of pesticides in their municipality.