LETTERS: Health Canada may have skimped on its due diligence regarding pesticides

If they wipe out bees and and other insects, what are they doing to us at the top of the food chain?

To the Expositor:

Should Health Canada have approved pesticides Manitoulin Islanders are concerned about? 

Over the last two years, concerned citizens across the Island have been working to highlight the dangers of use of some pesticides we have been focused on. It seems we are by no means the only ones. Our efforts to get the attention of Ontario’s Environment minister with petitions have gone nowhere. But Ontario’s licenced pesticide users (and that includes farmers) can only use what has been approved federally by Health Canada, and it appears that Health Canada may have been “skimping on its responsibilities.” Our federal MP, Carol Hughes, and some Parliament Hill colleagues seem to think so, and they are asking questions.

It turns out at least for one family of pesticide products, Health Canada may not have done its own due diligence independent tests, but instead had licenced the product for use (for 15 years) by solely relying on the manufacturers own published test results. Now, at a time when governments are being accused of being too cozy and helpful to major corporations like SNC-Lavalin it is tempting to ask, is this another similar situation?

While MP Hughes and her colleagues are doing their sleuthing, some of us have been following up on where other jurisdictions, especially in the EU and some civil suits down in the US have progressed to, and what actions they have taken in the same timeframe as Canada. A few examples:

1)    France becomes the first country to ban all five pesticides that are known to kill bees;

2)    In a civil case in the US against Monsanto last year – the plaintiff, dying of cancer, was awarded US $289 million in punitive damages. Hundreds, if not thousands of other cases are awaiting trial in the courts;

3)    General Mills is now being sued because of traces of glyphosates found in Cheerios;

4)    Current research demonstrates that the pesticide glyphosates group persists in edible wild plants far longer than the manufacturer claims (fiddleheads anyone?);

5)    Meanwhile in the US, President Trump’s EPA approves spraying of the bee killing insecticides over 16 million acres “as an emergency”; but

6)    Meanwhile, in Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency was scheduled to begin phasing out use of neonicotinoids (the bee killing insecticides) this year, but have now delayed that action (though it is not clear why).

I could go on, as there are many more examples. The bottom line, though, is that these chemicals, which are supposed to break down almost immediately, are being found more and more in the foods we eat. The question has to be asked: if they can wipe out bee and other insects, what are they doing to us at the top of the food chain?

Paul Darlaston