Dow challenges Canada over pesticide ban

22 October 2008 20:40  [Source: ICIS news]

By Stefan Baumgarten


TORONTO (ICIS news)--Dow AgroSciences plans to challenge a pesticide ban in Canada, the company said on Wednesday.


Dow said it filed a notice of intent under North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rules to bring a claim against Canada over a pesticide ban in Quebec.


Quebec’s provincial government in 2002 started a campaign to ban 2,4-D, a Dow AgroSciences pesticide product, and imposed a ban in 2006, without any scientific basis for such a ban, the company said.


The ban went into force despite the government of Quebec's own advice that it had no scientific basis and despite numerous attempts by Dow AgroSciences to work with Quebec in using a science-based, transparent policymaking framework for the decision affecting 2,4-D, Dow said.


Such action amounted to a breach of NAFTA’s “fair and equitable treatment” provision, Dow said, adding it was seeking a Canadian dollars (C$) 2m ($1.6m) settlement plus legal costs in filing its notice.


"This challenge is aimed at ensuring that important public policy decisions are based on scientific evidence, predictability and a clear set of principles, and are managed within a transparent framework," said Dow AgroSciences CEO Jim Wispinski.


"The actions of the government of Quebec are tantamount to a blanket ban based on non-scientific criteria, and we are of the view that this is in breach of certain provisions of NAFTA,” he added.


Regulators in several countries, including Canada, the US and in the European Union, had all reviewed 2,4-D on the basis of modern science and concluded that it is safe for use according to label instructions.


Canada’s federal health ministry, after a review of 2,4-D, had found that the product could be used safely according to label directions for a variety of lawn, turf and agricultural applications, and that the product met all of Canada's pesticide health and safety regulations, which were among the toughest and most stringent in the world, Dow said.


Dow ArgoSciences’s charges come as critics have started to question the consistency of Canada’s policies on chemicals and toxic substances.


A number of Canadian municipalities, including Toronto, as well as the Ontario provincial government have implemented or are planning bans on cosmetic pesticide products, even though the products are allowed for sale under Canadian federal laws, to the dismay of crop chemicals producers.


Most recently, the country claimed global leadership with its recent action against bisphenol A (BPA) even though other countries had yet to acknowledge that the chemical posed a public health risk.


However, Canada refused to back international efforts to contain the threat of chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen, as it wanted to protect asbestos producers in Quebec, critics have said.


Underlying these inconsistent approaches are the strong powers Canada’s provinces enjoy vis-à-vis the federal government, when compared, for example, with other federal states such as the US or Germany.


In fact, in 2006 Parliament formally recognised the French-speaking people of Quebec as a nation within Canada. The move was part of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s effort to strengthen his electoral position in Quebec. He won re-election last week.


However, the these strong provincial powers have vastly complicated the country’s external relations and keep creating endless internal tensions as well.


A spokesperson for CropLife Canada, an industry group that represents crop chemicals producers, declined to comment on Dow’s action when contacted by ICIS news.


In 2005, a NAFTA panel rejected a Nafta Chapter 11 claim for compensation brought by Canada-based methanol producer Methanex against the US over California's ban of gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).


A copy of Dow’s notice and other details are available on the website of Canada’s foreign affairs ministry.


($1 = C$1.25)

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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