Canada pesticide ban prompts legal challenge against ministry

15 January 2010 16:11  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS news)--A group representing Canadian lawn care firms is seeking criminal charges against Ontario’s environment minister and five ministry officials in an effort to overturn the province’s ban on cosmetic pesticides, it said on Friday.

Jeffrey Lowes, head of government relations group M-REP Communicationsalleged in an interview with ICIS news that the ban was in violation of Canada’s Federal Pest Control Products Act.

The minister and the officials had failed “to exercise their assigned fiduciary responsibilities by not taking reasonable care” to ensure that the ministry complied with the law and its regulations, and they therefore committed an indictable offence under the act, he alleged.

Ontario imposed the provincial ban last year after several municipalities, including Toronto, brought forward their own bans under municipal bylaws. 

However, agrochemicals producers have said that pesticides were already adequately regulated under Canadian federal law and that Ontario’s pesticide ban was not sufficiently backed up by science.

Lowes said that the charges his group were seeking were of  a "criminal nature," as opposed to civil charges.

M-REP was representing “several hundred” lawn care applications firms and end users in this matter, Lowes said, but he would not disclose the names of particular firms. 

While the group was working with agrochemicals producers association CropLife Canada on the issue, it was not representing producers, he added.

A provincial court in Kingston, Ontario, was expected to decide next month on whether a prosecutor should take up the charges, he said.

“We are very confident [that the case will go forward], we have numerous legal opinions on this,” Lowes said when asked about precedents.

“If there are sufficient grounds, additional charges will be filed against individuals and environmental activists who have undermined the scientific approach to pesticide regulations,” he added. 

A spokeswoman for Ontario’s environment ministry said her ministry was aware of M-REP's intentions but had not yet received any official documentation. As such, she could not comment, she said.

Lowes also said that his group was also preparing a separate civil case to try to recoup losses attributable to the ban.

Those losses were estimated at around Canadian dollar (C$) 300m ($294m) for last year alone, he said. However, this estimate was based on preliminary data and the actual figure would likely exceed C$400m, he said.

Last year, Dow AgroSciences said it would go ahead with a NAFTA case against Canada over a pesticide ban in Quebec province, alleging that that ban was imposed without sufficient scientific basis.

($1 = C$1.03)

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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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