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37th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION
Standing Committee on Health
Thursday, May 9, 2002
|The Chair (Ms. Bonnie Brown (Oakville, Lib.))|
|Mr. André Duhaime (Individual Presentation)|
|Mr. André Duhaime|
|Ms. Olga Prin (Individual Presentation)|
|Ms. Christina Caron (Individual Presentation)|
|Dr. Helen Jones (Board Member, Real Alternatives to Toxins in the Environment)|
|Dr. Helen Jones|
|Dr. Helen Jones|
|Dr. Helen Jones|
|Mr. Ken Hough (Director of Research and Market Development, Ontario Corn Producers' Association)|
|Dr. Andrew Michrowski (President, Planetary Association for Clean Energy Inc.)|
|Dr. Margaret Sanborn (Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University)|
|The Vice-Chair (Mr. Reg Alcock (Winnipeg South, Lib.))|
|Dr. Margaret Sanborn|
|The Vice-Chair (Mr. Reg Alcock)|
|Dr. Margaret Sanborn|
|The Vice-Chair (Mr. Reg Alcock)|
|Ms. Dawna J. Ring (Individual Presentation)|
|Ms. Dawna J. Ring|
|Ms. Judy Sgro (York West, Lib.)|
|Ms. Dawna J. Ring|
|Mrs. Carol Skelton|
|Dr. Andrew Michrowski|
|Mrs. Carol Skelton|
|Dr. Andrew Michrowski|
|Mrs. Carol Skelton|
|Dr. Andrew Michrowski|
|Mrs. Carol Skelton|
|Dr. Andrew Michrowski|
|Mrs. Carol Skelton|
|Dr. Andrew Michrowski|
|Mrs. Carol Skelton|
|Dr. Andrew Michrowski|
|Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, BQ)|
|Mr. Bernard Bigras|
|Mr. Bernard Bigras|
|Ms. Dawna J. Ring|
|Mr. Bernard Bigras|
|Ms. Dawna J. Ring|
|Ms. Andrea Lockwood|
|Mr. André Duhaime|
|Mr. Bernard Bigras|
|Mr. André Duhaime|
|Ms. Judy Sgro|
|Ms. Dawna J. Ring|
|Ms. Judy Sgro|
|The Clerk of the Committee|
Standing Committee on Health
Thursday, May 9, 2002
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Chair (Ms. Bonnie Brown (Oakville, Lib.)): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It's my pleasure to call this meeting of the health committee to order as we continue our examination of Bill C-53. We have many witnesses this morning, so I think I'll introduce them as they take the floor.
We'll begin with the testimony of Mr. André Duhaime.
Mr. André Duhaime (Individual Presentation): Thank you.
I would like to express my desire to talk about certain things in which I have been involved politically in terms of the pesticide subject, mostly at the municipal level. Actually, I want to denounce many inaccuracies in the new Bill C-53 that has been proposed. There are various discrepancies that I would like to discuss.
Being very active politically, mostly on a municipal level, I have been either directly or indirectly involved in the banning of pesticides in my area. I live in Saint-Lazare, which is the town neighbouring Hudson, which is well known in this case.
What I would like to denounce is the federal government's shortcomings and irresponsible actions toward providing safety for our children—something that is very much the publicity being propagated around this bill. The shortcomings toward this include the government’s inability to provide safety not only for all the children, but also for Canadian citizens.
There is an absence of any proper management of pesticides for what they are, and where and how they should be used. I'd like to stress this point because it's very important. Even going back to the PCPA, pesticides were stressed as a last recourse once all other methods had been tried. You will agree with me that we are far from that at this point.
With much fanfare, a new bill has been created in an attempt to overhaul what is already in place, replacing the existing act with one that protects not the health, not the children, not the environment, but the pesticide manufacturers and the industry itself. There are already sufficient measures in place within the PCPA and the CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I have one of the 147 pages that are printed, and it well defines the government's role, which is supposed to see it “committed to implementing pollution prevention as a national goal and as the priority approach to environmental protection.” That role is well defined. There are tonnes of pages that, if they were upheld—just as the PCPA should be—would give us the kind of bill we could put some teeth into. Failing that, no law or words can suffice to make any actions worthwhile when the will, the dedication, and the initiative are not present.
Actions to restrict any form of use of cosmetic pesticides, much less the implementation of a ban, are nowhere to be found in Bill C-53. This is not only unacceptable, but also totally irresponsible. The government states that it does not have the authority or responsibility to remove pesticides from public sale. This admission is a double standard. The government's role is to govern while ensuring the protection of its citizens and preserving the environment, not the financial prosperity of multinational firms. We should not rely on voluntary withdrawal on the part of manufacturers; we should be proactive rather than reactive.
In terms of participation in Bill C-53, I question who actually participated in the creation of this bill. I suspect it was mostly people from the industry, people from the PMRA, and people from government, but that remains a question mark. A lot of questions will be left hanging on this one.
It is also recommended that all pesticides be immediately removed from the shelves until proper, unbiased studies have established their safety. These pesticides should be replaced by low-impact products that already exist. Failing that, the government should be held accountable for all past, present, and future damages to Canadians and the environment.
I remain most skeptical that any of these 7,000 products will be re-evaluated any time soon, since only 70 have been done in the last 10 years—and I'd like to stress where I got this information from. This data is from a report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. I had it when I met with the Auditor General and other people last fall. It describes a lot of cracks in the foundation, as they call them, in terms of where the different ministries of the government are unable to respond to each other. There are a lot of discrepancies in terms of how the government is not doing what it's supposed to be doing, which is to provide protection. The precautionary principle needs to be enforced wherever applicable throughout the bill, and not just in a fashionable way that sees it thrown in as a process that is not applied.
According to the Auditor General, scientific proof is practically impossible to assert. We just have to look back at the tobacco industry. How long did that take? We just recently actually proved that tobacco was dangerous. Are we going to have to wait another 40 or 50 years for that proof when it comes to pesticides?
Mandatory postings of warning signs and products used must be clearly identified wherever pesticides are used. I'm talking about golf courses, public areas, and farms that are open to the public. Such postings should not be left to municipal jurisdiction. That’s why they weren't banned in the Hudson area: they're a provincial matter, not a municipal matter.
Here, I think we should be able to stress too that pesticides, as they are…it remains more than that. They're also intoxicating in the buildings where people work. A lot of the time, in the buildings and restaurants that we go to, they use these products and people are not aware of what's going on. A lot of pregnant women and children are actually visiting these areas.
Organic farming must be subsidized and encouraged for existing farmers, and we must reach out to other farmers to encourage such a transition, as was always done in the past. Organic farming is not a new term that we've recently invented. It's farming that was done for hundreds and hundreds of years, until about 30 or 40 years ago. When one realizes that organic farming is growing at a rate of 25% a year, we sense that citizens are really trying to send a message.
A national code of ethics needs to be put in place—this should not be left entirely up to the provinces—with environmental management at the front line, and not integrated pest management, which is nothing more than a buttered up term for spray-company marketers. The bar needs to be elevated. All inert ingredients must be known, identified, and systematically replaced not by 15%-, but 100%-all-organic compounds.
The registering of biopesticides must be accelerated. The May 2000 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development was composed of an accumulation of twenty years’ worth of reports, documents, studies, and testimony in relation to the study of toxicity levels in regard to the pesticides currently being used. The healthy lawn strategy, which was done last spring and in which I participated, was Allan Rock’s response to the sustainable development report. Risk management—and again, integrated pest management is not a new term; it has been around for a while, for at least twenty years—was the theme, not the health concern. Risk management has not been upheld, and that goes back quite far, as per the Auditor General's report.
I'd like to talk about registration, because everybody seems to think there's a margin of safety on registration. Registration is nothing more than the manufacturers’ input to the government, stating that a product kills weeds. Yes, in fact, it does kill weeds, but it doesn't matter if it does any other damage. That's not the issue. If it kills weeds, the product is registered. That's the way it functions.
We've talked about labelling and classification, and obviously about IPM. The PMRA seminar was one that already had a done deal. People were invited, but there was already a predetermined agenda. A moratorium was suggested, and the bill failed twice last year, unless I'm mistaken. A Canada-wide survey was suggested, but there was not the faintest response other than the proposition to stick to the agenda.
The PMRA mandate is clear. It is to protect all Canadians and the environment. How so? Pesticides should be used as a last resort. How have they come to be the first line of defence? When we have dandelions, has that become a life-threatening situation? And the West Nile virus doesn't even come close either.
The first lawn care company to receive its charter got it in 1978. The PCPA came into effect in 1969. Chemical intoxication must stop, as we are all adding to the astronomical costs of health care. Pesticides are known to be toxic. In fact, they were intended to be. For example, 2,4-D is considered toxic. Why is it not banned?
Studies are totally absent, since there are no scientists available at the PMRA. There are laboratories, but there are no scientists. We are totally dependent on U.S. recommendations. We have become a dumping ground for other countries. There were 500 products approved prior to 1981, and 150 go back to the 1960s.
The fact is that Canada has never deregistered a product on its own, nor has it banned any on its own. It has always acted in accordance with what other countries have done, especially the U.S. How long did it take for us to react on DDT? After it had already been banned in the States, it still took several years to get it banned here. For the last twenty years, Dursban has been promulgated as one of the safest products out there, but they're banning that product in the States all of a sudden. Here, we're going to deplete the stock over the next couple of years, which proves my point that Canada is a dumping ground. In light of these facts, I recommend that the PMRA be disbanded and that it be replaced by two independent firms that can provide sound scientific data and appropriate recommendations.
Industry and manufacturers have predicted famine and doom the day we stop using pesticides for their intended purpose. Unfortunately, famine has always existed and probably always will, but soon we'll be dealing with contaminated water. In that regard, I'd like to bring up something that occurred as recently as just this week. In Hudson, which has banned pesticides, they're finding benzene in their water. Benzene is known to be a toxic substance and a very highly contaminant pesticide, as we know. And this issue is becoming redundant in my area and throughout a lot of areas. Water is becoming an issue because of an accumulation of things.
What has changed so dramatically?
I'm sorry, but I'll have to go back here. I jumped ahead a little bit.
The Chair: Mr. Duhaime, you're well over your time limit.
Mr. André Duhaime: I'd like you to bear with me, because I have one more comment. I'm just concluding here.
Other arguments are the ones pertaining to everybody: we'll have no more grass if we stop using pesticides, or we'll be afflicted by allergies if we stop. This reasoning is very foolish, and deprived of logic and fact.
The fact is that our children have acted as canaries in a coal mine for long enough. Statistics on asthma, allergies, hyperactivity, hypersensitivity, and cancer in young children have reached alarming proportions in the past 25 years. I know you've all heard this for the last two weeks, but this is important—not just what I'm saying, but what other people are going to say.
What has changed so dramatically in the environment to explain this phenomenon, other than the chemical onslaught that has befallen our society? Has our society lost all sense of logic? It’s something to reflect upon.
In conclusion, neglecting to act upon what has been known for the past fifteen years is irresponsible. To continue to fail to address the issue is criminal. Even though these hearings are nothing more than going through the motions—just like those I've gone through with the PMRA in the last year; it's already a done deal, but I think it's important that I still stress my point—the battle goes on. A new bill will not change anything. I conclude that people will still have to continue fighting for what is right. But it's not about being right, it's about doing what is right.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Duhaime.
Next, we'll hear from Ms. Olga Prin.
Ms. Olga Prin (Individual Presentation): Good morning. I'd like to bring another angle to this, but I'm sure you've heard about children within these last few days.
When I heard there were hearings, my first reaction was to stay home, because I felt we didn't have any place here to convince you over the wealthy scientists who are telling you everything is safe. However, I'd like to tell you what's happening to children in Canada, and in Quebec particularly, because that’s where I live.
I have three little children, and I'm very involved with schools and daycares. I'm a very social person, so I notice it when there's something wrong with the kids. I don't know if you have access to small children, but the kids are not learning well. They're disturbed. They have skin rashes; all over the grocery store, you can see skin rashes on babies. When you see them at the doctor's office, they're heavily medicated. They get Ritalin. Little babies get puffers. These things were not happening when I was young, and I'm not that old. I did not see any peanut allergies, but today we see many.
My son has peanut allergies and allergies to other nuts, to eggs, to wheat, to dairy, and to soy. I want to ask you what this is. I've never seen this kind of disease, and he's not the only one who has it. My son is seven years old. When they first discovered his illnesses, they didn't know what he could eat, so we tried to get a menu. We got into this association in which there were sixty other parents like me. My son was one of the worst. There are now about a thousand parents involved in this today, and the numbers are growing.
Every year, the doctors bring the parents together. They tell us they don't know what's happening but that they're going to study some more and see how many are still sick in so many years. I can testify that when the association started ten years ago, there were hardly any peanut allergies here in Canada, but the ones who were sick then are still sick today.
Everybody's sick, but my son is better because I studied, I asked questions, and I went to all the doctors. I've done studies in the States. I examined blood. I asked the doctors what was wrong. I asked if it was something with the glands or if it was something in the brain. You have to understand a disease and not heavily medicate it. But this is what's happening: We're using chemicals all over the children and we expect them to develop properly.
We have scientists who do science in a lab, but they don't actually go to the schoolyards and ask teachers and daycare holders. It's incredible. In my daycare, 5 little kids out of 28 had a deadly allergy. That means that every time they go out, their parents don't know if they're going to survive the birthday party. That is something.
And these chemicals…I've met Dr. Elizabeth Guillette. I heard that her studies were dismissed. I wrote to her, and she gave me a list of the chemicals that are used in Mexico. They're the same as the stuff used here. We're always talking about grass, but pesticides are in our food, they're in our water, and they're in our tissues. Breast milk all over Canada is contaminated, and we're giving it to our little children. I can't stand here and see that we're going to legislate these products while we say everything is in the dose, because we're drinking the dose right now. There is no way we can fix what we've done.
I know it sounds a little bit radical, but some other countries have funded independent research. They've done things properly. I think we're uneducated at this point. There's no proper expertise in Canada. When we go out for the science, we go to the scientists who sell the products. That doesn't make sense to me. I think we're very ill protected.
The children really don't know what's going on. They don't know that they're sick and that it's not their fault, but they're being outcast. When you don't learn, you don't produce and you don't make a good member of society. I don't see how we're going to say we can have some more pesticides. At this point, after forty years of use, we have to look at things the way they are.
I've met Dr. Nicholas Ashford, from the UN. He's a counsellor who has written a book on the diseases of today. The modern illnesses are related to pesticides and chemicals destroying the enzymes in the body. This is what's happening. It's not one issue, it's a cellular issue. We have to look at chemical injury. Doctors are not trained in toxicology, and they don't know what's going on. I don't think the government knows what's going on either, so I think I have a duty here to say that the scientists don't talk to each other. Everyone talks brain, talks blood, or talks liver. We need to get these guys together, and it’s they who should be writing a law, not the bureaucrats and scientists who did write this law, with you trying to approve it very fast.
There is no interest in the media. There is indifference because there is a lack of knowledge. But I'm going to make it my life’s mission to let everybody know what I've discovered, because I have hundreds and thousands of studies.
I sent you some videotapes to watch. Nobody asked to see them, but I strongly recommend them. There's an edition of The Nature of Things that exposes Dr. Guillette's studies. Tomorrow at 9 p.m., on NOW with Bill Moyers on PBS, there's a special edition on chemicals and children, called “Are we making our children sick?”. I think you really should look into testing the actual harm before you legislate anything.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Prin.
We'll move on to Ms. Christina Caron.
Ms. Christina Caron (Individual Presentation): Good morning.
The people I'm representing today are all members of a grassroots organization that has been active within our community of Manor Park and within the city of Ottawa in pressing for a move toward pesticide-free lawns and gardens. We have all independently reached the conclusion that widespread, indiscriminate spraying around our homes of chemicals specifically designed to kill constitutes an undue and significant hazard to the health of our families and to the wider environment.
We've drawn our conclusions on the basis of research conducted by respected scientific researchers and organizations. We cite, for example, the Canadian Cancer Society. On April 9 of this year, Julie White, the CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute of Canada, issued the following statement:
|We accept convincing evidence that some commonly-used pesticides cause cancer. We have called for a ban on the ornamental use of chemicals that have been identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as known, probable or possible carcinogens.|
In 1997, Dr. Kelly Martin reviewed the evidence on pesticides and human health effects for the Ontario College of Family Physicians, and concluded:
|There is a serious problem with the amounts of pesticide that the population is exposed to, particularly the pediatric population... A number of pesticides that we readily use pose significant risks to human health.|
In supporting his conclusion, Dr. Martin cited studies linking pesticide exposure to significantly elevated risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, childhood leukemia, brain cancer and soft tissue sarcomas, neurological effects similar to those found for lead, and decreased functioning of the immune system.
Research by Tulane University’s Dr. Elizabeth Guillette in Mexico's Yaqui Valley—research that you've already heard about—has demonstrated significant neurological deficits in children who experience exposure to a range of agricultural pesticides.
Finally, recent research at the University of Waterloo showed that frogs exposed to trace amounts of some commonly used pesticides, including malathion, experience a nearly total collapse of their immune system.
Time constraints prevent us from citing the abundance of other research, but, clearly, the accumulating weight of evidence strongly and compellingly suggests that pesticides in current use present a threat to human and animal health. The magnitude of that threat has not yet been determined.
The widespread exposure of people to pesticides within the environment, coupled with the impossibility of conducting controlled studies with human populations, means it may take a long time to establish conclusive proof that specific individual pesticides are harmful to human health. Determining the cumulative and synergistic impacts of these toxins is an even more complicated task that will take longer still. However, the precautionary principle dictates that, in this situation, we must act to minimize potential harm rather than waiting for definitive scientific proof.
We can no longer justify the spraying of chemicals that such a weighty body of evidence indicates are likely dangerous, for purely cosmetic reasons and with no countervailing justification. As stewards of our children's environment, we must take action to contain this evident risk.
As citizens, we've taken action at the local level. We've achieved a good degree of success in persuading our neighbours to garden organically, with the objective of making our community of Manor Park a pesticide-free zone. We've worked to support the introduction of a bylaw in the city of Ottawa that would effectively ban the cosmetic use of pesticides. And we're far from alone.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision last year in the Hudson case, confirming the right of municipalities to regulate in this area, numerous towns and cities across Canada have joined those that have already moved in this direction. Together, these municipalities span the entire country, and include centres such as Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax, Victoria, and Guelph. The Province of Quebec has also announced its intention to ban the non-essential use of pesticides on public and municipal properties possibly as early as this summer.
Evidence indicates that these initiatives are broadly supported by the public. For instance, a survey conducted last fall by Oracle Poll Research in Ontario found that 82% of those surveyed support municipal bylaws to restrict the cosmetic use of pesticides on private residential property. Thousands of “No pesticides” lawn signs have been purchased from organizations such as the Sierra Club of Canada. When Loblaws announced its plan to cease carrying pesticide products in its garden centres next year, it cited overwhelming consumer demand as the reason for its decision.
Clearly, this is an issue whose time has come. Through their actions, thousands of individual Canadians are demonstrating where they stand on the cosmetic use of pesticides. However, local action alone in this regard is clearly sub-optional. The present course of action requires each municipality to reinvent the wheel. They are investing large amounts of time in research consultations, drafting and negotiating many different local bylaws with varying range, exemptions, and effectiveness. This will lead to a situation in which a complicated and confusing patchwork of regulations exists, with varying rules and criteria in different municipalities and jurisdictions across the country.
The most effective means of addressing this problem is to effect a national ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides. We therefore call on the federal government to respond to the clearly signalled wishes of Canadians and demonstrate its leadership on health and environmental issues by including a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides in Bill C-53. The health of our children is at stake.
And if I could just add one point on jurisdictional issues, we understand that there are reservations with respect to federal jurisdiction in this particular regard, and that those reservations hinge on the question of whether or not prohibitive actions are considered to constitute a serious enough threat to health and the environment to warrant criminal sanctions. We'd like to stress that the concept of “acceptable risk” cannot be defined in a vacuum, but only with respect to countervailing benefits. I give you the example that an individual may consider surgery for cosmetic purposes to constitute an unacceptable risk, whereas similar surgery that yields significant health benefits may constitute an acceptable risk. This is an important distinction with respect to the cosmetic use of pesticides. It's our position that the benefits ensuing from the cosmetic use of pesticides are negligible enough to warrant the acceptance of no additional risk to health and the environment.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Caron.
We'll now hear from Ms. Andrea Lockwood.
Mrs. Andrea Lockwood (Representative, Municipality of Chelsea): Good morning. I am here today as representative for the Municipality of Chelsea. I would first like to thank the Health Committee for inviting the municipality to present its views on Bill C-53.
I believe the municipality was invited because it passed a by-law on pesticides in December 1998. I would like to give you some details on the municipality and its experience with that by-law. I understand I have only five minutes to make my presentation, but the municipality prepared a more detailed report that I left with the clerk.
As I am sure you already know, the Municipality of Chelsea is a community of approximately 6,000 people located 15 minutes from here, on the other side of the City of Gatineau, formerly the City of Hull. All of the houses in Chelsea have a well for their water supply. The municipality's residents started to ask for a by-law at the beginning of the 90s. The municipal council knew that the legality of a similar by-law in the Municipality of Hudson had been challenged and waited for the ruling by Quebec's Court of Appeal before passing its own by-law.
At the same time, several of the city's residents wanted a by-law to be passed on the grounds of human health, the environment and the precautionary principle. The by-law was passed unanimously in December 1998.
Chelsea's bylaw severely restricts but does not completely prohibit the application of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. Neither does that of Hudson. Our bylaw permits the application of pesticides in certain restricted situations—for instance, with a permit for insect infestations, and without a permit for things like poison ivy and wasps.
There are two golf courses in Chelsea. They were given a five-year period within which to conform to the bylaw. We are now in the fourth year of that five-year period and we are working together with the golf courses in order to segue into the full implementation of the bylaw.
The municipality administers this bylaw through a process that is heavily dependent upon education and public awareness. The municipality's residents have become highly informed, and they are demanding information from the municipality on a regular and consistent basis. The municipality is required to respond to these demands for information through a number of various resources, including Internet and library searches.
When we become aware of the fact that someone within the municipality desires to take a look at a perceived problem with their lawn or garden, the municipality enters into a procedure of education and consultation with the resident, and alternatives to synthetic chemicals are discussed. The process includes a visit by an officer from the municipality; the municipality goes out and works with the resident to try to come to some sort of alternative to the use of chemicals.
In a last-resort case, such as in the case of insect infestations, a permit can be issued. The municipality does not issue permits for things like dandelion infestations. In the three full summers in which the bylaw has been in place, 22 permits have been issued. Each year, fewer permits are being requested and issued.
Staff experience with the bylaw has been that it sells itself. The bylaw was resident-driven, and residents continue to be involved with this and with other environmental initiatives within the municipality, including things like composting, recycling, wetland conservation, and watershed-based land-use management.
The bylaw has had a significant impact on focusing awareness of environment and health issues. In the last ten years, there has been a huge cultural change in the environment in our municipality and in the expectations of its residents. Ten years ago, the environment department of this municipality was a very small subcomponent of the planning department. It is now on an equal footing with planning and is equally important. Increasingly, the municipality finds that Chelsea's residents are expecting their government not just to talk the talk, but to walk the walk.
The bylaw has been accepted by most of the residents of the municipality. While there are some pockets of resistance, these pockets appear to be diminishing each year. Action by the federal government with respect to education would be really helpful to the municipality in terms of achieving its goals in health protection.
Leadership and change is coming from sources other than the federal government. As has already been mentioned to you, the Loblaws grocery chain announced two months ago that it would be withdrawing synthetic chemicals for lawn and garden care purposes from its shelves, starting next year. In making that decision, Loblaws identified that the decision was motivated by the occurrences in Chelsea, and particularly by the work of one of our former family physicians who was really instrumental in getting the bylaw adopted.
None of the adverse economic consequences that were predicted by the opponents of the bylaw, such as the decreased market value of property, have occurred. In fact, the real estate market in Chelsea is booming. Council, staff, and the majority of residents have recognized the bylaw as having been a good thing.
Chelsea is not alone. As has been mentioned before this committee already, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the validity of Hudson's bylaw. The Municipality of Halifax has testified before this commission. Over forty municipalities in Quebec now have similar bylaws. Chelsea gets phone calls approximately once a week from other organizations and municipalities across the country that are asking for information and advice on how the bylaw was implemented and adopted. The Municipality of Chelsea is proud of what it has done and is continuing to do to protect the health of the environment and of its residents. Alternatives to synthetic chemicals do work. Municipal regulation is effective.
The Municipality of Chelsea also believes the federal national regulatory framework needs to be strengthened in order to raise the level of protection for Canadians across the country. We have some specific recommendations or suggestions that we have made with respect to Bill C-53, and they are included in the package that I have left with the clerk. However, I'd like to comment on a couple of things.
Firstly, the definition of “pest” included in Bill C-53 is a slightly different definition from the definition in the current act, but it continues to refer to “an animal, a plant or other organisms that is injurious, noxious or troublesome”. The use of the word “troublesome” is difficult because it is not defined. It comes right out of an act that is 33 years old and has been universally acknowledged as being deficient. What we're finding in the municipality of Chelsea is that the idea of “troublesome” is not a sufficient basis upon which to apply these synthetic chemicals. Most municipal residents are telling us a dandelion is not sufficiently “troublesome” to warrant the application of these kinds of chemical products. And a lot of other terminology contained within the act is also not defined and doesn't help things, including things like “value” and “unacceptable risk”.
As I indicated, there has been a huge cultural change amongst the municipality's residents. They have begun requesting that the municipality look at its actions and their impacts upon the environment in a holistic and integrated manner. In looking at Bill C-53, the municipality doesn't see that this has in fact actually been addressed. On the use, perhaps, of the precautionary principle, there are all sorts of discussions around what it does or does not mean. However, what the residents of our municipality are clearly saying is that this stuff is really important, and that what we're doing to our environment, combined with the consequent effects that come back upon us, warrants that we take a really careful, precautionary, conservative approach to these things.
Furthermore, there are two different ways of looking at how we can protect health and environment. One is by reducing risk—and there has been a lot of conversation and discussion around that—and the other is the simple reduction of use. That's what has happened in Chelsea. Through the reduction of the use of these products, there has come to be a belief, an understanding, and an acceptance that we are thereby also reducing risk.
The final point would be the role that the government can play, both through education and in assisting to make the issues this committee has heard available to the public so that people are aware of them. A lot of that can be accomplished through mandatory labelling provisions on these products, in a font and in a type that draws it to the attention of consumers. Consumers can then make a decision at two levels: first, on whether or not they want to use this product in the first place; and second, on how they will use it.
I have further comments, but there are a lot of other people sitting at this table.
Thank you very much for your attention.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Lockwood.
From the organization called Real Alternatives to Toxins in the Environment, we have Dr. Helen Jones, who is a board member.
Dr. Helen Jones (Board Member, Real Alternatives to Toxins in the Environment): Thank you for the opportunity to speak here today. I'm very pleased to have this chance. I do represent Real Alternatives to Toxins in the Environment, or RATE for short.
I come from the Halifax area, and our citizens’ organization has supported our municipality in a variety of ways, including the request made by the municipality to the provincial legislature for the jurisdiction to regulate pesticides. We've supported all steps of the bylaw process that has emerged. We're very proud of our municipality, the city staff, and the city council, but they are operating in a regulatory climate that is obstructive, unhelpful, and leads to pesticide exposures for individual Canadians when those exposures are completely avoidable.
I'd just like to put my points in the form of several preconditions, while making a number of selected recommendations as efficiently as I can.
The first precondition relates to NAFTA. There is the likelihood of harmonization of pesticide regulations between the U.S. and Canada. In fact, a proposal was already posted for public comment, but almost nobody knew about it. It happened a few weeks after September 11, and “pesticides” was not in the title of that proposal for public comment. In fact, the PMRA was asked to resubmit the proposal for public comment, with “pesticides” in the title, so that people who watch pesticide topics, and even the public at large, would know that this is available for comment and that there are features to consider. The PMRA has not responded to requests to resubmit the proposal even though some of those requests were from members of the legislature in Nova Scotia.
Basically, I would like to say that if any tendency to weaken the provisions of the Canadian Pest Control Products Act could occur as a result of future NAFTA harmonization agreements, the Pest Control Products Act should take precedence in those cases. One thing now in the proposal that I would regard as a weakening one is the fact that you can substitute field data gathered in the U.S. to describe what's happening in Canada. Of course, that would miss the piggyback distillation of pesticides in the north, as well as a great deal of other kinds of problems specific to our country.
Some other preliminary conditions would lead to much better legislative reform, access to information, and pesticide regulation in Canada, and they relate to the PMRA. The first is to declare the Economic Management Advisory Committee dissolved, as recommended by the federal report on pesticides.
The second is to disallow participation by the pesticide industry, its lobby groups, its affiliates, subsidiaries, or parent companies, or by trade organizations, on all other Pest Management Regulatory Agency committees. They can express their interests and concerns as lobbyists and by consulting, just as other industries do. In fact, I saw recently on CPAC, on May 4, that the nuclear regulatory bodies were making this very point. They said there are no industry people sitting on their committees, and for the first time ever, they're going to meet together in Europe.
On the other had, in our situation with the PMRA, these organizations are all on these bodies in significant numbers. Not only should they not be there, a lengthy cooling-off period should be installed before anyone can accept a salaried position or any benefits from industry after having sat on these committees. This would be much more like what has occurred under the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission after the Enron scandal.
And the third thing having to do with the PMRA is removal of even the appearance of bias, and giving them a fixed budget that isn't augmented by any increase in the registrations of further synthetic pesticide products.
Preliminary condition three is to require that the act be reviewed every five years, so that we don't have this 33-year problem again.
Fourth, in all allowable dosage recommendations, establish printed explicit warnings to go with them. The first warning would be that the U.S. EPA has stated that no methods exist to assess the health impacts of mixtures of chemicals. This is a very significant point, because any time any claim is made that pesticides are well regulated in Canada and that the risks have been assessed—an example would be the 2,4-D task force mailing blitzes of many city councils and legislatures—those claims are basically saying pesticide exposure to children has been fully taken into account. In fact, that’s one of the things the 2,4-D task force has said. But the significance of the statement from the EPA is that, in their opinion, in their view, this is an impossibility because there are no methods for assessing mixtures of chemicals, which is what all these products are.
The second warning would be that the timing of this dose exposure could cause irreversible embryological damage that is unrelated to the dose, and that margins of safety do not allow for this, making the dosage guidelines irrelevant.
The third warning would be that many registered pesticides—in other words, synthetic insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides—can disrupt hormone function or otherwise disturb growth and development—the stimulation of cell multiplication or tumours, in other words. It would also advise that the dosage levels recommended on the label have not taken this into account. That should be on every guideline or dosage.
Moving to specific recommendations, I support fully the immediate federal moratorium on landscape pesticides. Not only would the moratorium protect Canadians, it would also show respect for Liberal party priority resolution 113, which is part of the federal party platform. One of the submissions we're making is a poster in support of that moratorium. It has a good overview of visuals, as well as published scientific data supporting such a thing. It's self-explanatory, and I'll leave it here.
We do need to establish the precautionary principle as an overarching fundamental guideline, and not just for the re-evaluation of pesticides. We need to legally accommodate safe, non-toxic, ecological methods, and not require the minister’s permission or any other special permission in order to possess or use them. That appears to be what this bill says at the moment, however.
As has been mentioned already, we also need to accelerate the rate of deregistration of synthetic pesticides products in Canada. A good model of this can be found in Sweden's regulatory body, KemI. I've printed some things off and will leave them for the committee. Some are in English, and the websites are there. Some are in Swedish, and they're the ones I found first. I'm giving you 26 pages of fine print on pesticides that have been deregistered in Sweden.
I think we could have safer, healthier communities. If we had a PMRA without industry sitting on it, we could make the same kinds of thoughtful regulatory decisions that Sweden has made. In those cases, those regulators decided that whatever benefits these pesticides had, versus their health risks, it wasn't worth keeping them available and approving them for sale. As regulators, I think you have to look at that seriously in terms of the same kinds of decisions, because we're physiologically all the same.
I did mention the example of clopyralid, which is basically a severe toxin to soil and compost. It is extremely persistent in soil. It lasts for years in very small quantities in parts per billion. Compensation is already being paid by municipal and university composting providers, and it needs to be prohibited in Canada.
We need to protect children more fully. As I mentioned, the margins of safety are inadequate. We need to recognize that risk is a social construct. In other words, only people who are being exposed to pesticides can decide how much risk they're willing to accept. Neither the PMRA nor the Pest Control Products Act should impose a decision on us in regard to how much risk we should be willing to accept.
We also need a residential right to refuse that is similar to the workplace right to refuse, but with one change, in that pesticides are not excluded. The WHMIS regulations exclude pesticides. And that residential right to refuse includes drinking water and groundwater protection. After Walkerton, we're aware of some shortcomings in monitoring, but no monitoring that I know of is happening on a regular basis for pesticides.
There’s a poster that documents how 2,4-D is basically moving off the areas where it has been applied in urban and agricultural areas. It’s from the Lethbridge Research Centre, and I'll leave it with the committee.
When you look at European drinking water standards, they're vastly different from Canadian ones. European standards—
The Chair: Dr. Jones, could you conclude please?
Dr. Helen Jones: I will wrap up.
The Chair: You have actually had more than double the allotted time.
Dr. Helen Jones: Thank you.
The European standard is 0.1 parts per billion, and the Canadian standard is 100 parts per billion. In Lethbridge, 2,4-D deposits exceed what is allowable in drinking water by many times.
As a conclusion, I would concentrate on full disclosure of unlisted ingredients, and I'll leave with you unlisted ingredients that are acknowledged to be hazardous by official bodies in North America.
And the last thing I'd particularly like to draw your attention to is unlisted ingredients that sometimes appear as listed. In other words, you can legally conceal pesticides in the unlisted ingredients—and the pesticides that occupy both locations are listed here in great detail. That's a surprising fact to many people. They don't realize you can have pesticides showing up without them being labelled or identified. For the protection of everyone, and to give people a choice in terms of what they're buying, this is an important feature.
The Chair: Thank you, Dr. Jones.
Dr. Helen Jones: Thank you? The only thing was—
The Chair: Excuse me. I have just ended your testimony.
From the Ontario Corn Producers' Association, we have Mr. Ken Hough, the director of research and market development.
Mr. Ken Hough (Director of Research and Market Development, Ontario Corn Producers' Association): Thank you. I will try to be concise.
The Ontario Corn Producers' Association represents over 20,000 corn growers in the province of Ontario. Our products appear in hundreds, and probably thousands, of the products that you find on your grocery shelves, so we are in the business of producing foods.
We have actively participated in the process of pesticide regulatory reform since it began in the 1980s. There have been reforms and there have been improvements, although these have been frustratingly slow in many cases. In fact, it’s proposed that many of the reforms be enshrined in the new Pest Control Products Act, and these are already there in the day-to-day operations of the PMRA. However, much more needs to be done.
OCPA's goal throughout this whole process has been to achieve equitable access to pest control products that are available to producers—our competitors—in other countries. I think everybody recognizes that there is a need to manage pests, and pesticides provide one avenue for doing that. In the course of the last ten to fifteen years, Ontario growers have made significant advances in terms of reducing pesticide use as part of integrated pest management. As a matter of fact, the documented reduction was about 41% between 1983 and 1998.
As part of equitable access, though, we think several aspects of this bill fall a little short, even though we endorse many of the aspects that are proposed. First of all, some unprecedented measures in regard to transparency are proposed. Of the several measures proposed, one is establishing a public registry to allow access to detailed evaluation reports. OCPA has no problem with that. We think that sort of openness is great. However, it's also proposed that the public be allowed to view the test data on which these pesticide evaluations are made. PMRA employs highly trained, highly qualified scientists to do that sort of analysis. Very few people in the general public would have the training or the ability to come to appropriate conclusions just by looking at that test data. We therefore have some concerns about that sort of test data being put out for anybody to see.
The other aspect of this is that there may be the possibility that some proprietary data could be disclosed, and that this will discourage companies from coming forward with newer, safer, reduced-risk products. This could deprive Canadian consumers of domestically grown foods produced with newer, safer control methods, and it would further disadvantage Canadian agricultural producers.
The other aspect of the transparency is the provision to allow anyone to request that the minister undertake a special review of a pesticide product. While asking for a special review isn't objectionable, this nonetheless opens the door to the possibility of a large number of unjustified requests that may or may not be supported by scientifically sound evidence. We're not asking that this provision be taken out, but only that the transparency measures incorporated within the Canadian Pest Control Products Act be comparable to those that exist within the U.S. legislation and the legislation of other OECD countries. That’s because those countries are where our competitors are operating their farms. Further, requests from individuals should require the same level of substantiation required from other government bodies, agencies, or whatever, in terms of documentation.
The second main point of concern is harmonization, or the lack of harmonization in certain respects. In the bill, the proposal is that if a pesticide is banned or proposed to be banned in any other OECD country, the Canadian minister shall be compelled to conduct a special review of that registered pest control product here in Canada. Often, there are reasons for doing that. Equally often, I would argue, there are very different reasons for why a review might be undertaken in a country such as Sweden, Norway, or Australia. They have to do with the very different environments in which the product is used and the very different pests involved, as well as different pest complexes, pest population dynamics, and very different use patterns. I would therefore propose that this provision be modified so that such a review would only be undertaken if a clear risk is anticipated within the Canadian context.
If one were to follow the same logic on which this provision is built, Canada should be compelled to consider registering any new active ingredient put forward for use in any other OECD country, particularly where environmental conditions, use patterns, and such are similar. I don't expect that this is likely to happen, but it would sure be nice.
The third major point of concern is whether the technology gap will continue to widen further than it already has. Only passing reference is made to minor use in the proposed act. Minor use is the problem of access to pest management tools where there's limited acreage of a crop or limited use of a product. An ever-widening technology gap is faced by the minor crop sector. Canadian horticultural producers in particular are the major sufferers from this.
So why does this affect corn? Many farmers who grow corn are also growing higher-value, smaller-acreage crops as part of their operation in order to be more profitable. Also, even in corn alone, there are many small-volume pesticide uses that can provide huge benefits—and I would reiterate that use of pesticides in many cases does provide tremendous benefits in terms of environmental quality, food safety, and public health.
What are the small uses in corn? As an example, I would raise the proposed phase-out of lindane. Lindane is a seed treatment used for control of insect pests on corn at the time it's planted. Because of the nature of that particular product, few farmers would mourn the loss of lindane. It is relatively toxic in the spectrum of pesticide products. However, it does provide significant advantages, because a corn crop can be virtually wiped out if these particular insect pests are present and this product is not used. As I say, few farmers would mourn the loss of lindane if we had other alternatives available, but we don't. Several are available south of the border, and this again shows the need for harmonization with competitor nations. Since very small quantities are to be used, there's no incentive for companies to bring these forward for registration, because they face significant costs when going through the registration system.
From the corn producers’ standpoint, our position is that an effective registration system for minor use is crucial. A range of alternative products is very important in order to adhere to integrated pest management principles, of which pesticides, as well as other cultural practices in a whole range of options, are part.
Our final area of comment is that of bureaucratic efficiency. While this might seem like an oxymoron, there are several opportunities to improve the cost-effectiveness of PMRA operations without jeopardizing their goal of preventing unacceptable risks to people and the environment from the use of pest control products. The first would be a stakeholder advisory council to advise on public policy, health, environmental protection, efficient and cost-effective use of limited staff resources, and so on. OCPA supports the formation of such a stakeholder advisory council if the full spectrum of stakeholders is allowed to be present, and if the full scope of issues is allowed to be addressed. The advisory committees that the PMRA has now certainly are useful, but relatively ineffective.
We would encourage expanded use of joint or bilateral assessments in reviews of new products and for re-evaluation. This is the ultimate goal of harmonization: not to make us just like everybody else, but to help us to be in the same league as everyone else while still protecting Canadians at the same time. To date, joint reviews or work sharing have seen limited uptake because of certain factors that I don't really have time to get into here.
Our third point pertains to improved understanding of clients' needs and better communication of PMRA policies and procedures to both applicants and registrants and to the Canadian public. I think this improved understanding would help tremendously. People would understand what the PMRA does, why it makes the decisions it makes, and what the benefits of those decisions are.
Finally, we need a greater focus of resources on addressing access to newer, reduced-risk products, including those for minor-use applications.
I will conclude my comments there. I appreciate the opportunity to make this presentation, and I look forward to further dialogue.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Hough.
We'll go to Dr. Andrew Michrowski, from the Planetary Association for Clean Energy, Inc.
Dr. Andrew Michrowski (President, Planetary Association for Clean Energy Inc.): Thank you for the opportunity to submit today some indications on behalf of an alternative to pesticides—radionics—that has been explored experimentally in Canadian forests and agriculture, under our oversight and peer review, for over 25 years.
Our association is a network of 2,500 scientists in about 60 countries worldwide. It was founded by a Canadian senator, Chesley Carter. We're also one of the learned societies in Canada.
Chesley Carter was a scientist who decided on his own to steward two notable tests in 1976, employing radionics to cope with spruce budworm infestation in New Brunswick. The first test was conducted on commercial forests owned by J.D. Irving Ltd. The budworms, Choristoneura fumiferana, were mature and eating the forest very rapidly. A distant operator in Chicago, Illinois, used a radionics apparatus in which was inserted an active agent, Juvabione, that is developed naturally by white spruce as a protection against insects.
To demonstrate its effectiveness, the test was conducted on recently taken aerial photographs of the urban forest that were marked in squares in a checkerboard fashion, leaving the remaining normally exposed images as squares of spruce trees. The dual radionics strategy was to, one, strengthen the tree vitality; and two, devitalize target insects without affecting the species’ predators. The results were stunning—and remember, Irving was willing to lose $17 million on this. They thought it was a lost forest.
The results showed that the number of budworm were the same in both untreated and radionically treated areas, but they were no longer eating the needles. Only 6% to 16% of the needles were eaten—as compared to 50% to 80% on the marked photograph—after three half-hour treatments over a 24-hour period. This was so stunning that the Canadian Forestry Service—in those days, that was what it was called—got involved, and a second test was conducted under Canadian Forestry Service oversight at the University of New Brunswick woodlot. Its scope was to abort the next insect cycle so that the eggs would not hatch. The egg counts for spruce budworm were in effect the lowest counts recorded anywhere in Canada by the Canadian Forestry Service at that time.
In 2001, we monitored innovative radionics techniques. I was going to bring you the device, but I was not allowed to do that by the guards downstairs. It's a tube about one foot high and three inches in diameter, on which are collated photographs of several farms in Ontario that are being treated as is. This technique was applied successfully, enhancing productivity and pest management in plant and animal agriculture in eastern Ontario.
The results were on many dozens of pages of lab test results, and the National Research Council has confirmed many of these results. The results were better yields, with much lower costs and fewer collateral maintenance requirements. There was no need for fertilizer and no need for pesticides. Yields increased in hydroponic tomato, potato, corn, fruit tree, lawn, hay, dairy farm—Canada's largest dairy farm uses radionics for this purpose; probably much of the cheese and milk you eat came from farms that use this technique—pig, poultry, and horticultural production.
The new radionics technique uses stand-alone units that induce full-time, optimal interactions between plant life and their air and soil environments. Effectively, it appears that when a plant is in an optimal state nutritionally, it does not attract pests. If I had the time, I could show you pictures of any farm full of insects, and if we put this in, the insects would leave—and we're talking about aphids or whatever.
We were able to observe the dynamics at play when agricultural practices were basically harmonious with nature, allowing for the detoxification of chemically poisoned soil. With radionics, chemical-free feeds for animals become possible. The application of these techniques indicates a viable commercial application strategy in mainstream agricultural operations. As a matter of fact, because of our research that we did in eastern Ontario, on about fifty farms and at the University of Guelph’s Kemptville station, a humanitarian fund is offering to give this for free to farmers in Brazil, Mexico, and several African countries that cannot afford pesticides anyway.
We interpret that Bill C-53 does not appear to have foreseen the existence of a non-harmful, alternative means for pest control, one in which novel, non-chemical, non-electromagnetic, but informational technologies can be applied to enable plant life to defend itself with the available nutrients in the air.
You'd be amazed at how many nutrients are in the air. Carbon dioxide is a wonderful nutrient, and if you allow plants to use it better, for example, you're allowing lots of new food for the plant and there is therefore no need for fertilizer. Of course, it is also then able to take nutrients from the soil and defend itself from pests or simply disinterest their harassment. Yet in the way in which we interpret the law that you have in mind, the use of this technology would mean that farmers or the people who make these units would be liable to a fine of $500,000 and even imprisonment as practitioners and operators.
The practice of agricultural radionics, by the way, has been permitted in the United Kingdom since the House of Lords made a law stating that it would be applied because it was so successful. As a matter of fact, in terms of the unit that I was not allowed to bring in, a delivery of 10,000 units to the United Kingdom is to be finished in the next few weeks. Of course, radionics has also been allowed in the United States, where it was invented in the early 1930s.
To give you an impression of what radionics can do, I have a picture of a farm that was half-treated with pesticides and half-treated with fertilizer. In the rear of the photo, you can see the radionics-treated corn. This corn, which is normal, was checked the same week I travelled to Ottawa by car. It was everywhere because it was a very dry season last year, and it was about three and a half or four feet high. The radionics-treated corn—and this was in a very drought-stricken area in Mayfield, Ontario—was seven feet high, had better… [Editor's Note: Inaudible] …content, was tastier, and gave much more money to the farmer than the corn that cost him lots of money to grown in the other field.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak.
The Chair: Thank you, Dr. Michrowski. That was very interesting.
We'll go now to Dr. Margaret Sanborn, who is a clinical professor of family medicine at McMaster University.
Dr. Margaret Sanborn (Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University): Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today.
I practise family and emergency medicine in rural Ontario. I'd like to briefly discuss two health effects of concern from the routine use of pesticides, and then relate those to proposed changes in the bill.
Pesticides are designed to kill something, and the mechanisms for doing this involve disruption of processes inside the cell. The ability of the chemical to do this means it can also disrupt human cell processes. I'd like to focus on two of these: neuro-developmental and reproductive effects.
In terms of neuro-developmental effects, the human brain has 100 billion neurons and an exponentially larger number of synapses, or the connecting links between the neurons. From birth to two years of age, the child's brain goes through unique growth and change. These growth processes include synaptogenesis—the formation of the connecting links between the nerve cells—and maturation and differentiation of specialized nerve cells. This process is mostly completed by the age of two, and then it forms the hardwiring of the brain for the rest of one’s life. Examples of brain functions that are sensitive to the quality of brain development during this period include growth motor skills, coordination of movement, the ability to process multiple simultaneous inputs, and adjusting to a new environment.
The effect of pesticides on brain formation or neuro-development is an area of great concern. Animal studies have shown that pesticide-exposed rats and mice have fewer brain cells, permanent changes in the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, defective cell-to-cell signalling, and hyperactive behaviour that persists into adult life. These changes occur at exposure levels that do not evoke overt toxicity, and they also occur in pesticides in current household use, such as chlorpyrifos and pyrethroids, substances previously thought to be much safer than the old organochlorine insecticides.
It is clear that the brains of children are more susceptible to pesticide effects. For example, in pesticide poisonings, 25% of children present with seizures as a symptom; in adults, only 2% to 3% present with seizures. In children, we're also concerned about sharp increases in the rates of autism and attention deficit disorder. Health Canada recently told us that 28% of Canadian children under the age of 12 have identified learning or behavioural problems, and that there's a spectrum of less severe problems involving memory and attention, which affect learning ability and the skills to socialize and form relationships. Given the animal data, it is a concern that some of the increases in these problems may be pesticide-related. It is instructive to note that the recent, quiet withdrawal of DEET insect repellent formulations over a strength of 30% occurred because of neuro-developmental toxicity.
I'd like to draw attention to the dramatic population effects caused by small reductions in brain function. A reduction of only five IQ points across the whole population causes a 57% increase in those classified as mentally challenged, and a corresponding 57% decrease in those classified as intellectually gifted. The economic and social costs of such a shift, both in increased health and social costs at the lower end and in reduced capacity for innovation and knowledge-based economic output at the upper end, are enormous. I believe these concepts deserve serious consideration when cost-benefit or health-risk value analyses of pesticides are being conducted.
Turning to reproductive effects, the developing fetus has a critical period between three to eight weeks’ gestation, when major organs are being formed. This is the period when pesticides appear to have their strongest effect. It is also a time when women may be unaware that they are pregnant. A study done in California showed that maternal pesticide exposure during the period from three to eight weeks was associated with an increase in miscarriages due to major birth defects. The Ontario Farm Family Health Study documented a 40% to 50% increase in early spontaneous abortions in farm women exposed to 2,4-D or atrazine-type herbicides before conception.
Research done in Montreal has shown that fetuses exposed to pesticides through maternal home and garden use during pregnancy have a two to five times higher risk of developing acute lymphocytic leukemia by the age of nine. This risk of leukemia is highest if the child has one of two genetic subtypes that cause an inability to break down pesticides. This genetic subtype is not a rare occurrence. In the Montreal study, it was present in 35.5% of all children. In other words, about one-third of Canadian children are born with a specific inability to detoxify commonly used pesticides, and with a corresponding increased vulnerability to adverse health effects, including cancer. The rate of cancer in children under 15 has increased 25% in the past 25 years.
I'd now like to discuss specific recommendations for the bill as they relate to the health concerns discussed above. The first is a question of definitions of “aggregate” versus “cumulative”. On page 14, in lines 15 to 23 of the bill, the explanations of “aggregate” and “cumulative” are reversed in terms of their common usage in the scientific literature. “Aggregate exposure” should refer to exposures to different pesticides, while “cumulative exposure” should refer to exposure to the same pesticide from different sources. I would just submit that the definition should be corrected.
Secondly, using the weight-of-evidence approach, many witnesses will have urged for a more integrated use of the precautionary principle in this bill, and I agree with these urgings. The integration of the precautionary principle throughout the legislative framework of the bill would strengthen the act without fundamentally changing it as written. A companion concept to the precautionary principle must be the weight-of-evidence approach, which has been advocated by the International Joint Commission and in Health Canada reports such as State of Knowledge Report on Environmental Contaminants and Human Health in the Great Lakes Basin, published by Health Canada in 1997.
The Health and Environment Handbook for Health Professionals, published by Health Canada in 1998, defines the weight-of-evidence approach as one that
|recognizes the limitations of science and takes into account the combined results of many kinds of research… Conclusions about the risks posed by a contaminant are based on data collected from laboratory animal studies, wildlife studies, human epidemiological studies of acute exposure, studies of more subtle effects on humans from chronic low-level exposures, and socio-economic data and research as well.|
The definition of this approach would be an appropriate addition to the preamble, and it would also provide a relevant and powerful guiding principle in all clauses outlining decisions in which human health risks are being weighed against a product's value, registration, re-evaluation, and special review, in amendment.
As an example of the precautionary principle—
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Reg Alcock (Winnipeg South, Lib.)): Dr. Sanborn, I'm going to give you one more minute.
Dr. Margaret Sanborn: Oh. I was told I had ten minutes.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Reg Alcock): You were told five minutes, and you've had eight.
Dr. Margaret Sanborn: I would like to see a clause in the bill that makes the reporting of pesticide-related illnesses mandatory. A mandatory system requiring health professionals to report adverse health effects is needed and should be included in the bill. Without this information, health-risk value analyses occurring at re-evaluation are lacking important evidence on the toxicity of the products.
On the concept of acceptable risk, the bill defines no concept of acceptable risk. For example, an acceptable risk of cancer has been defined in the literature as anything between one excess cancer death per 10,000 persons to one excess cancer death per 1,000,000 persons exposed. This less protective definition in this example would result in 99 more cancer deaths per year.
In summary, 15 years is too long to wait to re-evaluate pesticides. All the human health studies that I have cited today were published in the last three years, mostly in the last nine months.
The spirit of Bill C-53 in asserting the primacy of human health concerns is highly commendable, but the specifics need some strengthening in order to achieve and enforce this principle.
Thank you, and I look forward to responding to questions.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Reg Alcock): Thank you very much.
We'll now go to Ms. Ring.
Ms. Dawna J. Ring (Individual Presentation): Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the committee. I want to thank the members of Parliament for being members. You have an important role in Canada, and I know the people of Canada look to each and every one of you to provide leadership and guidance on this bill, as they do for every other bill. You have an important job, and one all Canadians look up to—in particular, our children, who must rely upon your guidance, understanding, and help to protect them.
I am a lawyer who has spent twenty years in the health field. During the blood inquiry, I acted for those infected secondarily with HIV, and I would like to share with you the kinds of recommendations and concerns that came from a thorough review of the federal government's role and responsibility in regulating the drug of blood. I think they're very applicable to now regulating chemicals that can cause far greater harm than what we saw in the blood inquiry, multiplying those figures by many zeros, because so many more Canadians are exposed to chemicals than were infected by or treated with blood.
I was also a member of the class action team on hepatitis C, and I am also a member of the pesticide bylaw committee in the Halifax regional municipality, which banned pesticides, as you know.
I have two main issues that I would like to deal with in speaking to the committee. One of the two things I would like to bring to the committee's attention is the federal government's jurisdiction and responsibility to regulate use, contrary to what both the minister and the department have said to you. The second thing is a look at what I am concerned with if we look back at the things Krever said the federal government should have done in regard to the regulation of blood. I'm very concerned that this legislation does not provide ample ability for the minister to protect the people of Canada when they see an emerging problem in relation to chemical use. It is far too restrictive. I hate to say it, but in some ways the public actually looks at it as a distrust that the bureaucracy will deal with chemicals in an un-bona fide way, as opposed to looking at them from a health perspective and asking if the minister is being provided with sufficient ability to protect Canadians when that step must be taken.
First of all, in relation to jurisdiction, jurisdiction in relation to health is shared, and it comes from our Constitution from very different perspectives. The jurisdictions of the provinces and the federal government overlap. There is no clear line in the sand, but rather two concentric circles.
In that regard, I would ask you to turn to page 149 of Krever, where he refers to this joint effort and responsibility for health, and specifically states:
|The federal Parliament also has legislative authority over public health through its powers over international and interprovincial trade and commerce, the criminal law, quarantine, the establishment and maintenance of marine hospitals, aboriginal persons, census and statistics, and the residual power in respect of peace, order, and good government. Its criminal law power is broad enough to enable the federal government to cause legislation to be enacted to prevent harm to the health of Canadians and to give it a role in health education and the prevention of disease, including potential harm from blood components and blood products.|
And I would add to that last sentence the idea that the same would apply to harm from chemicals.
The legislation that you have under the Pest Control Products Act is under the Criminal Code division of powers. You also have powers under the peace, order, and good government provision. You have the responsibility to legislate the use of these chemicals, the same as you have responsibility in other aspects of the federal government's regulation.
The legislation already deals with use. If you look at the test under the act, old and new, subclause 6(8) of the bill refers to people not selling and not manufacturing contrary to the established use. So it legislates responsibility for use. It's already doing that when we say that when you spray, you do a particular dilution with water, you spray 12 feet from the grass, you don't spray when the wind is x number of kilometres per hour, and you don't store it where it can be accessed by children. Those are all components of use. To then say you don't have a responsibility to regulate use in terms of it not being sprayed around a maternity and children's hospital is wrong. Legally and jurisdictionally, it is wrong.
Secondly, the federal government also has jurisdiction in what is necessary and incidental to the powers that it has. You are completely incapable of deciding that a pesticide has health and environmental risks or has value, as you have defined it in the act, unless you decide where that is actually occurring. The value risks or health and environmental risks when you are spraying a farming area in which it may be necessary for the production of food are once again very different from those encountered with a lawn outside a maternity or children's hospital. You are incapable of regulating any aspect of that spraying in accordance with this act—value, health, or environmental risks—without knowing where it is going to occur and what people are going to be next to it. But to talk more, I must get on with my other issues.
My concern with the act is that the restriction or bar for when the minister connects is so high that you will not be able to protect the people of Canada.
I have one other thing on jurisdiction. Under the Department of Health Act, it specifically provides that the minister is responsible for protecting the safety and health of the people of Canada. What is missing from the act is the ability to immediately react. I am concerned with the level of science, and once again I'd like us to turn to Krever. The issues and their importance in relation to public health are noted in his document and report, and I would like to deal with page 1049. He says:
|Preventive action should be taken when there is evidence that a potentially disease-causing agent|
—and you can switch that to read “chemicals”—
|is or may be blood borne|
—or “in existence” in this case—
|even when there is no evidence that recipients have been affected. If harm can occur, it should be assumed that it will occur. If there are no measures that will entirely prevent the harm, measures that may only partially prevent transmission|
|should be taken.|
We need to remember those lessons and utilize them.
Public health initiatives deal with emerging science. They must react quickly. Our very best example of this is tobacco. It has taken science fifty years to say tobacco is linked to lung cancer since, under science, it requires a 97% certainty before science will say A is linked to B. Some people within in our community will still say there isn't sufficient scientific proof that smoking causes lung cancer, but we now have 45,000 Canadians dying every year as a result of lung cancer. Therefore, as a result of knowing the experiences of the past, we need to be able to respond quickly.
I am concerned that you do not provide the minister with any ability to suspend a licence when there is an immediate harm or threat. It is provided only under the provision in clause 34 in relation to exports. It's not provided to those that exist domestically, and that needs to be corrected. The act must be able to call for a review when there is any concern that the substance is banned, so under subclause 17(2), you need to have it for any use.
Another thing that came out during the blood inquiry was that something was no longer licensed. One product manufacturer in the United States knew its heat-treated product was not eliminating the HIV virus. The manufacturer no longer sought a licence in the United States, and continued to sell the product in Canada. As a result, five hemophiliac children in B.C. were infected with HIV unnecessarily.
We also need to be able to have a special review done if any country is no longer licensing a product. The Department of Health needs to be informed that this has occurred, and a special review should occur at that particular time.
On the precautionary principle, the bar is far too high. It only deals with severe and irreversible harm. That is way too high a standard. Does it mean that if a child will no longer be affected after two years, you can continue to use this particular product? That is a level that is improper.
The Chair: Ms. Ring, I will have to ask you to conclude, please.
Ms. Dawna J. Ring: I would like to be able to provide these recommendations in writing, and I apologize that they are not done. But the drafting of this act needs significant change in order to give the department the ability to regulate, as it has the jurisdiction and responsibility to do so.
Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Ring. We'll look forward to your submission.
Ms. Judy Sgro (York West, Lib.): Can she get us that submission fairly quickly?
The Chair: Yes, it will have to come fairly quickly, because a week from Tuesday—
Ms. Dawna J. Ring: If you ask me a question, then I can take those five minutes.
The Chair: We'll now move to the second part of our meeting. We have very little time left, so I'll ask all questioners to be very brief. I'll also ask the witnesses to be very, very brief in their responses.
We'll begin with Mrs. Skelton.
Mrs. Carol Skelton: I have a whole list for everybody, but I want to talk to Dr. Michrowski.
Have you appeared before the agriculture committee?
Dr. Andrew Michrowski: No.
Mrs. Carol Skelton: How about before the minister's task force?
Dr. Andrew Michrowski: No. I was only apprised of this by one of our members—Dr. Libuse Gilka, a local medical doctor who knew about this technique—and I only found out about it a few days ago.
Mrs. Carol Skelton: How big are the agricultural areas that you can cover?
Dr. Andrew Michrowski: To cover an area well—meaning that you're making sure you always have every plant protected—you can cover up to about a hundred acres at a time with one unit.
Mrs. Carol Skelton: About a hundred acres at a time.
How long is the timeframe?
Dr. Andrew Michrowski: What you do is monitor as things happen. If a new pest seems to be appearing or if you have a new problem, such as more dryness than expected, you can do something to the unit to ensure that you will have an accounting for the plants. You can accommodate the fact that there is less humidity around, or you can do something for a new pest that might come along. It might be just like the case in forestry, in which there was a reagent that repelled a particular thing. This is all informational, and it can be controlled from hundreds of miles away.
Mrs. Carol Skelton: Could you get us information on your—
Dr. Andrew Michrowski: Very much so. It's very interesting. It has become like a subculture in a way, but it has had very good documentation since the 1930s, especially since it was a great success in England in the 1930s. Of course, the House of Lords was fighting against the chemical industry even at that time, saying that they had to do it. Lots of these lords had good farms, too—even Prince Charles has his own farm—so they wanted to protect at least their interests by ensuring that it would never become illegal.
That was why you saw such an effort made, and why lots of this was published over time here and there. But it was never accepted by the academic community because it seemed so impossible until about ten years ago. But the knowledge of physics has now included the reason why this is even possible.
It's really an information field. No physical mechanics that we know of, like electromagnetics or chemicals, take place.
Mrs. Carol Skelton: You're welcome to come to my farm in Saskatchewan to show me how it works.
Dr. Andrew Michrowski: Not only that, but you would also probably find highly improved yields, too, and at a much lower cost. I think the cost to a farmer, on the average, is about $1,000 just to have his pesticides and fertilizers.
The Chair: Thank you, Mrs. Skelton.
Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, BQ): Thank you, Madam Chair.
First of all, I would like to tell the witnesses and citizens that I personally entirely support the idea of a restriction and ban on pesticides for a three-year period, especially in public areas. The problem is always how to go about it and which approach should be taken.
My question could be for Ms. Ring, but is also addressed to everyone. I was under the impression that the federal government's responsibility concerned the introduction of products and the approval thereof, and that the provinces were responsible for monitoring their sale, use and distribution.
As for the municipalities, let's say the legislation was extremely vague, but became clearer after several court rulings, including the final one in the City of Hudson case in June 2001, which confirmed that municipalities had the right to pass by-laws, but under the Quebec City and Towns Act and the Municipal Code, because we know that municipalities are really creatures of the provinces.
My question is the following. I agree that there should be a ban, but what type? If you look at the City of Hudson case, you can see that between 1991, the date the judgment was handed down, and the last judgment by the Supreme Court in June 2001, there was a big blur, a legal battle which meant that nothing was done. Now, if that ban is included in federal legislation, you don't know what the outcome will be. So in fact, shouldn't the federal government first speed up the reassessment process for existing pesticides and accelerate the approval process for biopesticides?
As for the provinces, they should have pesticide management codes with appropriate standards and consistency, and they should be responsible not for implementing regulations, but for enforcing the pesticide management codes adopted by the provinces. That way, the areas of jurisdiction will be respected and we will have complete coverage and health protection more quickly, which will be consistent with the Supreme Court ruling, among others, which I think should be used as a reference point.
The Chair: Could you direct your question to one member please, Mr. Bigras.
Mr. Bernard Bigras: I put my question to Ms. Ring, but it can be for everyone.
The Chair: Everyone?
Mr. Bernard Bigras: I addressed my question to Ms. Ring.
The Chair: Madame Ring? Thank you.
Ms. Dawna J. Ring: Thank you.
The provinces have the ability and they provide the municipalities with the ability to bring in municipal bylaws, but that does not take away the federal government's jurisdiction and responsibility in terms of its regulation of pesticides. I think both need to occur at the same time. The protection and safety of the public start with registration. The federal government cannot take away or attempt to ignore that part of its responsibility to regulate use. It has that responsibility, and the regulation of the use of a pesticide is an integral part of its overall regulation.
Mr. Bernard Bigras: Yes, but don't we run the risk of ending up in a legal battle where people will say that the questions of use, sale and distribution are not of federal jurisdiction, but rather of provincial jurisdiction, since the Supreme Court ruling said that municipalities, which are creatures of the provincial government, had full responsibility in that area?
Ms. Dawna J. Ring: I don't think you'll find that they said they have full responsibility. They have responsibility under the health and property provisions of the provincial jurisdiction.
It’s very similar to what we had in blood. There is a dovetailing and an overlap of the responsibility that comes from the provinces and from the federal government. The federal government is incapable of registering a pesticide without understanding its use and its proximity to things such as children, pregnant woman, etc. You're incapable of doing that.
As I mentioned, in subclause 6(8), it very clearly says:
|No person shall manufacture, possess, handle, store, transport, distribute, use or dispose of a pest control product in a way that endangers human health or the environment.|
So the only way in which the federal government can handle that jurisdiction is for it specifically to deal with use. I'd rather have that legal battle than the one lawyers like me can engage in afterwards, when you have failed to actually regulate properly and many more people have been harmed or injured as a result of not properly regulating this product.
The Chair: Ms. Lockwood.
Ms. Andrea Lockwood: The other way in which this could be looked at is by examining the question through a different optic, and that’s through registration. Chemical products designed only for lawn care and cosmetic purposes would not be registered. That would certainly help at the municipal level, because the products simply wouldn't be out there. So rather than focusing on the use aspect, maybe you could simply focus on the product registration aspect, which is clearly within federal competency.
The Chair: Mr. Duhaime, very quickly.
Mr. André Duhaime: It is the federal government that has full jurisdiction over products; that is clear. It hands that responsibility down to the provinces. The provinces have the right, but cannot exceed the products that have been approved and registered by the federal government. However, as was done in Quebec, they can... That is why Quebec is unique, in that no municipality has banned them. It is one of the rare provinces that has delegated that responsibility to municipalities. At the end of the day, municipalities are stuck with a problem, because several municipalities were reluctant to ban those products. By the way, some had banned them before the ruling in the Hudson case— [Editor's Note: Inaudible] —Vaudreuil and others banned them.
But there is a structural problem that stems from the fact that as long as the products are sold on the free market, it creates a niche, a type of black market. The provincial government can ban those products, but there is a sort of dissension between the federal and provincial governments. So if the problem of banning products for cosmetic purposes had arisen at the federal level, the province would not be dealing with the problem of having to make a decision that should have already been made by the supreme authority, namely the federal government. So that problem will not be solved simply by saying that it will be left up to the provinces, because the provinces will always hand it down to the municipalities. We now have a situation where some municipalities have a by-law and others don't, and people have to purchase their products elsewhere. That will create a type of black market whereby the products are always available.
As I said earlier, that is why the products must be banned, not because of the problem, but because of the fact that no study shows that those products are completely safe. First of all, more studies are needed and then a decision can be made as to what can be done, because there are low-impact products.
That is what escapes me: there have been effective products for a few years, but they have been set aside on the basis that it is not important, that grass and lawns are more important.
Mr. Bernard Bigras: They are not approved.
Mr. André Duhaime: They are approved. There are biopesticides. So there would be much less—[Editor's Note: Inaudible] There are replacement products on the market called low-impact biopesticides. There are companies which have been making them for 20 years; I can give you several names. That is why Quebec is moving forward and suggesting banning pesticides: there are companies, and not just in Quebec. Quebec is not unique; there are other provinces with that same opportunity, but the products are set aside on the basis that pesticides are the only thing that can be used, and yet pesticides are supposed to be used as a last resort. What is the last resort? Is it to get rid of dandelions? That is what I don't understand in our society.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Bigras.
Are there any further questions?
Ms. Judy Sgro: Madam Chair, could I just make one statement?
We'd like to have hours with you, but there is just not enough time. Given the short amount of time that we have left, if Ms. Ring could assure us that her comments will get to us before Monday, it would be appreciated.
Ms. Dawna J. Ring: I'll try to have them in by tomorrow.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
On behalf of the committee, witnesses, I thank you for your presentations, for all the work that you've done in this subject area in the past, and for the fact that you've put your thoughts together so well to present to us.
Could I ask the witnesses and the guests in the audience to leave the room quietly? We have another piece of business to deal with before the end of this meeting.
Ms. Judy Sgro: Madam Chair, I move that we go in camera.
The Chair: I have a motion to go in camera. Is there any discussion? No?
Seeing none, I'll call the question: Those in favour of going in camera, please raise your hands.
The Clerk of the Committee: Madam Chair, there's no quorum, so there can't be any motions. However, you can take the initiative to move the meeting in camera. No motion is required.
The Chair: Very well, we'll proceed to the in camera part of our meeting.
[Editor's Note: Proceedings continue in camera]