Original language of petition: English
Petition to the Minister of Health
- Glyphosate is Canada’s most widely sold pesticide used in agriculture as an herbicide and to kill crops for harvest, in forestry to kill unwanted target trees and vegetation, and as an herbicide on rights-of-way, commercial and residential grounds, golf courses, schools and other landscapes;
- The result is residents of Canada, including infants and children, consume glyphosate residues in their food and water and are exposed to it while outdoors for recreation, occupational activities, hunting and harvesting;
- The use of glyphosate harms aquatic and terrestrial species and causes loss of biodiversity thereby making ecosystems more vulnerable to pollution and climate change;
- It endangers pollinators including wild bees and monarch butterflies and exacerbates wildfires since conifer-only forests burn faster and hotter than mixed forests;
- In 2015, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”;
- Glyphosate has been found to cause injuries to human health including harming cellular function and causing reproductive effects, hormone disruption, microbiome disruption and cancer; and
- The Pest Control Products Act is referred to Parliament for review and Health Canada is conducting a transformation of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.
Government response tabled
Response by the Minister of Health
Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Adam Van Koeverden
In Canada, the regulation of pesticides is shared among all levels of government. Federally, pesticides are regulated under the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA), which is administered by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). Our number one priority is to protect the health and safety of Canadians and the environment.
Before a pesticide is allowed to be used or sold in Canada, it must undergo a rigorous scientific assessment process that provides reasonable certainty that no harm to human health and the environment will occur when it is used according to label directions. Depending on the type of pesticide being evaluated, results from up to 200 scientific studies (or in some cases more) may be required to determine whether the pesticide would have any negative effect on people (including chronic effects, such as cancer), animals, or plants, including organisms in the soil and water. This assessment also takes into consideration sensitive populations, such as pregnant and nursing women, infants, children, and seniors.
Health Canada also periodically re-evaluates pesticides that are on the market to assess whether they continue to meet the Department’s health and environmental standards and hence whether they should continue to be permitted for use in Canada. An extensive scientific re-evaluation of glyphosate, completed in 2017, showed that under the established conditions of use, glyphosate does not pose unacceptable risks to human health (including reproductive, hormonal and gastro-intestinal health, or chronic effects such as cancer) or the environment (including biodiversity). This re-evaluation considered data not only from manufacturers, but also from a large body of published independent scientific studies, and information from other internationally recognized regulatory agencies. Over 1,300 studies were reviewed, totalling more than 89,000 pages.
As part of the re-evaluation of glyphosate, Health Canada considered all available scientific evidence, including published scientific data, required guideline studies, and any epidemiological evidence on the topic of the potential hormonal (endocrine) disrupting properties of glyphosate. Based on weight of evidence review of high-quality scientific studies for glyphosate, no compelling evidence of potential interaction with the endocrine system was noted. The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program and the European Food Safety Authority also reached the same conclusion following completion of their reviews of all lines of scientific evidence on this topic.
Health Canada took the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) into consideration but found that the levels at which Canadians are exposed to glyphosate do not cause any harmful effects, including cancer. It is important to note that the level of exposure to the pesticide is not factored into the hazard-based approach used by some organizations (such as IARC), and thus do not constitute a risk assessment. While IARC (a branch of the World Health Organization, or WHO) categorized glyphosate as a probable carcinogen from a hazard perspective in 2015, the WHO concluded in a Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues with the Food and Agriculture Organization in May 2016 that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a cancer risk to humans from exposure through diet.
Health Canada establishes maximum residue limits (MRLs) for pesticide residues in food. MRLs represent the maximum amount of residue that may remain on a food when a pesticide is used according to its label directions. MRLs apply to all foods, regardless of whether they are grown in Canada or imported and are set at levels well below the amount that could pose a health concern. Canadian MRLs are set only after extensive review of the scientific information and after a thorough risk assessment confirms that there are no health concerns for any segment of the population (including those referred to above), when all possible food sources are eaten every day, over a lifetime. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) tests food products for chemical residues as part of its National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program. If any product exceeds the MRLs set by Health Canada, the CFIA takes appropriate enforcement action. Compliance with respect to glyphosate MRLs is very high, with CFIA’s most recent data indicating a compliance level of 99.4%.
As for the potential health impacts of glyphosate on the human intestinal microbiome, there is very little scientific evidence to support the claim that glyphosate has any direct impact on human gut microflora or has any subsequent health effect. Further to this, in 2021, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency published results of their scientific research (in English only) indicating limited effects of glyphosate on intestinal microbiome, further supporting Health Canada’s current position on this matter.
Regarding the effects of pesticides on soil microbial communities, literature on the subject was reviewed as part of the re-evaluation of glyphosate. The effects of glyphosate on forest and agricultural soil microbial communities were shown to be inconsistent and consequently no clear conclusion can be drawn from the available scientific information.
Registered pest control products in Canada, including glyphosate, do not "cause injuries to human health including harming cellular function and causing reproductive effects, hormone disruption, microbiome disruption and cancer”, whether through diet or non-dietary exposures (such as inhalation) when they are used according to label instructions. This determination by Health Canada and key foreign regulatory partners is based on results of specifically designed laboratory studies that are used to establish the permissible levels of exposure, which are then used to derive label instructions. These permissible levels for human exposure are set over one-hundred, or more, times lower than the amount that could potentially cause harm. These acceptable levels of exposure also take into account various types of populations who could be exposed to pesticides, including workers who handle pesticides, the general population, as well as sensitive sub-populations (such as pregnant women, children, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals).
With regards to potential human exposure to pesticides (including for glyphosate), it should be noted that the public may report health impacts they believe to be related to pesticide exposure to Health Canada’s Incident Reporting Program by completing a Voluntary Incident Report. Health Canada uses this information in its risk assessments and to monitor for safety after pesticides are registered.
With respect to pollution and climate change, please note that Canada, along with 195 member nations, has recently concluded the negotiations of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Montréal. The COP15 adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), including four goals and 23 targets for achievement by 2030 to safeguard nature and halt and reverse biodiversity loss, putting nature on a path to recovery by 2050. Target 7 focuses on reducing the negative impacts of pollution on biodiversity. The target commits to, among other goals, reduce the overall risk from pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals by at least half including through integrated pest management, based on science, taking into account food security and livelihoods.
Health Canada is collaborating with Environment and Climate Change (ECCC) which provides the National Focal Point for the GBF and is the federal lead on a national response. We will continue to work with them and other federal partners in determining next steps for Target 7, as part of developing a national biodiversity strategy and action plan.
With regards to glyphosate use in forestry, Health Canada has concluded that this use is acceptable, when label directions are followed. These findings were based on an extensive review of the available scientific information on glyphosate. A forest cultivation site would receive one or at most two treatments early on in a 50-to-80-year cultivation cycle.
This year’s wildfire conditions are unprecedented and deeply concerning. Serious wildfires have prompted evacuations for tens of thousands of Canadians across the country, including in many Indigenous communities. As we continue to monitor the situation, we have been in regular contact with all affected provinces and territories to ensure they have the support they need. When Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Quebec reached out for help, we answered – and we stand ready if more provinces or territories require federal assistance. Provincial/territorial and municipal governments have shared responsibilities in regulating pesticides. While Health Canada authorizes pesticides, it does not determine whether a product should or will be used (for example, for vegetation control, or for any other purpose). Likewise, provincial authorities oversee management of forestry resources and are best placed to determine if a registered pesticide (such as glyphosate) should be used for forestry management, based on their knowledge of local conditions and their objectives in managing natural resources within the province. The decision to use an herbicide in forestry operations would be included as part of a provincial forest management plan. Permitting or restricting the use of federally approved pesticides falls under the authority of the province, for both provincial crown land and privately held land within the province.
Regarding potential impacts of glyphosate on pollinators (including bees and monarch butterflies). Health Canada’s environmental risk assessment for glyphosate did not identify any population level risks to pollinators, such as bees and monarchs.
To further strengthen pesticide oversight and protection of human health and the environment and improve transparency, in August 2021, the Federal Government announced a $50 million investment in Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), with support from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). With this funding, the PMRA has established a Transformation Agenda, which includes initiatives in four major areas: strengthened human and environmental health and safety oversight and protection through modernized business processes, improved transparency to increase understanding of the decision-making process, increased availability of real-world data and independent advice to better inform regulatory decision making, and a targeted review of the PCPA.
In spring 2022, Health Canada launched the targeted review of the PCPA. A What We Heard report that summarizes the feedback received from partners and stakeholders has been published on the Government of Canada’s web site. The Department continues to consider all feedback received during these consultations to inform future potential measures to improve protection of human health and the environment from risks posed by pesticides. For those interested stakeholders who wish to engage further with the PMRA on its transformation agenda, they are encouraged to contact its transformation team directly by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The PMRA is taking measures to further strengthen environmental protection for people, plants, and animals, and to improve the transparency of review processes for pesticides like glyphosate. For instance, the PMRA has created a Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products (SAC-PCP), which provides Health Canada with independent scientific advice to support evidence-based decision making on pesticides. The PMRA has also diversified the sources and increased the volume of data and information to inform its decisions on pesticides, by launching a water sampling program that collects real-world data from rivers, streams, wetlands, and lakes across Canada. The data from this program is available here. The PMRA is also working with partners and grower groups to collect real-world data on pesticide use in Canada, to inform the development of a national pesticide use data program. Further, the PMRA is incorporating plain language communications in key pesticide regulatory decisions to support more meaningful public participation in the regulatory process.
As a part of our commitment to modernize our business processes, PMRA is evolving its oversight model to one that continually monitors the potential risks of pesticides, including through scientific literature, foreign regulatory decisions, and incident reports, throughout the life cycle of a pesticide rather than at predetermined review periods. PMRA will be engaging the public in a consultation in Fall 2023, where interested stakeholders will be encouraged to provide their comments to PMRA. The public consultation will be posted on the PMRA’s Pesticides and pest management consultations webpage.
Please be assured that Health Canada continues to monitor for new information on all pesticides (including glyphosate) and will take appropriate action if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the use of the products is resulting in risks of concern to human health or the environment. When the science-based assessment indicates that potential risk to human health or the environment is not considered acceptable when risk management measures are applied, Health Canada will take appropriate action which may include cancelling specific uses or all uses of a pesticide, depending on the outcome of assessment. When all uses of a pesticide are cancelled, the pesticide is phased-out from the Canadian market.
- Open for signature
- September 15, 2022, at 5:56 p.m. (EDT)
- Closed for signature
- January 13, 2023, at 5:56 p.m. (EDT)
- Presented to the House of Commons
May 2, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01405)
- Government response tabled
- June 15, 2023
Only validated signatures are counted towards the total number of signatures.
|Province / Territory
|Newfoundland and Labrador
|Prince Edward Island