The Federal Court of Appeal in Canada has issued a decision in favour of Safe Food Matters in a court case concerning the re-registration of the world’s most used weedkiller, glyphosate. The decision remits the matter back to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada for reconsideration, and offers strong guidance to PMRA to avoid “the endless merry-go-round” of court applications and reconsiderations.
In 2017, Safe Food Matters (and others) filed objections to PMRA’s decision to re-register glyphosate in Canada, and the PMRA rejected the objections in 2019. Safe Food Matters filed in Federal Court, lost, then appealed.
Mary Lou McDonald, LL.B., President of Safe Food Matters, commented: “When we started this case, we said ‘we believe in the law’, and our belief has come true. Legal activism works! A huge ‘thank you’ to our fantastic counsel, Andrea Gonsalves of Stockwoods, and our GoFund Me and other supporters. This is a very good day – for us, for Canadians, and for jurisprudence. The case sets out guidance for PMRA to follow in its decision-making, and requires them to provide thoughtful responses to the objections of the public; both of which are huge improvements.”
The Court decision comes at a time when all eyes are on the PMRA. In summer, 2021 PMRA put a “pause” on proposed increases to the limits of glyphosate (and other pesticides) allowed on food because of public outcry, and now PMRA is working on a “Transformation Agenda” to address these concerns.
The Court decision affects these PMRA initiatives. It calls into question whether PMRA can go ahead with increasing the limits of glyphosate on food, given the possibility that a review panel could recommend changes to the directive which provides much of the scientific rationale for the proposed increases. It also remains to be seen how, or whether, PMRA will incorporate the Court’s considerations on the review panel into PMRA’s Transformation Agenda.
“Hopefully PMRA gets it right the second time round and comes to the decision that a review panel is warranted. There is still a chance for a happy ending on the Canadian chapter of this pesticide, a story which is being told all around the world,” McDonald concluded.
Three public interest groups intervened in the case, and the Centre for Health Science and Law went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to ask to intervene. The three interveners were represented by Ecojustice, and they were: David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence and Friends of the Earth Canada.