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Sierra Club of Canada News Release

January 10, 2005

Environmental group withdraws from pesticide hearings in protest

Health Canada process lacks credibility; industry claims outcome a foregone conclusion

Ottawa - The Sierra Club of Canada announced today that it is withdrawing from hearings of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s Lindane Review Board to mark its objections to the process and the scope of the hearings.

The hearings are designed to address Crompton Co.’s (A US based chemical company) opposition to the de-registration of the toxic pesticide lindane as a seed coating. The Lindane Review Board was established by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) in response to demands by Crompton to reconsider the previous decision by PMRA to withdraw lindane's registration. Crompton has been threatening Canada with a NAFTA challenge, in spite of the fact that the US has already withdrawn registration for lindane use on canola seed, the primary use in Canada.

“The entire process has been bizarre. None of the other agencies or groups working on lindane were even aware this was happening. The rules of procedure for the hearings are ad-hoc; the selection process for the three members of the review panel is a mystery; and the company is already claiming victory in correspondence with the regulatory agency in the US,” said Angela Rickman, a senior policy advisor with Sierra Club of Canada, “A cynic might suspect the PMRA was stacking the deck in favour of Crompton in order to avoid a potential NAFTA suit. Someone less cynical, however, might come to the conclusion the agency is merely incompetent.”

The Review Board was created under the new Pest Control Products Regulations, which were alleged to ensure greater public transparency and participation. “However, what we have experienced is a closed system that is extremely reluctant to allow participation of the broader community,” said Katie Albright, Health and Environment Campaigner for the Sierra Club of Canada.

The Sierra Club of Canada’s evidence was largely rejected as dealing with issues beyond the narrow question of occupational exposure in coating seeds -- the one ground used by PMRA to ban the use of lindane as a seed coating. “Yet we all know that the health and environmental effects of toxins are many. The Board must broaden its scope to examine such factors as the atrocious production methods for this chemical that have left millions of tonnes of hazardous waste throughout the world,” continued Albright.

Lindane is a known neurotoxin that causes seizures, damages the nervous system, and weakens the immune system. Exposure may also cause cancer and disrupt the hormone system of humans and other animals. Because lindane is persistent and travels globally via air and water, its continued use in agriculture poses an exposure risk to people far from the source. Lindane is now one of the most abundant pesticides in Arctic air and water, and northern indigenous peoples are exposed through their traditional diets.

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is currently developing a North American Regional Action Plan (NARAP) for lindane. Yet, none of the members of the NARAP process’ Lindane Task Force, selected for their demonstrated expertise and unique experience with lindane, were aware of the Review Board’s existence, mandate, or timelines. None were notified of the hearings, asked for input into the makeup of the Board, or contacted as expert witnesses.

The omission of Lindane Task Force members becomes more glaring when one considers recent correspondence between Crompton and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). One document, obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act, reveals that Crompton expected that the Review Board process “should result in a reinstatement of lindane registrations in Canada” and used this statement as rational for the EPA to continue supporting seed treatment uses in the US.

"The Crompton corporation is aggressively pressing for the re-registration of lindane for canola uses in the US, and Canada's phase out of this use gets in the way," said Kristin Schafer of Pesticide Action Network North America. “This at a time when the writing is on the wall for this old and dangerous pesticide - the US is currently the only country in the UNECE supporting agricultural uses for lindane."

Sierra Club of Canada’s formal request to be removed from the hearing was sent to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, Health Minister Dosanjh, and the counsels of both Crompton Co. and the Board. SCC urges Minister Dosanjh to examine the creation and administration of the Board before allowing further action to be taken on lindane.


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