January 2004

Canada: Pesticide companies ordered to change ads

An environmental group has won a victory against some mulitnational pesticide companies. Last summer Earth Action filed a petition with a review office in the Auditor General's department. As a result, for the first time since the petition process started, four companies that either sell or use pesticides have been ordered to change the way they promote their products.

The action was initiated by Earth Action's Sharon Labchuk, who filed the petition with the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development, and enclosed examples of promotional material from Bayer, Syngenta, Weed Man and Bobby Lawn Care. "They're using language that's illegal," says Labchuk. "They're saying that their pesticides are safe, that government has approved them and that they are somehow sanctioned by government to be safe, and all of that is illegal in Canada to say in pesticide advertising."

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency agrees with Labchuk, and it has ordered the four companies to change their promotional material. Neil McTiernan, the agency's Atlantic regional manager, says the companies' words were misleading. "If it has directions to use certain safety precautions and protective equipment, then to tell someone a product is safe, then they might believe they don't have to take precaution," says McTiernan, "when in fact if they read the label they should be." McTiernan says some of the companies have already complied with the orders. The agency will be following up to make sure they don't use words like "safe" or "government approved" in the future.

Derrick Rozdeba, a communications manager for Bayer Crop Science, says his company has responded to the ruling. "We are never comfortable receiving any orders of compliance," says Rozdeba. "I mean we are always sensitive to these regulations. It is never our intent to contravene any of these Acts. So we take this fairly seriously." He says Bayer is reviewing all its promotional material to make sure it isn't breaking the law.
source: CBC News Online

Excerpt from the Petition

Current Legislation
The Canadian Pest Control Products Act (PCP Act) regulates environmental label claims and advertising of pest control products registered under the Pest Control Products Act. Subsection 4(2) of the PCP Act states that "No person shall package, label or advertise a control product in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety."

Regulatory Directive 96-02 (March 15, 1996) states that "Industry is responsible for ensuring that any environmental claims on their product labels or advertising are accurate and in compliance with the PCP Act. Environmental claims must be truthful and accurate, based on recognized standards, and, where, applicable, supported by scientifically defensible studies or rationale... Vague and potentially misleading statements such as "environmentally friendly", "green", or "ozone friendly" must not be used as that cannot clearly indicate a specific benefit. Comparative claims such as "best", "superior", or "greener" also must not be used. The terms "safe" or "safer" in the context of environmental claims (e.g., "environmentally safe or "safe for the environment") may be misinterpreted as relating to personal safety and, as such, may cause some confusion. For this reason, these terms are not acceptable on pest control products...

Furthermore, Regulatory Directive 99-02 (March 4, 1999) states that "The PMRA views advertising contraventions as serious offences....Advertising must not contain words stating, implying or inferring that a control product is approved, accepted or recommended by the Government of Canada or by any of its departments or agencies."

Pesticide Manufacturer Advertising
Pesticide manufacturers and lawn care companies routinely advertise products in contravention of the Pest Control Products Act.