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DOW Launches NAFTA Challenge to Pesticide Ban

April 27, 2009

You know all those people you see on TV who march and protest against the WTO, the World Bank, Free Trade, Globalization, etc.? This is why:

Environmentalists in battle to be heard in pesticide case
NAFTA can block their participation and take arbitration proceedings behind closed doors

Look out, Ontario.

Dow Chemicals has filed a claim under the North American Free Trade Agreement seeking compensation for a Quebec ban on lawn pesticides. Dow says that the ban amounts to an unfair “expropriation” of the company’s Quebec pesticide business.

Although the NAFTA claim is focused on the Quebec ban, don’t be surprised if Ontario comes into the sightlines now that a similar province-wide ban came into effect last week.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m incredibly ambivalent on the issue of cosmetic pesticide bans. I am not at all convinced that lawn weedkillers pose even a marginal threat to anybody’s health or safety, but even if they do, such bans are so limited in scope and have so many exceptions that they only distract from the much broader issue of chemical use in our society – particularly in agriculture.

Frankly, I’m far more concerned with the pesticides on the food I eat than whatever my neighbour is spraying on his grass. I’m not planning to graze on his lawn.

That said, our duly elected representatives are following the will of the vast majority of people in this province who support a cosmetic pesticide ban. This sort of preventative policy was even upheld by Canada’s Supreme Court, which ruled that governments have the right to act proactively so as to minimize potential health risks.

The idea that a corporation can challenge such regulations just because it’s bad for their business is precisely the sort of outrage that makes some people dislike things like corporations and free trade agreements. You might just as well have American gun manufacturers complain that our gun control laws are depriving them of profit for no good reason. After all, guns don’t kill people…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. nmboudin permalink
    April 30, 2009 8:57 pm


    I share in your outrage. Good for Quebec and Ontario, for breaking chemical dependency. What DOW is trying to do is no longer free-market capitalism, but punitive and monopolistic.

    Reading Luke Peterson’s Article is most revealing. Dow’s $2 million dollar suit is pocket change. My prediction is that the real prize is overturning bans in other province that have already been held up by the Supreme Court of Canada. The fact that this upcoming arbitration could be in camera sticks in my craw.

    Here comes the rant: I guess that despite the express recommendations of the Canadian Cancer Foundation, respected non-profits the Suzuki Foundation, Equiterre, the people of Quebec and precedents set by the highest court in a nation that is signatory to NAFTA, that none of these parties needs to be at the table.

    Something like this demands a strong response. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities asked the government to ban the use of pesticides in BC, and have a petition form on


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