Advocates protest CropLife event at NatureCOP, as delegates consider first global pesticide reduction target
Montréal/Tiohtià:ke | Traditional, unceded lands of the Kanien’kehá:ka/Mohawk Nation, a gathering place for many First Nations, including the Anishinaabeg – Demonstrators dressed as bees and butterflies, raised concerns today about the presence and profile of the pesticide industry at NatureCOP (COP15), the global biodiversity summit taking place in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal. Environmental groups are calling on governments to embrace pesticide reduction targets as part of the global biodiversity framework being negotiated at the biodiversity summit.
Pesticide industry association CropLife hosted an event for delegates this afternoon. A leaked report revealed CropLife Europe’s efforts to undermine pesticide reduction targets included in the European Union’s 2020 Biodiversity Strategy. Canada lacks a parallel strategy to reduce pesticide use while pesticide sales data show use of chemicals is rising. Three companies — Bayer, Corteva and Syngenta-ChemChina, all represented on CropLife Canada’s board — control more than 70 per cent of the global pesticide market, as well as 61 per cent of proprietary seed sales (including genetically modified).
In addition to human health concerns associated with pesticides (each year 385 million farmers and farmworkers suffer from acute pesticide poisoning), pesticides are a factor in the decline of many species. For example, overuse of glyphosate-based herbicides has eradicated milkweed from much of the landscape. It’s essential to the survival of monarch butterfly larvae. Environment and Climate Change Canada is currently consulting on a 2016 recommendation to formally list monarchs as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act. Likewise, birds that feed on insects are negatively affected by insecticides, which have reduced the quality and quantity of their insect prey. Aerial insectivores have declined by 60 per cent in Canada since the 1970s.
The draft global biodiversity framework under consideration at COP15 would require parties, including Canada, to reduce pesticide use by two-thirds by 2030 (Target 7). If approved in the final text, this would be the first time parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity have agreed to a global pesticide reduction target.
When asked at today’s event, a spokesperson said CropLife does not support the proposed pesticide use reduction target in the global framework.
COP15 delegates need to be aware of greenwashing and not allow industry influence to scuttle the proposed target on pesticide use reduction. We are calling on the Government of Canada to publicly support the pesticide reduction target included in the draft framework agreement and to align federal pesticide regulation to achieve this goal.
“We need more ambition to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. It’s unacceptable to have those who profit from pesticides undermining negotiations. We must move beyond corporate science and industry lobbyists and build a bold action plan for planetary health.” – Cassie Barker, Toxics Senior Program Manager, Environmental Defence
“The Montreal nature summit must connect the dots between pesticides and biodiversity loss. We call on Canada, as host, to show leadership with a clear commitment to reducing pesticide use and risk.” – Lisa Gue, National Policy Manager, David Suzuki Foundation
“Birds that feed on flying insects, such as swallows, are in free-fall in Canada and beyond. The loss of their main source of food — insects — is a key factor in their disappearance. We must decrease, not increase, pesticide use if we want to see swallows return with the onset of each spring.” – Silke Nebel, PhD, Vice-President Science and Conservation, Birds Canada
“CropLife international has caused unimaginable damage to biodiversity around the globe. They’ve repeatedly lobbied for the status quo overuse and overreliance on toxic chemicals. They do not belong here and they should never have been given room to speak at COP15.” – Charlotte Dawe Conservation and Policy campaigner for the Wilderness Committee
“So much of current and recent biodiversity loss is driven by agricultural intensification, including use and dependency on pesticides and herbicides. The associated ecological costs include damaged soil ecology, monoculture forests vulnerable to environmental stresses and insect and bird species population collapses. It’s time for Canada to step up with a strategy to reduce pesticide use and dependency before it’s too late” – Ted Cheskey, Naturalist Director and bird expert. Nature Canada
“Biodiversity is essential for all life and the health of living things, including humans. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem changes, as evidenced, for example, in the decline of monarch butterflies, increases the risks for infectious diseases in plants, animals and humans. A global pesticide reduction target is critical for the protection of biodiversity and for human health.” – Melissa Lem, M.D., President, Board of Directors, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)
“We’ve known for a long time that some industry interests use controversial techniques, such as seeding doubts about the science, intimidation of critics and use of ghost writers, which slow and derail important political decisions — as we have seen with tobacco, climate and pesticides. These corporate interests have caused enough harm and should not have a place at the table in the negotiations for the future of biodiversity and life on this planet.” – Thibault Rehn, coordinator, Vigilance OGM
“I do not know any farmer who uses pesticides to poison themselves or poison the biodiversity of our planet. Pesticides are a societal issue, a public health matter, not only a problem that concerns the agricultural sector.” – Serge Giard, farmer with Parkinson’s disease, president of Victimes des pesticides du Québec
“As pesticide resistance is building, rather than reducing use to preserve efficacy (as with antibiotics), the industry is teeing up more potent chemicals. Pesticides pollute the environment and harm workers’ and public health. What role is CropLife playing in preserving that which their products are designed to kill?” – Meg Sears, Chair, Prevent Cancer Now
“First we must stop the damage to biodiversity, so the world needs a significant reduction in pesticide use and a shift to managing pests rather than the current outright war on all insects. CropLife is in the business of selling as much pesticide product as they can for profit. Their interests cannot align with those who seek to stop the damage and restore and conserve biodiversity. Governments should view CropLife and its members as polluters who must pay for the damage they’re inflicting on our global biodiversity.” – Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada
- Photos and video of bees and butterflies demonstration.
- Report on CropLife Europe lobbying activities to oppose pesticide reduction targets.
- Letter-writing campaign in support of increasing protection for monarch butterflies under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
- Petition calling on Canada to ban glyphosate.
– 30 –
For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
Paula Gray, Communications Manager, Environmental Defence, firstname.lastname@example.org