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Canadian Judge Orders Review of Roundup’s Impact on Frogs

Citing the precautionary principle invoked in the historic Supreme Court Hudson v. Spraytech and ChemLawn decision in 2001 — profiled in the documentary film, A Chemical Reaction — a Canadian federal justice has ordered a full review of the impact of the herbicide Roundup on frogs and other amphibians.

Justice Michael A. Kelen, who has served on the federal bench since 2003, quoted the Hudson decision in ordering Health Canada to begin a special review of North America’s most widely used weed-killer, stating: “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent adverse health impact or environmental degradation.”

In his 43-page decision reached yesterday, Kelen also cited a bevy of new evidence that implicates Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate in everything from human birth defects to lymphoma. His order, however, specifically focused on the risks to amphibians detailed in a 2008 scientific literature review by the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment.

In that study, published in the BC Literature Review, scientists found that one of Roundup’s “inert” ingredients known as POEA — or polyoxyethylene tallow amines — has toxic effects on amphibians and that there are “knowledge gaps” hindering an “effective and realistic assessment” of the impacts of glyphosate on amphibians.” The report, however, did conclude that “recent studies have shown that amphibians are one of the most sensitive vertebrate groups to the toxicological effects of this herbicide.”

The West Coast Environmental Law Group, which filed a petition demanding the Roundup study on behalf of a French physician living in Canada, hailed yesterday’s decision.

“It’s absurd that (we) had to go to court to force Health Canada to consider the environmental risks of substances that BC government scientists have flagged as posing a major risk to frogs and other amphibians,” said Andrew Gage, staff lawyer. “This decision empowers the public to demand that pesticides be re-examined when science casts doubt on their safety and shows Health Canada that it must take such demands seriously.”

This review caps a year in which the toxicity of Roundup has been brought into question more than any other time in the product’s nearly 40-year history. As detailed in this report in September, the product is literally everywhere in our air in water due to its prevalent usage in horticulture and agriculture — and at homes where the mothers and fathers spray the product around their children without knowing any better.

Scientist Don Huber caused an international stir earlier this year when he allowed SafeLawns to post his letter to the Secretary of Agriculture warning of Roundup’s risks — including spontaneous miscarriage in humans.

“I can’t understand why the government is ignoring the crisis caused by Roundup,” he said at the time. “If the evidence were so clear on any other product, action would have been taken long, long ago. The problems are epidemic in scale. New pathogens are popping up. New species are showing up that science can’t even yet explain. But they all trace back to the massive abuse of glyphosate.”

Perhaps this judge’s order yesterday can begin to turn the tide.

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About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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