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Scientist shares concerns about pesticide-related illnesses at Quebec parliamentary commission – Montreal

The Quebec government, which has expressed its concerns about the impact of cannabis on the health of young people, should be equally concerned about pesticides, warns the David Suzuki Foundation.

The organization’s head of scientific projects, Louise Hénault-Ethier, testified Monday at a parliamentary commission on the impact of pesticides on public health and the environment.

READ MORE: Quebec tightens rules on pesticides

The commission is also looking into the independence of agricultural research. This comes after the Louis Robert case, where a whistleblowing agronomist was dismissed and then rehired by the Ministry of Agriculture after denouncing the interference of private industries in research on pesticides.

“You are looking to raise the legal age for cannabis use because you are worried about the neurodevelopment of our children,” said Hénault-Ethier.

“Do the same thing for pesticides. The use of toxic pesticides for reproduction and neurodevelopment must be significantly restricted, or banned altogether.

“Humanity is plagued by a global epidemic of neurodevelopmental disorders.”

The David Suzuki Foundation, working closely with Équiterre on the issue, has said that pesticide exposure is now strongly associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease.

WATCH BELOW: Montreal to ban glyphosate pesticide

“When it comes to autism, we are not entirely certain of the cause, but we have the same red flags, the correlations that were already there about 30 years ago with Parkinson’s. Are we going to wait another 30 or 40 years before acting? ” Hénault-Ethier asked.

“It is not true that a pesticide is innocent until it is found guilty. If we have doubts, we should be cautious and then evaluate them.”

READ MORE: Montreal moves to ban glyphosate pesticide amid health and environmental concerns

Hénault-Ethier said she believes Quebec has the power to go further than the Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA).

For example, she notes, the province could require advanced studies on developmental neurotoxicity and the effects of “synergy” between pesticides, rather than relying on the PMRA, which evaluates pesticides one by one.

Two pesticides together are more toxic than one and there is currently a “cocktail” of pesticides in Quebec’s rivers, warns the scientist.

WATCH BELOW: Toxic pesticide used on grain no longer allowed

A former farmer himself, Lac-Saint-Jean MNA Éric Girard refused to comment on the relevance or urgency of the need to limit or outright prohibit pesticides in agriculture.

He admitted Monday that things had “changed” in agriculture in recent years and that the population has been vocal about wanting to see improvements — though he didn’t specify what.

Nevertheless, Girard insisted it was “premature” to draw conclusions as the commission is working to obtain the opinions of experts and specialists on the subject.

READ MORE: Canada rejigs pesticide restrictions in effort to protect pollinators

“We are here to listen and learn,” he said.

But according to Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue MNA Emilise Lessard-Therrien, no matter what comes out of the commission, the government will have to develop “an exit strategy” when it comes to using pesticides in agriculture.

WATCH BELOW: These fruits and veggies may have pesticides on them, even after washing

She said she hopes the parliamentary commission will help identify alternatives that will allow farmers to use less pesticide.

The pesticide industry had asked to be heard at the commission, but was not invited.

READ MORE: Quebec sisters’ deaths likely caused by pesticide intoxication, coroner says

Parkinson Quebec, Apiculturists and Beekeepers of Quebec and the Quebec Public Health Institute are among those who have been invited to testify Tuesday.

Whistleblower Louis Robert is expected to also be heard around 9 p.m.

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