The settlement of a North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) dispute that challenged Quebec's pesticide ban of 2,4-D use on lawns has both Dow AgroSciences and environmentalists claiming a degree of victory in the case.

Environment activist groups claim the recent settlement reinforces the right of municipalities and provinces in Canada to ban pesticides. Dow contends the government province finally acknowledged that the commonly used weed killer can be used properly without health risks, yet they still won’t allow it.

In 2008, Dow initiated challenging Quebec's pesticide bylaw as violating Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, because it outlawed 2,4-D use along with 19 other pesticides for lawn care use. NAFTA's Chapter 11 allows “investors of one member country to sue other NAFTA countries” for actions or measures deemed to hurt their trade interests, as explained in a CBC Canada news service explanation of the lawsuit settlement.  

The settlement allows Quebec to keep 2,4-D on the banned list, but has the government backing off claims that the herbicide is not safe for use when properly applied.

What is most interesting for companies manufacturing lawn care products in the U.S., for shipment to Canada, is that 2,4-D is the most common herbicide active ingredient used on lawns in the U.S. Additionally, banning 19 other active ingredients basically leaves home owners in Quebec with almost no pesticides for weed control and the control of many other pests.

Dow based its claim in part on a 2008 Health Canada ruling that said 2,4-D can be used safely when label directions are followed. The settlement includes a statement from the Quebec government agreeing with the health organization ruling that 2,4-D is safe when used according to the product label directions.

As quoted by CBC Canada, Federal International Trade Minister Ed Fast said the agreement "confirms the right of governments" to regulate the use of pesticides.

"This right will not be compromised by Canada's participation in NAFTA or any other trade agreement," he said.

Quebec is entitled to regulate, but "that ban is not based on science, it's on something else," Brenda Harris, Dow's regulatory and government affairs manager in Calgary, is quoted as saying. "We always believed that there was no basis for their decision, their decision had nothing to do with science."

One environmental activist said Dow is suspected of bringing the lawsuit to try and dissuade other provinces from following Quebec's lead to ban the use of pesticides like 2, 4-D for unnecessary uses such as a weed-free lawn.

To read the full CBC Canada article go here.