Report: CETA Threatens European Union Pesticide Protections

July 6, 2017

Report: CETA Threatens European Union Pesticide Protections

Washington, D.C. – A new report from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) warns that the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA) would weaken EU pesticide protections and increase human and environmental exposure to dangerous pesticides. Regulatory harmonization between the two countries would lower EU regulations to meet Canada’s much lower standards, and CETA would be the first trade agreement formally approved by the EU that allows corporations to challenge EU policies in a tribunal.

“At a time when all signs point to needing more regulation to protect people and the planet from hazardous chemicals, CETA threatens the health and wellbeing of people in the European Union and Canada by eliminating the EU’s precautionary approach to pesticides management,” says Layla Hughes, Senior Attorney for CIEL and lead author of the report.

CETA’s central objective is to reduce obstacles to trade between the parties by removing “trade irritants” like incompatible regulations. Removing obstacles often means removing regulations that protect the health and safety of consumers. Canada has notably lax laws concerning pesticide control while the EU has some of the strongest in the world. CIEL’s latest report argues that this imbalance will likely lead to EU standards being lowered to meet Canada’s, not the other way around.

Having already received approval from the European Commission, Council of Ministers, and European Parliament, CETA only needs approval from Canadian Parliament and EU National Parliaments for ratification.

In addition to deregulation, CETA would create an arbitration tribunal to allow companies to sue and receive compensation from EU Member States for enacting measures that protect the environment and public health. Any multinational company with a Canadian subsidiary would have access to this dangerous mechanism and a legal means to subvert EU democratic decision making the public interest. The threat of litigation and severe fines alone could potentially bring future efforts to regulate pesticides in the EU to a grinding halt.

“Throughout negotiations, Canada has prioritized corporate interests over health and safety, and CETA’s dispute settlement procedures subject the EU to significant liability while doing little to help their economy,” continues Hughes. “It is in Member States’ best interest to reject ratification of CETA because it actively contradicts the fundamental principles for trade set out by the European Parliament.”

Read full report here.



Both the EU and Canada employ the precautionary principle when creating regulations, meaning they err on the side of caution if not enough information is known about a substance. However, the EU uses a hazard-based cut off which requires that if a certain risk threshold is met, a ban is instituted regardless of the risk of widespread exposure. Conversely, Canada takes risk of exposure into account, which can under regulate dangerous chemicals if they are deemed to have a more narrowly focused impact.

Already, regulatory cooperation has influenced EU pesticides regulations. For example, after CETA negotiations began, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommended an increase of the maximum residue limit for a pesticide used in wheat production, because wheat is the most important agricultural commodity exported from Canada to the EU. The proposed new EU limit is equivalent to the Canadian limit.

Media Contact:

Amanda Kistler, Director of Communications, +1.202.742.5832, akistler(at)

Layla Hughes, Senior Attorney, +41 22 321 47 77, lhughes(at)

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) uses the power of the law to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL is a non-profit organization dedicated to advocacy in the global public interest, including through legal counsel, policy research, analysis, education, training and capacity building.