How NAFTA infringes on local environmental regulations

Dow AgroSciences is considering using the controversial investor-protection provisions of the North American free-trade agreement to seek compensation from the federal government over Quebec's ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides.

The company, a maker of the weed-killer 2,4-D, filed a notice of intent to submit a claim to arbitration under NAFTA in late August. The 27-page legal action was posted yesterday on the Foreign Affairs website, where it is listed as a dispute to which Canada is a party.

via globeandmail.com: Ban on pesticides may face NAFTA test

Here is Sierra Club’s assessment of 2,4-D. It is not as bad as, say, DDT, but not something an average householder would ever need to use. Limiting use and exposure is in everyone’s best interest except Dow’s, which is why they have filed this lawsuit.

I would say it infringes on a province’s right to set strict health and safety standards for its people, but if we accept that corporations have more rights than people, we would expect this kind of lawsuit to happen with more frequency.

Note that a much more egregious actor, lindane, which was deregistered by even the Bush EPA is subject of a similar challenge in Canada, and Bisphenol A is probably next.

Can’t blame the companies for exploiting loopholes (that they no doubt inserted, of course), but it seems that countries should always have the right to enforce stricter standards if they so desire.

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