All about pesticides
Pesticides are designed to destroy and control organisms that are considered undesirable or harmful. Their use comes with risks to your health and the environment. These products can contaminate water and soil and have harmful effects on other life forms. Pesticides should be used as a last resort.
A pesticide consists of one or more active ingredients. The active ingredient is the component to which the desired effects of the pesticide are attributed.
Most pesticides can be grouped according to their target:
- Acaricides target mites;
- Avicides target birds;
- Fungicides target fungi that cause plant diseases;
- Herbicides target weeds;
- Insecticides target insects;
- Molluscicides target land mollusks;
- Nematicides target nematodes that cause plant diseases;
- Phytocides target herbaceous and woody plant species;
- Piscicides target fish;
- Rodenticides target rodents.
Pesticides are classified according to their use (e.g., commercial or household), based on the risk they pose to health and the environment.
Commercial pesticides are mainly used in agriculture, essentially for crop protection.
- They can also be used for the following:
- maintenance of green spaces in urban areas;
- pest management;
- some industrial processes;
- maintenance of hydroelectric transmission corridors;
- controlling stinging insects.
Household pesticides are less harmful than commercial pesticides and can be used for personal purposes.
In Canada, pesticide jurisdiction is shared between the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal governments. Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) controls the registration, marketing and labelling of pesticides.
In Quebec, pesticides are regulated by the Pesticides Act and its two implementing regulations.
Some of the regulatory requirements of the Regulation respecting permits and certificates for the sale and use of pesticides :
- Permits or certificates are required for the sales and application of pesticides.
- Sales, purchases or application of pesticides registers must be kept.
- Sales must be reported annually to the Ministère. This makes it possible to maintain a record of all pesticide sales in Quebec.
Some of the regulatory requirements of the Pesticides Management Code :
- Distances from lakes, waterways and water withdrawal sites must be respected when storing, mixing or applying pesticides.
- The application of certain high-risk pesticides is prohibited in urban and agricultural areas, unless the farmer obtains agrologic justification.
In addition, the Environment Quality Act and certain of its regulations govern the use of pesticides. For example, some projects that require the use of pesticides, for example the control of stinging insects, require environmental authorization from the Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs.
Municipalities have the authority to further regulate, taking into account their local circumstances.
Initiatives that focus on information, education and alternatives to pesticide use complement the regulations.
Acting for responsible pesticide management
Responsible pesticide management aims at reducing the use of these products and their environmental and health impact.
The 2022 modernization of the Pesticides Act provides the government with several new powers, including the following:
- the potential use of economic instruments;
- the possibility of requiring training as a condition for pesticide seller and use certification
The Sustainable Agriculture Plan also materializes the government’s intent to reduce pesticides in Québec over the next ten years.
Learning about pesticides
Initiatives that are primarily focused on information, raising awareness and finding alternative solutions to pesticide use complement the regulations.
The Bilan des ventes de pesticides au Québec (PDF 1.04 Mb) enables readers to monitor the evolution of annual sales of these products across all utilization sectors.
The Bilan des plans de réduction des pesticides sur les terrains de golf (PDF 2.65 Mb) provides a profile of the pesticides applied in this sector, based on the reduction plans submitted to the Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs (MELCCFP) every three years.
Assessment of pesticide risks to health and the environment
L’indicateur de risque des pesticides du Québec (IRPeQ ) enables the assessment of potential risk related to the use of pesticides.
The IRPeQ is used throughout the province to assess the evolution of risk for health and the environment in the Bilan des ventes de pesticides au Québec. At company level, IRPeQ enables pesticide use risk monitoring.
For more details, consult this IRPeQ presentation tool .
Monitoring pesticides in the environment
Annual monitoring of groundwater and subsurface water in Québec farmlands checks pesticide values. The reports showing the impact of pesticides on the environment allow readers to deepen their understanding of the subject.
A review of the literature on the impact of neonicotinoids on aquatic life was also conducted.
Exposure to pesticides
If you have been exposed to pesticides and do not feel well, call the Poison Control Centre (in French only) immediately at 1 800 463-5060 and follow instructions. If you are seriously ill, go to the emergency room of a hospital and bring the pesticide container label information with you or note the name and registration number of the product to show the triage nurse.
Health Canada collects pesticide incident reports .
- Pesticides Management Code – Reference Manual (in French only) (PDF 6.86 Mb)
- Regulation respecting permits and certificates for the sale and use of pesticides - Reference Manual (in French only) (PDF 2.57 Mb)
- Pesticides Act – Reference Manual (in French only) (PDF 1.05 Mb)
- Framework for responsible pesticide management (in French only) (PDF 294 Kb)
- Economic instruments for the rational use of pesticides (in French only) (PDF 795 Kb)
Last update: September 11, 2023