Defining What's Legal Under a Pesticide By-law: A Proposal

At this retail outlet, pest control products that are banned under HRM's Pesticide By-law are interspersed with permitted products such as Insecticidal Soap. Photo on 25 Apr. 2007.
While the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) Pesticide By-law has been responsible for significant changes in attitudes and practices related to pest management in HRM and has served as a model for pesticide By-laws in other communities, there have been a number of chronic issues which have proved difficult to address or which are not readily addressed under the provisions of the current Pesticide By-law. (See RATE: Issues). Many of these issues relate to the continued availability and even promotion of banned pesticides by some retailers in HRM, or at least a lack of any explicit recognition by many retailers of materials that are permissible under the Pesticide By-law. Administrative Order No. 23 lists the alternatives to regular pesticides that can be used for control of lawn and garden pests in HRM, and one might think that it would be a simple matter to use this list to identify appropriate products. However, items listed under Administrative Order No. 23 are general categories of materials (e.g., acetic acid for control of weeds) rather than specific products which can often contain other unlisted materials.

From HRM's 2006 Program Overview Report Section 5.2
Other Potential Options
One way to resolve difficulties with recognition of products would be an option to formally adopt the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) system. The permitted products list could be linked to OMRI, a non-profit organization that reviews substances for use in organic production, processing and handling. By linking the permitted products list to OMRI, the list would remain up to date, as newer, safer products come on to the market and older ones are found to be unsuitable. Because OMRI is based in the United States, some of the products reviewed by OMRI are not available in Canada. However, the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network has created a database based on OMRI and the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB). This database lists specific products and gives detailed information on their use. This database could be a valuable resource to homeowners in the HRM.
I developed a proposal to address this issue in the summer of 2006 following a series of informal discussions organized by RATE to address ongoing issues with HRM's Pesticide By-law. The proposal was forwarded to HRM staff and the EAC Pesticide Project in the early fall of 2006. An abbreviated form of the proposal was included on the final page of the 2006 Program Overview Report under section 5.2 dealing with Administrative Order #23 (See Box).

The full proposal, below, provides more details on how the proposed system would operate, its benefits, and some answers to questions raised during the discussions. The page on Permitted Materials on this site provides further background and links related to this topic.

-David Patriquin, 13 May '07

A Proposal to Replace Halifax Regional Municipalty's Administrative Order No. 23 by a 3rd Party List.

The number of alternative pest control materials and products compatible with Halifax Regional Municipality's Pesticide By-law is growing rapidly as more restrictions are placed on traditional pesticides in all sectors of their use. To
  • facilitate ready identification of classes of materials and specific products that are compatible with HRM's Pesticide By-law by consumers and vendors
  • encourage vendors in HRM to carry a wider assortment of products compatible with the Pesticide By-law
  • simplify the process of administering the Pesticide By-law
it is suggested that Administrative Order No. 23 be replaced by direct reference to a 3rd party, professionally maintained and accredited list of pest control materials and brand name products that are permitted for use under non-chemical (organic) regimes of pest managements.

Specifically, it is proposed that Administrative Order No. 23 be replaced by direct reference to the Atlantic Canada Regional Organic Network (ACORN) Directory of Allowable Organic Input sections 1.2.3 (Insect and Mite Controls), 1.2.7 (Plant Disease Control), and 1.2.9 (Weed Control). All materials and products cited in the Acorn Directory as "Allowed" under the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Organic Standard, or for which there is no CGSB classification but for which products have a federal Pest Control Products (PCP) Number and are cited as "Allowed" by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), would be permitted under the HRM pesticide By-law. Any materials and products cited as "Restricted" or "Not Permitted" by CGSB or OMRI would not be permitted except as approved for specific times and places though the pesticide permit process.


Currently, Administrative No. 23 lists materials that are allowed for pest control without a permit under the Pesticide By-law. The list was drawn up with reference to the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) Generic Materials List. HRM continues to defer to OMRI in deciding on further additions to Administrative Order List No. 23 which are considered on an item by item basis as they are proposed, e.g., in 2005/2006, corn gluten was added to Administrative Order No. 23 while a proposal to include 2,4-D was rejected.

As well as a Generic Materials List, OMRI maintains a Brand Name Products List which includes individual products whose manufacturers have applied for and been approved for OMRI listing; they are required to reveal all ingredients to OMRI, which checks them for consistency with the U.S. National Organic Program (NOP). OMRI might serve as the 3rd party for HRM in place of Administrative Order No. 23. However, some of the materials or products cited as "Allowed" in the OMRI lists are NOT registered for use in Canada, hence the OMRI lists must be cross referenced with the PMRA Else Database to ensure that they are registered for pest control use in Canada.

In 1999, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) established an Organic Standard which, in general, follows the OMRI and NOP classifications but takes into account PMRA restrictions or other special needs in Canada. The CGSB Organic Standard includes a Generic Materials List but not a Brand Names Product List, hence it is somewhat less useful in practice than the OMRI lists.

Classification of Material Inputs
Under Organic Standards

All organic standards, including the Canadian General Standards Board Organic Standard, assign one of three levels of use to potential materials inputs to organic agriculture and horticulture and to the organic processing of agricultural products:

  • ALLOWED These materials are in compliance with organic standards, and can be used for designated purposes without restriction or special permission.

  • RESTRICTED These materials have some significant drawbacks and an individual user must have specific approval of the certifying body for their use. An example is pyrethrum or pyrethrin. It is a 'botanical pesticide' derived from flower heads of the pyrethrum daisy. It has a Restricted status because it is a strong pesticide that kills a wide range of non-target organisms, and has some significant negative effects on humans.

  • PROHIBITED These are materials which may be acceptable and legal in conventional systems but are not compatible with the principles of organic agriculture. They include all synthetic pesticides, and all GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).
Most prohibited materials are not listed in Permitted Materials Lists, except when there might be some confusion of a particular Prohibited Material with a particular Allowed or Restricted Material. For example, for use as Dormant Oils, petroleum based oils are Prohibited, while vegetable based oils are Allowed.

In 2003, the Atlantic Canada Regional Organic Network (ACORN) set up a comprehensive Directory of Allowable Organic Inputs which provides a practical tool for determining the status of materials and products under both the CGSB Organic Standard and OMRI. The directory is fully and freely accessible via the web ( Under sections 1.2.3 (Insect and Mite Controls), 1.2.7 (Plant Disease Control), and 1.2.9 (Weed Control), a total of 37 classes of materials are cited (Administrative Order No. 23 currently lists 21 classes of materials); the status of each material under the CGSB Organic Standard is indicated by three categories - Prohibited, Restricted, Allowed - and a brief description of the material and its use is provided. The status of materials and brand name products under OMRI, the CGSB Organic Standard and the PMRA (including the PCP Number) are provided, hence use of the ACORN list obviates the need to refer separately to OMRI, CGSB and PMRA listings.

ACORN is Maritime based. The Directory of Allowable Organic Inputs is managed with professional input from government agencies and AGRAPOINT ( The list is updated regularly as new products become available in Canada. ACORN generally defers to OMRI if a particular product has been approved for use in organic systems, subject to PMRA restrictions. This demonstrates the close compatibility of the two material review systems. If novel products were to be proposed that are PMRA approved but are not listed by OMRI, equivalent information would have to be submitted by the manufacturer to ACORN.

Like OMRI, the Acorn Directory is professionally maintained and regularly updated and provides a convenient means of quickly identifying what alternative pest control materials and products are legal and generally available in Canada and whose use would be consistent with HRM's Pesticide By-law, hence, the proposal to replace Administrative Order No. 23 by direct reference to ACORN's Directory of Allowable Organic Input.

If a system of this sort were implemented, vendors could be encouraged to stock pest control products listed by ACORN. Likewise, consumers could access the ACORN list to identify appropriate pest control products, request them of local vendors and, as necessary, purchase them from elsewhere if they are not available in HRM.

It would also alleviate the need of HRM staff and council to deal with proposed new listings on an item-by-item basis and to consult external expertise to ensure that due diligence is followed. In future, requests for listing of products not on the list could be submitted directly to ACORN.

In summary, this change would provide a high degree of reassurance to residents that only materials consistent with the intent of the Pesticide By-law are being permitted under the By-law, stimulate local vendors to better serve local markets and reduce demands on HRM staff and council.

Even in the absence of formal adoption of a system of this sort by HRM, the ACORN Directory is a useful tool for consumers with concerns about pesticides. Progressive retailers could cater to green consumers by selecting their products based on the listings in the ACORN Database and advertising that the pest control materials they offer are those approved for organic use in Canada.
Some Q & As

The following questions about the proposed system were raised during discussions.

Weed & Feed
Weed & Feed products are widely available in retail outlets in HRM with no indication that they are banned under the Pesticide By-law.
Q. How would updates\changes to the list get quickly and effectively communicated to the public\stakeholders?
A. ACORN could be asked to issue specific notifications to updates & changes in the ACORN listings. I would expect that changes/additions would not be frequent, so this would not be an overwhelming task.
Q. How could a lengthy list be managed (i.e., the OMRI Generic Products List is extensive)?
A. This is the benefit of the ACORN list: it is already being managed and is freely and readily available via the web.


The sections that are pertinent are: In addition, the site provides detailed information on specific pest and weed problems - see Insect and Mites, and Weeds under the Table of Contents Menu at
Q. How would we deal with products\substances on the list but not registered in Canada?
A. This is the advantage of the ACORN list: it cross-references Canadian registration.
Q. What about organics on the list that may or could cause other health concerns, i.e. allergens; etc.
A. This is dealt with by OMRI & CGSB & ACORN by the "Restricted" category. In general Restricted materials are non-synthetic, natural materials that are broad spectrum (and so may kill or set back beneficial organisms as well as pests) &/or have some allergenic or other detrimental health effects for at least some individuals.

Currently, under Administrative Order No. 23, some materials that are Classified as Restricted by OMRI are allowed under the HRM By-law, i.e. the By-law does not discriminate between Restricted and Allowed categories of OMRI. Hence, the proposed system provides better protection than the existing one in regard to organics on the list that may or could cause other health concerns.

Page posted 13 May 2007
Edited 26 May 2007