U of G Prof to Head Government Panel on Herbicide Use

March 11, 2011 - News Release

A University of Guelph professor will lead an independent fact-finding panel set up by the Ministry of Natural Resources to investigate the use of 2,4,5-T herbicide by Ontario ministries and agencies.

Len Ritter, a professor of toxicology in the School of Environmental Sciences in the Ontario Agricultural College, was appointed to the position today. The announcement was made by Linda Jeffrey, minister of natural resources.

“The health and safety of all Ontarians is of utmost importance,” Jeffrey said. “People in Ontario are depending on us to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter and that’s what we intend to do.”

The panel will review information and official records to determine when and where the chemical may have been used by government agencies in the 1950s, '60s and '70s and possibly the '80s.

Ontario stopped using 2,4,5-T in 1979, and the federal government removed it from the herbicides registry in 1985, effectively banning use of the herbicide in Canada.

Ritter is a world-leading toxicology expert who has worked with the federal and provincial governments on a number of scientific reviews. In 2006 and 2007, he was involved in the national investigation into the use of 2,4,5-T herbicide at the Canadian Forces Base Gagetown.

A U of G professor since 1993, he is also executive director of the Canadian Network of Toxicology Centres based at U of G.

“I am very pleased to have been asked by the minister to take on the role of chair of the fact-finding panel,” he said. “The panel has an important and complex task. My appointment has just been announced, and one of my first priorities will be the recruitment of the panel members. It’s very early in the process, and I look forward to getting the work of the panel organized and under way.”

Ritter has chaired national and international panels and reviews of pesticides and herbicides. Most recently, he chaired the Council of Canadian Academics expert panel on the integrated testing of pesticides.

Before joining U of G, he held various positions at Health Canada, including director of the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs, chief of the Product Safety Division and chief of the Pesticides Division.

In 2006, he received a silver medal from the United Nations Joint World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization expert committee on food additives.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, Ext. 53338, l.hunt@exec.uoguelph.ca, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982, d.healey@exec.uoguelph.ca.

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