Updated: May 2018
Usually, a pesticide is a product designed to destroy organisms deemed to be undesirable or noxious. End-use products contain one or several active ingredients and formulants.
A pesticide is designated by its common name, chemical name or commercial name.
In addition to their usual definition, pesticides also have a legal definition. These products are designated by two terms: "pest control products" according to the legislation at federal level, and "pesticides" at the provincial level.
At the federal level
At the federal level, the Pest Control Products Act includes the definition of two terms, namely:
Any pest control product imported, sold or used in Canada must be registered by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada. By the end of its registration process and before it is marketed, each product is given a sequential registration number, which must appear on its label. Registration process is summed up in the document The Regulation of Pesticides in Canada.
In Canada, 7600 commercial products are registered. You may consult their label contents by using the Search Product Label tool offered by the PMRA. Research work can be done in using the active ingredient name, trade name or product registration number.
It should also be noted that the PMRA combines biopesticides into three main categories: microbial agents, semiochemicals and non-conventional products.
At the provincial level
In Québec, under the Pesticides Act, the word "pesticide" means any substance, matter or microorganism intended to directly or indirectly control, destroy, mitigate, attract or repel any organism that is injurious to or noxious or troublesome for humans, animal life, vegetation, crops or any other object, or intended for use as a plant growth regulator, except a vaccine or a medication other than a topical medication for external use on animals.
Québec legislation applies to pesticides registered by the PMRA. Moreover, some pest control products are not subject to Québec legislation, namely:
Although 4,500 products and 600 active ingredients meet the Québec pesticide definition, only 1,200 products and 370 active ingredients are actually sold within the province’s territory (Account of pesticide sales in Québec).
Usually, pesticides are named according to their grouping which takes into account the product’s target, its origin and chemical structure, how it is marketed as well as the target site and its mode of action.
A pesticide can be grouped according to the following criteria:
Most of the pesticides can be grouped according to their target. Note that the suffix –cide means "to kill."
Other pesticides, which name includes –cide as a suffix, such as "ovicide", "larvicide" or "adulticide", designate substances specifically intended for destroying insects at the egg, larvae or adult stage. Also, some pesticides’ names end with the suffix –fuge which means "to repel", as in the word "insectifuge", which means "insect repellent" or "avifuge", which means "bird repellent".
Other categories of use exist, which are:
For more information, please see Schedule II of the reference sheet - Pesticide Classes.
Usually pesticides are grouped in two categories: organic and inorganic pesticides. Organic pesticides contain carbon, while inorganic pesticides contain carbon which can be found only under the form of carbonate or cyanide. These pesticides are derivatives made from arsenic, mercury, fluorine, sulphur and copper, as well as derivatives made from cyanide.
Organic pesticides can be divided into three groups: synthetic pesticides (developed in laboratories and manufactured), natural pesticides (from animal, microbial or vegetal origin) and microorganisms. Inorganic pesticides are mostly derived from minerals.
A chemical group is formed with pesticides which have a similar chemical structure.
For example, the chemical structure of atrazine shown in the following diagrams allows putting this pesticide in the triazines and tetrazines group.
Chemical groups established by the Ministère are described in the Guide for classification of pesticides by chemical group.
Pesticides are available in different formulations and can be obtained under solid, liquid or gaseous form.
Some pesticides are marketed as ready-to-use products, in other words they do not need any special preparation before application. On the other hand, others do need to be prepared. For example, some products may need to be mixed in exact proportions with water before application. This mixture is usually called a "spray mixture." In this case, preparation involves diluting a concentrated product.
Herbicides, fungicides and insecticides can be designated according to their action on undesirable organisms.
Pesticides can be grouped according to the site or mode of action on the undesirable organism on which they act. Several sites or modes of action are known for herbicides, insecticides as well as fungicides. Here are some examples:
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