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Health Canada stands by approval of ingredient in Roundup weed killer

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Health Canada scientists say there is no reason to believe the scientific evidence they used to approve the continued use of glyphosate in weed killers was tainted.

On Friday they rejected, again, arguments that the ingredient in herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup causes cancer if the substances are used as they’re supposed to be.

The department’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency is required to reassess herbicides every 15 years and after such a reassessment in 2017 it approved glyphosate for continued use in Canada with some additional labelling requirements. The review looked at more than 1,300 studies and concluded glyphosate products pose no risk to people or the environment as long as they are properly used and labelled.

Glyphosate is one of the most common herbicides used in the world, is in more than 130 products sold in Canada and has widespread use by farmers to keep weeds out of their crops.

After the decision, eight objections were filed, many of which said the evidence used to approve the product was tainted because Monsanto had influenced the results.

Their accusations were largely based on documents filed in a U.S. lawsuit in which a former groundskeeper was awarded a multimillion-dollar settlement after jurors decided his cancer was linked to glyphosate.

Bottles of Roundup herbicide, a product of Monsanto, are displayed on a store shelf in St. Louis. The generic name is glysophate and it is one of the most widely used agricultural herbicides in the world. (Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)

‘No stone unturned’

The groups, including Ecojustice, Environmental Defence and Canadian Physicians for the Environment, wanted Health Minister Ginette Petipas Taylor to order an independent review of the Health Canada decision.

Instead Health Canada assigned 20 scientists not part of the original review to look at the matter. Connie Moase, a director in the health-effects division of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, said Friday the scientists “left no stone unturned” in reviewing the decision.

“The objections raised did not create doubt or concern regarding the scientific basis for the 2017 re-evaluation decision for glyphosate,” said Moase.

She said the documents, known as the Monsanto Papers, were mainly reviews of studies, not studies themselves, and that Health Canada’s approval was based on the actual studies.

Moase added that no pest regulatory management agency in the world says glyphosate causes cancer at current levels of exposure.

Bayer Canada pleased 

Trish Jordan, the public-and-industry-affairs director for Bayer Canada’s crop-science division, said the company supported the additional review Health Canada launched and is also pleased with the result.

Monsanto has previously denied any attempt to influence scientific studies on glyphosate.

“We have an unwavering commitment to sound science, transparency and to producing valuable tools that will help farmers continue to feed a growing population in a sustainable manner,” Jordan said.

Elaine MacDonald, head of healthy communities for Ecojustice, said the decision is a big disappointment.

“How can we trust the science if we can’t be sure that it’s independent?” she said.

Muhannad Malas, the toxics program manager at Environmental Defence, said there is no reason to trust Health Canada if it assigns its own scientists to review the work of their peers.

“We maintain that the public cannot be confident about the validity of the government’s decision to re-authorize glyphosate unless the health minister strikes an independent panel of experts who are not affiliated with Health Canada or industry,” he said.

Thierry Belair, spokesman for Petipas Taylor, said the government is very aware Canadians have concerns about pesticides and this review was done with the utmost of care.

“A team of 20 of our best scientists reviewed the evidence before coming to this decision,” he said. “As always, we have asked them to continue to monitor for new information related to this pesticide, and to take action if needed.”

Recent testing by Environmental Defence uncovered traces of glyphosate in a number of popular food products including doughnuts, cookies and cereals. However the amounts were well below the levels Health Canada says would be unsafe for human consumption.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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