"Everything, except Agriculture, can wait in this tough time. Do yourself a favor and wear a protective face mask."

What is a Pesticide?

Spread the knowledge

Definition and composition of a pesticide

In general, a pesticide is generally defined as a product designed to destroy organisms that are considered undesirable or harmful. The products on the market contain one or more active ingredients and formulants.

Active ingredient or active ingredient: a component of a pesticide to which the intended effects are attributed. The common name of the active ingredient is listed on the product label as “warranty”.

Formulant: A component of a pesticide that is intentionally added to it and is not an active ingredient. It improves the physical properties of the pesticide (eg its spray index, solubility, spreading power and stability). Unlike active ingredients, formulants are not listed on the pesticide label. Kerosene, ethanol, gelatin and soybean oil are examples of formulants.

A pesticide is named by its common name, chemical name or trade name.

  • The common name refers to the active ingredient. For example, Roundup, a product found on the market, contains glyphosate, which is the common name of the active ingredient, and formulants.
  • The chemical name is the name of the chemical structure of the active ingredient. For example, the chemical name of glyphosate is N – (phosphonomethyl) glycine.
  • The trade name is the name assigned to the pesticide by the manufacturer. For example, glyphosate is marketed under the name of Roundup.

Legal definitions

In addition to the current definition, pesticides also have a legal definition. Two terms refer to these products: “pest control products” at the federal level and “pesticides” at the provincial level.

At the federal level

At the federal level, the Pest Control Products Act defines the terms “pest control product” and “pest control product”.

Pest control product: a product, substance or organism – especially those resulting from biotechnology – consisting of an active ingredient as well as formulants and contaminants and manufactured, presented, distributed or used as a means of direct or indirect control against pests by destruction, attraction or repulsion, or by attenuation or prevention of their harmful, harmful or annoying effects;

Parasite : An animal, plant or other organism that is, directly or indirectly, injurious, harmful or annoying, as well as any organic function or harmful, harmful or annoying condition of an animal, plant or other organism.

Any pest control product imported, sold or used in Canada must be registered by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), which reports to Health Canada. At the end of the registration process and before it is put on the market, each product is assigned a sequential registration number which must be registered on the label of the approved product.

At the provincial level

In Quebec, the Pesticides Act defines a pesticide as “any substance, material or micro-organism intended to control, destroy, diminish, attract or repel, directly or indirectly, a harmful, harmful or inconvenient organism to humans, fauna, vegetation, crops or other property, or intended to serve as a growth regulator of vegetation, excluding a vaccine or a drug, unless it is topical for external use on animals “.

Quebec regulations apply to pesticides registered with the PMRA. In addition, some registered pest control products are not subject to Quebec regulation. It’s about :

  • algaecides or bactericides for swimming pools, aquariums or for the treatment of drinking water;
  • air fresheners;
  • disinfectants;
  • laundry additives;
  • mechanical or physical devices (for example, apparatus for attracting or hunting flying insects, ionizers for algae control in swimming pools and spas, devices for removing parasites by annoying them by sounds, contact or electromagnetic radiation).

It is estimated that 5,500 products and 500 active ingredients meet the definition of pesticides in Quebec, but that only 1,200 products and 350 active ingredients are actually sold in Quebec.

Grouping of pesticides

It is common to designate pesticides according to groupings that take into account the target of the pesticide, the origin of the product, its chemical structure, the form in which the pesticide is marketed, and how it acts. on the target and its place of action.

A pesticide can therefore be grouped according to:

  • its category of use;
  • His origin;
  • its chemical group;
  • its type of formulation;
  • his type of activity;
  • its site or mode of action.

Category of use

Most pesticides can be grouped according to the target they are targeting. It should be noted that the suffix -cide means “kill”.

Category of use Targeted targets Examples of targets
acaricide mites
  • Mite of the maple
  • Two-spotted spider mite
avicide Birds
  • Pigeon
Fungicide Microscopic fungi causing plant diseases
  • Diplocarpon rosae causing the black stain of the rose bush
  • Pucciniastrum epilobii causing rust of fir needles
  • Venturia inaequalis causing apple scab
Herbicide Herbaceous plants
  • goosefoot
  • Wheatgrass
  • Herb at the chip
  • Plantain
Insecticide Insects
  • roach
  • Colorado potato beetle
  • Hairy bug
  • Spruce budworm
molluscicide Terrestrial molluscs
  • Snail
  • Slug
nematicide Nematodes causing plant diseases
  • Meloidogyne hapla causing root nodules in carrots
herbicide Herbaceous and woody plant species
  • Large Tree
piscicide Pisces
  • Black sucker
rodenticide rodents
  • Rat
  • Mouse

Other pesticides include the -cide suffix, either the ovicides, larvicides or adulticides, which control the egg, larva or adult of an insect, respectively. In addition, some pesticides have a name ending with the suffix -fuge meaning “to run away”, as is the case for insect repellents that are insect repellents and bird repellents that drive away.

There are other categories of use listed below:

  • topical medication for animals;
  • pruning paint;
  • antifouling paint;
  • pheromone;
  • wood preservative;
  • plant growth regulator;
  • repellent for animals.


Pesticides can be grouped into organic or inorganic pesticides. Organic pesticides contain carbon, while inorganics contain carbon only in the form of carbonate or cyanide. The latter are derivatives based on arsenic, mercury, fluorine, sulfur and copper, as well as derivatives of cyanide.

Organic pesticides can be divided into 3 groups: synthetic pesticides (developed in the laboratory and factory products), natural pesticides (of animal, microbial or plant origin) and micro-organisms. Inorganic pesticides are derived mainly from minerals.

Chemical group

A chemical group is made up of pesticides that have a similar chemical structure.

For example, the chemical structure of atrazine, shown here in two ways, classifies this pesticide in the group of triazines and tetrazines .

Atrazine - 2D

Atrazine - 3D

Type of formulation

Pesticides are available in different formulations. They can be in solid, liquid or gaseous form.

Some products are marketed ready to use, that is, they do not require any preparation before application. On the contrary, others require preparation. For example, a product may need to be mixed with water in precise proportions before use. This mixture, commonly referred to as a slurry, is then applied to the unwanted organism. In this case, the preparation consists in diluting a concentrated product.

Examples of formulations Ready to use or unprepared
Solid form
Bait Ready to use
Powder Ready to use
Wettable powder Not prepared
Liquid form
Aerosol  Ready to use
Emulsifiable concentrate Not prepared
Solution Not prepared
Gaseous form
fumigant Ready to use

Type of activity

Herbicides, fungicides and insecticides may be designated by their actions on unwanted organisms.


Of contact Acts on the parts of the plant with which it comes in contact.
systemic Absorbed by the plant, moves inside it.
Selective Controls only some of the plants that are treated.
Non-selective Controls all treated plants.
Residual Degrades slowly and controls the plants for a long time.
Non-waste Is quickly inactive after application and only controls plants for a short time.
Preventive Protects the plant by preventing the disease from developing.
Curative Represents a disease that is already developed.
Of contact Acts when the insect comes in contact with the product.
On inhalation Acts when the insect breathes the product.
On ingestion Acts when the insect feeds on the product.

Site or mode of action

Pesticides can be grouped according to the site or mode of action of the unwanted organism they are acting on. Several sites or modes of action are known for herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Here are some examples:

  • Insecticides control insects:
    • interfering with their nervous system, or
    • by preventing their moulting.
  • Herbicides control plants:
    • by inhibiting their photosynthesis, or
    • by reproducing the effects of growth regulators naturally produced by them.
    • by inhibiting the synthesis of their amino acids, or
    • by interfering with their cell division.Fungicides control fungi


Ecomone : a message-carrying substance produced by a plant or animal, or a synthetic analogue of that substance that causes a behavioral response in individuals of the same species or other species.

Homologation : an administrative act of federal authorities authorizing the sale, import or use of pest control products in Canada.

Topical medicine for animals : an external product that acts where it is applied to the animal. This concerns essentially two product lines: those intended for domestic animals (for example, shampoo, lotion, powder, necklace and anti-flea medal for dogs or cats) and those intended for livestock and livestock (for example, buckle insecticide for cattle).

Pheromone : ecomone produced by individuals of one species and affecting the behavior of other individuals of the same species.

Dr. Monika Mathur

Ph.D Yale University

Leave a Reply

Connect with:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *