Pesticide regulation in Canada needs to evolve not be transformed

Government needs to consult more about impact of pesticide rule changes.

Ottawa-The pesticide-approval procedures of the federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) need to evolve rather than be totally transformed into a system out of touch with reality, says CropLife Canada.

Canada has a robust pesticide regulatory system that is considered internationally as a gold standard for its science-based underpinnings, CropLife President and CEO Pierre Petelle said.

It puts the protection of human and environmental health at the forefront of its decision making, while ensuring that safe and effective pest control products get to market in Canada to support the important work farmers do growing our food, he said.

“Last year a politically motivated decision triggered the launch of what Health Canada calls the PMRA Transformation Agenda,” Petelle said. “To suggest that this world-class regulatory system needs such a drastic transformation is to critically misunderstand the rigor of the system and the work of the more than 300 scientists dedicated to pesticide evaluation at Health Canada.”

To build public trust, the government should focus on better explaining the regulatory process and the science behind it to Canadians rather than trying to upend the existing system. The Transformation Agenda “seems to lack focus and be more driven by deadlines rather than the quality of the work

“Pesticide regulation is extremely complex and the registrants of these products generate an immense amount of high-quality data that are essential to the process,” he said. “And the agriculture industry is a wealth of information on the realities of real-world product use that allows regulators to make decisions grounded in reality rather than models. The plant science industry – and agriculture industry write large – should be consulted prior to any significant changes to the system.”

While the government says it is committed to science-based decision making, its actions haven’t always followed suit. Last year, it froze increases to Maximum Residue Limits without any scientific justification, “putting at risk Canada’s hard earned global reputation on science based regulation. Today, the freeze remains in place with no answers for it.

“More recently Health Canada struck a new Scientific Advisory Committee composed of members largely without any substantial agricultural expertise to provide scientific advice to the PMRA. This committee will now consider broad, esoteric questions and drain staff resources at PMRA at a time when focus is desperately needed. It seems as though science isn’t always a determining factor in the Transformation Agenda and we believe that this is a dangerous road for Canada to travel.

“Without timely access to safe and effective pesticides Canadian farmers simply cannot sustainably grow enough food to meet the demands of Canadians and those around the world who desperately need it,” Petelle said.

Important improvements are need to pesticide regulatory “but these equate to an evolution of the current system and building on past success rather than the immense transformation that is being considered.”

PMRA had been working on key improvements for many years in a long process of carefully identifying meaningful changes that could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the system while helping to build public confidence in it, Petelle said.

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