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Something needs to be done about the PMRA

Archaic. Onerous. Inferior. Horseshit. Canada’s Pest Man

April 22, 2008  ByMarg Land


Archaic. Onerous. Inferior.
Horseshit. Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is
definitely not popular with this country’s agricultural producers,
particularly fruit and vegetable growers.

Archaic. Onerous. Inferior. Horseshit. Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is definitely not popular with this country’s agricultural producers, particularly fruit and vegetable growers.

And who can blame them.

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The PMRA, which maintains its lofty claim of protecting the health and environment of Canada, continues to demand extensive data and experimental trials above and beyond those required by its U.S. counterpart, the Envrionmental Protection Agency, this despite the claim the chemical registration process has been “harmonized” with our southern neighbours.

“Harmonization” – this is a laughable claim for many Canadian producers who are limited in their choice of pesticide, herbicide and fungicide tools by PMRA’s mutlitude of demands, including onerous efficacy data and arbitrary subdivision of Canada into a multitude of residue zones (the U.S. has three, Canada has 11). This is the same “harmonization” that has led to significant delays in the registration of crop protection products within Canada while U.S. growers enjoy the benefits of new, state-of-the-art, safer chemistries while shipping their product (grown using products unregistered in Canada) into our grocery stores.

The frustration is bubbling over with the recent decision by the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association to consider pursuing the idea of hiring a professional lobbyist to pressure the federal government to do something about Canada’s regulatory structure. Members of the grower organization were treated to a panel discussion covering the growing need for Canada to have equitable access to crop protection tools.

It was no surprise to hear that ag producers aren’t the only ones being stymied by Canada’s regulatory agencies. Kate Stiefelmeyer, a research associate with the George Morris Centre, illustrated the problems facing this country’s veterinary drug industry. According to a study conducted by Stiefelmeyer, delays in registration of veterinary drug treatments have resulted in a direct loss of $76 million for five pharmaceutical companies and a downstream loss of more than $90 million to Canada’s agricultural industry through loss of livestock and loss of market share.

“I don’t think Canada can continue to tolerate chronic poor performance of regulatory agencies,” said Stiefelmeyer, adding that ag producers need to join forces with other organizations to bring this message to the federal government.

Ontario Agri-Food Technologies president Gord Surgeoner suggested growers pursue the idea of having PMRA drop the need for efficacy data as the first step toward change.

“In today’s information age, I don’t think there’d be a company out there trying to market and sell a product that didn’t work,” he said.

It was an idea shared by past OF&VGA chairperson Murray Porteous. “PMRA is like an iceberg. You can get frozen in the ice and then you quit. You have to go to the other side of the iceberg and start to hack off pieces. Efficacy, that looks like something we can do something about. Lots of people don’t believe you’re going to change the PMRA. If we can make this one change, it shows it is possible.”

Long-time OF&VGA member Bill Parks wished the group all the best. “Once you get one little win, you’ll get another. I’ve listened to this horseshit for the past 30 years. Before I die, I hope you get somewhere with this.”

A lot of growers are hopeful something can be done and done soon. Profit margins are shrinking and global competition is growing. Producers need all the help in the field they can get. If society wants cheap, safe, healthy food, then it should help growers be able to provide it. Or pay the price.


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