Budget funding for pesticides not encouraging

Government needs long-term strategy

Ottawa-Funding in the budget to strengthen the federal pesticide regulatory system does not send a positive signal to the manufacturers or farmers, says Pierre Petelle, President and CEO of CropLife Canada.

Of the $39 million that will be available for the next two years, $32.3 million will be allocated to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and $6.6 million to Agriculture Canada’s Science and Technology Branch.

Health Canada provided no details other than saying the funding will enable PMRA to continue implementing its Transformation Agenda including water monitoring, strengthening the pesticide regulatory system, and continuing to monitor and promote sustainable pesticide use in Canada.

Petelle said PMRA has just finished consultations with the sector on the level of annual fees to be charged for listing in the federal registry of approved pesticides. There is concern that higher registry fees could be coming making the products more expensive for farmers.

Ongoing reevaluation of registered products could make Canada a far more expensive country to grow crops in than the U.S., he said. Canada constitutes 3 to 4 per cent of the global pesticides market.

CropLife would prefer the budget funding to be directed to support PMRA’s core science work and to the national water monitoring program, which will improve scientific decision making around pesticides.

“Unfortunately, this two-year funding does not provide a signal to either the PMRA or the plant science industry that there is a long-term, sustainable funding strategy to support the important and growing work of reviewing and approving pesticides in Canada.

“The government has an opportunity to recognize the critical role agriculture plays as an economic engine in this country and provide the support needed to unleash its full potential.”

Petelle said the budget paid little attention to agriculture and the need to boost the science and genetics required to enable the sector to continue being a driving force of the national economy.

Petelle said the plant science industry is committed to developing innovative tools for farmers to help them sustainably grow food. “But, to effectively bring new innovations to Canada, we need clear signals from government about the predictability and timeliness of the regulatory process.

“Without the proper funding, the PMRA will not be able to deliver on its mandate and will be forced to pursue recently proposed cost recovery measures that would put an unfair burden on Canadian innovators and put Canada at a significant disadvantage compared to the U.S. when it comes to attracting innovation and investment.”

The budget was positive “around the importance of increasing investment, enhancing productivity and encouraging innovation, all of which the agriculture industry can deliver in spades,” he said.

“Taking timely action to improve the efficiency and predictability of the pesticide regulatory system and finalizing updated policy guidance for plant breeding innovation are both no-cost measures that will allow the agriculture sector to directly support the government’s stated objectives.”

This news item was prepared for National Newswatch