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Pesticide rules hurting farmers, says consultant


By Jennifer Blair, Reporter

Published: December 4, 2017

Producers north of the border have access to fewer modes of action and active ingredients. 

Canadian farmers are losing much-needed pest managementproducts to red tape.

“We’re losing products faster than we’re bringing them in,”said Ron Pidskalny, an Edmonton-based consultant with a background in herbicidedevelopment and agronomy.

“We’re in a situation where we’re actually ending up withfewer active ingredients than we had before.

“The tool box is becoming less diverse.”

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) — a branch ofHealth Canada — is slowly chipping away at products producers rely on to managepests on their farm, Pidskalny said at a recent Next Level Farming event inLacombe.

“The PMRA is terminating efficacious and cost-effectiveactive ingredients and actually impeding the registration of new bestmanagement tools.”

And Canadian producers will become less competitive as aresult.

 “The loss of pestmanagement tools due to regulatory issues affects you directly on the farm,”said the owner of Strategic Vision Consulting. “We have very few new productscoming in and a lot of older products that are being pushed off the shelves.

 “Why are we notgetting new tools for producers to use?”

As the regulatory system becomes less competitive and morecomplex to navigate, the cost of pest management products will continue to rise— putting a dent in farm margins.

 “Ultimately, itbecomes less profitable to farm if we keep moving on the trajectory we’re on,”said Pidskalny. “How long, as growers, can you continue to produce cropsprofitably if the number of active ingredients you have access to in Canadacontinues to decline?”

American growers aren’t facing these same problems, headded.

 “In the U.S., there’sgreater competition — more choice for commercial products, more manufacturers,more distributors, more retail sale locations,” he said, adding prices alsotend to be lower.

 “This isn’t agood-news story for us.”

He pointed to wheat and barley, saying Canadian farmers haveaccess to five modes of action and 10 different active ingredients, while have seven modes of action and 15 different active ingredients. In drybeans, there are 12 different modes of action and 34 active ingredients in theU.S. versus five and 10 respectively.

 “If you want to useimidicloprid (the active ingredient in some seed treatments), you have twoproducts you can buy in the marketplace,” said Pidskalny. “In the U.S., theyhave 27 products sold by an array of different companies in an array ofdifferent formulations at substantially lower prices.”

In field peas, both countries have six modes of action. Butin Canada, there are 11 active ingredients, while the U.S. has 17 activeingredients.

 “In peas, we’relooking at the same number of modes of action, but insects aren’t necessarilyresistant to a mode of action completely,” said Pidskalny.

Marketplace size

But it’s marketplace — not the regulatory system — that isto blame for this disparity, said a Health Canada official.

 “Discrepancy withregards to certain pesticides being available in the U.S. and not in Canada isoften a result of the manufacturer deciding, for business reasons, to apply forapproval only in one country,” spokesperson Rebecca Purdy said in an email.

 “The larger U.S. marketmakes a better case for a larger number of products.”

Generally, pesticides are only phased out because of“unacceptable risks to human health or the environment,” she said.

Health Canada can’t comment on whether the approval processfor new products is more complicated here, the review process to approve newactive ingredients in Canada takes two years or more and costs over $500,000,said Purdy. In the U.S., that number is closer to $1 million, she said.

But Pidskalny argued that fewer products will lead toresistance problems down the road.

 “If you’re rotatingyour insecticides to try to mitigate the development of resistance to aspecific insecticide, you’re going to be a heck of a lot more effective atdoing that if you have 12 different modes of action and 34 products to use thanif you have five modes of action and only 10 different actives to use,” hesaid.

 “Tools are being lostdue to resistance issues, and we don’t have enough modes of action to rotateto. We’re in a pretty sad state.”

The issue also makes Canadian farmers less competitive, saidPidskalny, citing wireworm control as an example.

 “Whenever I talk to Canadian producers about insects, theissue of wireworms comes up more and more. But in the U.S., it doesn’t,” saidPidskalny.

He points to Canada’s 2004 decision to ban lindane. Thepesticide killed 65 to 70 per cent of resident wireworm larvae and over 85 percent of new neonate larvae later in the season, he said.

 “It would knock backthe wireworm population for about three years.”

Neonicotinoids were brought in to replace lindane, buthaven’t proven to be as effective.

 “Neonics don’t killmany resident larvae. Rather than killing them, they tend to slow them down,but eventually, they start chewing the crop down again,” he said.

American producers have access to 22 active ingredients tocontrol wireworms. Seven were never registered here while others were phasedout for various reasons, leaving just four available in Canada with two facingproposed phase-outs, he said.

Science based

Pidskalny also accused the PMRA of “making a lot ofassumptions based on very little data, and then it’s extrapolating it to aworst-case scenario.”

“If we’re a scientifically based regulatory environment andCanada stands up to the world and says, ‘We have to resolve our trade issuesbased on scientific merit,’ why do we have a major regulatory agency that ispart of Health Canada declining to support that position?”

Not so, said Purdy.

“Regulatory requirements could cause trade issues if aproduct is markedly different,” she said.

“However, Canada and the U.S., through NAFTA, have highlyaligned processes and data requirements. As such, these barriers areinfrequent.

“Canada’s decision to approve a pesticide is made through ascience-based decision process with the protection of human health and theenvironment being of greatest importance.”

But by phasing out old products and failing to register newones, the PMRA has “really put up a roadblock” to creating an agricultureindustry that can compete on the world stage, said Pidskalny.

“We seem to have a disconnect between what we need in orderto do that and what PMRA is doing right now,” he said.

He urged his audience at the Next Level Farming event toraise the issue with their MPs.

“Producers really need to get a hold of the powers-that-bewho have been elected and bring these issues forward to them to find what canbe done at the PMRA to open things up a little bit.”

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