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Farm group fingers agency for slow introduction of generic pesticides

Farmers of North America say Canada’s overly onerous regulations mean cheaper generic 
farm chemicals are hard to find north of the U.S. border

Afederal agency that’s supposed to help farmers get their hands on cheaper generic pesticides is instead throwing up roadblocks to their introduction, according to critics.

Ottawa introduced regulatory changes three years ago to speed up the introduction of generic versions of off-patent pesticides, but the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency “has not bought into that agenda,” said Bob Friesen, vice-president of government affairs with the Farmers of North America.

“Canadian farmers have been frustrated long enough” and are spending millions more than they should on farm chemicals, said Friesen.

The regulations and paperwork required to register a new generic product are so onerous, many companies simply can’t afford it, he said, adding it’s time for government to intervene.

“We are asking the federal health and agriculture ministers to step in and resolve the PMRA’s intransigence,” said Friesen.

Although many herbicides and pesticides are much cheaper in the U.S., pleas to simplify and streamline the process have fallen on deaf ears, said Darren Palendat, product manager with AgraCity Crop and Nutrition, one of several suppliers of generic products for Farmers of North America.

“It’s critical that Canadian farmers are cost competitive around the world, particularly with their U.S. counterparts,” he said.

The current system seems more focused on what generic companies have to pay the developers than on getting generic products to market quickly, said Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which has been pushing the regulatory agency for reforms since 2011.

Pesticide developers need to be fairly compensated “but at some point just like with prescription drugs, generics should be able to enter the market,” said Richard Phillips, executive director of Grain Growers of Canada.

“We are comparing identical products on both sides of the border (and) one does have to question why the price spread.”

But critics don’t understand that dealing with intellectual property protection rights is complicated, said Pierre Petelle, vice-president of chemistry with Croplife Canada.

“It is an oversimplification to suggest that modifying the (registration) process would only require a couple of minor changes, particularly given that both proprietary and generic companies had to give significantly on their original visions in order for the existing data protection regulations to be agreed upon,” he said.

There has been “a significant increase in the number of generic registrations issued,” since the regulatory changes, he said.

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