Officials negotiating a free trade deal with Europe must get EU officials to clarify the impact proposed pesticide registration rules will have on food imports from Canada, says Ron Bonnett, first vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
“We plan to raise this issue with Canadian negotiators,” Bonnett said in an interview after a meeting here of the NAFTA Technical Working Group (TWG) on Pesticides. The European proposal would shift to assessing pesticides on a hazard-based system from the risk-based assessments used in North America. It could create a conflict between Europe and North America that could shut out food exports.
He said the meeting showed there’s been progress in the speed with which Canadian farmers get access to new pesticides. “We want them to get them at the same time as United States farmers.” The TWG has made progress in getting joint registration of pesticides in Canada and the United States with seven new products already on the market. Officials should also work at harmonizing maximum residue limits for pesticides in food products with the United States. “That will keep MRLs from becoming a trade barrier.”
The meeting, which included government, chemical industry and farm group representatives, also looked at pesticide resistance management techniques. Bonnett said researchers are looking at whether rotating the use of pesticides from different manufacturers as well as biopesticides can keep weeds and bugs in check without encouraging the development of pesticide resistance. “It borrows a lot from Integrated Pest Management practices.”
To make it work, pesticide manufacturers need to share more information about their products to help farmers decide when to rotate their pest control chemicals, he said. Biopesticides may play a significant role in preventing increased resistance. “We need more research on how products from different manufacturers can work together. We need more talk among users and manufacturers. There’s a huge variation on how growers work and we need to share information back and forth.”
Peter MacLeod, vice-president of chemistry with CropLife Canada, said a biopesticides workshop during the meeting showed ways that conventional and biopesticides could be used in combination, possibly at reduced rates, to control pests and prevent resistance problems. “There’s a lot of research and development underway on the synergies that could come from using them together,” he said. “We could get reduced rates of use from this approach.”
He also said that farm group and industry participants told the regulators they must do a better job of explaining to the public the science involved in pesticide approval. “They need to become more proactive in building confidence in the regulatory systems.” He said government officials acknowledged the need to communicate with the public about the science involved in their registration systems.