Ontario Conservative MP Bev Shipley wants to cut the red tape slowing the introduction of new agriculture technologies for farmers.
He’s presented a motion in the Commons, which, if approved, would spare companies the expense and paper shuffling involved in repeating research on their developments already approved in other countries.
He wants the government “to consider equivalent scientific research and agricultural regulatory approval processes of our other trading nations when licensing agriculture production management tools.” Such a move would give farmers “access to seeds, pesticides, herbicides and veterinary medications other nations currently can use.”
After consulting with farm groups, Shipley says his proposal, which will come to a vote later this spring, “will bring about meaningful change for farmers.”
Producers say they are “at a competitive disadvantage with their direct competitors, especially in the United States,” he said. “Many farmers of Canada’s trading partners are able to use commercial agricultural products that Canadian farmers cannot. Further, some of these products that are not available in Canada are being used on imported agri-food and livestock commodities.”
Foreign research and approvals can be used without weakening the Canadian approval process, he added. “Manufacturers of agricultural products are reluctant to go through the time and expense of duplicating research and testing used as part of the regulatory and licensing process in the countries which produce them.”
The Canadian market is simply not large enough to justify the time and expense of duplicating research and testing,” he says. “Science is science whether it is conducted in the United States or in Canada. Data does not change coming across the border.”
Liberal farm spokesman Wayne Easter welcomed the motion but said the onus will be on the government to respond positively to it. The motion would “allow Canadian authorities to approve products already used in other countries if their regulatory process and their research methods to produce the data are deemed equivalent to those of the Canadian system.”
Too often, manufacturers of pesticides or medicines don’t apply to Canada because of the slowness and cost of the regulatory system, he said. “Therefore, we are waiting for a regulatory system to move and approve the product but while we are waiting our producers are actually in a non-competitive position.”
If products are approved for use in the United States but not Canada and foods treated with them enter this country, “Canadian consumers consume them and our producers are not competitive,” he said. “It just does not make sense.”
NDP farm spokesman Alex Atamanenko said his party wouldn’t support the motion because it didn’t require imported products to be up to Canadian standards. He agreed that “Canadian farmers often experience frustration at not being able to have access to the latest technology the way their competitors do.” While the intent of the motion was good, the wording was too vague.
New products must satisfy Canadian safety standards and not just automatically be allowed into Canada because they’ve been accepted elsewhere, he added.