RealAg LIVE! with Pierre Petelle on neonics, gene editing, and science

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Health Canada just published final decisions for its special reviews of clothianidin and thiamethoxam last Wednesday. The organization has also opened up a 60-day consultation period on how plant breeding is done in Canada. Today’s guest has a lot on their plate to discuss regarding these recent events, and how agricultural science is viewed by the public.

Pierre Petelle, president and CEO of CropLife Canada, joins host Shaun Haney for today’s RealAg LIVE!

RealAg LIVE! streams every weekday at 3 pm E on Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter!


  • Health Canada decision last week surrounding two active ingredients in the neonic group
  • CropLife Canada sees this as very positive
  • Horticulture will be significantly impacted and significantly restricted. Onions, potatoes, and other vegetables
  • Broad-acre crops such as canola and cereals, it’s tremendous
  • We’re fortunate in Canada because we have a science-based system
  • Regulators are pretty separated from government — takes the way of scientific evidence
  • How does Health Canada go about this? How do they look at all of these pieces and make a decision? If the risks are unacceptable, then the product cannot be registered anymore.
  • They had subsets of data from Ontario and Quebec, not a lot from the Prairies. Once they got that info from the Prairies, then things changed.
  • They will always take real data over a model-based predicted outcome
  • For canola and cereals it was a good day — corn and soybeans: there is still analysis to be completed and questions to be asked
  • Health Canada is looking at how plant breeding is conducted. So it will provide better clarity
  • The consultation document has some issues and things that need to be analyzed, but CropLife thinks the concept itself is pretty solid. We will see where it goes.
  • If you meet that criteria…you are free to innovate. The U.S. and Argentina are examples of this. As a country, we need to stay competitive.
  • Do we make decisions based on how other countries make them? Or do we make it in our own bubble? Canada and the U.S. have been global leaders in worksharing, etc., and striving towards a more collaborate approach.
  • When it comes to plant breeding, we are quite behind.
  • It focused fairly heavily on the farmer benefits, so there are some learnings there.
  • CropLife has launched a campaign called Nature Nurture, which is aimed at the consumer who doesn’t understand agriculture or pay a lot of attention to these things.
  • When people hear Health Canada has put a stamp of approval on it, for the general public, it tends to really calm a lot of people down. Besides the activists and people whose livelihoods depend on the decision.
  • The same people that were praising Health Canada before, now three years later are describing them as incompetent. It’s interesting how that works.
  • There are clearly still groups out there that have a very strong anti-GMO bend, and they’ve lumped gene editing with that. CropLife has partnered with numerous groups on a campaign called Advancing Agriculture to help offset these concerns and answer some of those questions that consumers have.
  • Europe is not likely to pivot its approach to gene editing.
  • China does not have a specific stance on gene editing… in case you were wondering.
  • People’s response to technology is always interesting. Just look at the COVID-19 vaccines and how the general public is reacting

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