Federal government “pauses” MRL review; announces $50 million for PMRA

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

The federal government has announced what it calls a “pause” on proposed increases to maximum residue limits (MRLs) on food crops. As a result, there will be no updates to MRLs until at least spring 2022.

The pause applies to all MRLs, but the government’s own communications single out glyphosate as one product whose MRL review has been put on hold.

“While the current regulations provide robust protection of human health and the environment, some of its provisions now warrant review to ensure the pesticide approval process meets the expectations of Canadians in the areas of transparency and sustainability,” the government says in a release, explaining its pause.

Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) completes all reviews of pesticides approved for use in Canada.

The specific review around glyphosate MRLs dates back to May 2019, when the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization recommended new glyphosate MRLs for consideration by the World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius Commission. Bayer CropScience submitted an application requesting Canada align certain MRLs with those being proposed internationally. This past May, Health Canada launched a public consultation on glyphosate MRLs for imported dry beans, dry peas and tree nuts.

CropLife Canada, which represents crop protection companies, calls the decision to pause the MRL review “arbitrary,” and is concerned about how this decision may be received by Canada’s trading partners.

“While we support increased regulatory transparency, it is important that the regulatory process does not become politicized. The need to maintain a science-based, regulatory process is important for the vitality of the sector and the credibility of Health Canada and PMRA as a trusted regulator, in Canada and internationally,” the organization says in a statement.

In the same announcement, the government announced $50 million in budget for Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s pest management research, to be supported by Environment and Climate Change Canada. $42 million over three years is set for Heath Canada’s PMRA to further “strengthen its human and environmental health and safety oversight and protection, including improving the availability of independent data to further support pesticide review decisions, and the transparency of decision-making.”

The balance, $7 million, will go to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and $1 million to Environment and Climate Change Canada in supporting work, to accelerate the research, development, and adoption of alternative pest management solutions.

CropLife says it is pleased to see that the PMRA is receiving additional funding, something the organization’s members have been advocating for. “Ensuring the PMRA has the financial means needed to continue to meet its legislative mandate is a priority of our sector,” it says.

The federal government, meanwhile, says it will begin consulting on specific provisions of the Pest Control Products Act to consider “ways to balance how pesticide review processes are initiated in Canada and increase transparency.”

Environmental activist groups, such as the David Suzuki Foundation, are welcoming the pause.

Wake up with RealAgriculture

Subscribe to our daily newsletters to keep you up-to-date with our latest coverage every morning.

Wake up with RealAgriculture