Government of Canada moves forward on federal pesticide commitments


June 2023

Today, Health Canada, along with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), announced the next steps toward a sustainable approach to pesticides management in Canada. 

Maximum Residue Limits:

Establishing Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) is one component of Health Canada’s rigorous pesticide risk assessment process. Health Canada scientists consider information from all available scientific studies and conduct a dietary risk assessment before they set MRLs.

Beginning with less complex proposals, Health Canada has lifted the pause on proposed increases to MRLs that was put in place August 2021. The pause on MRL increases allowed Health Canada, in collaboration with its partners, to review its processes, hold consultations with stakeholder groups, and evaluate how the Government can further improve its communications on MRLs and support enhancing transparency and building trust.

The pause on MRL increases was put in place in response to public concerns regarding a proposed increase to the MRLs for glyphosate in May 2021 for certain imported commodities, which would have brought Canada into international alignment with the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Health Canada is still reviewing the significant feedback from the public in response to the proposed increase to MRLs for glyphosate, with the last comments received in April 2022, while considering all MRL-related comments resulting from the discussion document: Further strengthening protection of health and the environment: Targeted review of the Pest Control Products Act  Health Canada has also engaged with the Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products, the external Technical Working Group on MRLs and the Pest Management Advisory Council to seek further advice on MRLs.

Lifting the pause is important to allow people in Canada to maintain a reliable access to affordable and nutritious food, provide predictability for farmers to access the required tools to fight against new pests, and facilitate trade, which is central to support food security. A MRL will only be increased if Health Canada scientists determine it is safe to do so.

Greening Government Strategy:

The purpose of the Greening Government Strategy is to support the Government of Canada’s transition to net-zero carbon and climate-resilient operations by 2050, while also reducing environmental impacts beyond carbon, including reducing the impact of waste, and impacts on water and biodiversity. A commitment will be added to eliminate the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes on federal lands. As the largest real-property owner in Canada, this action will be an important step toward Target 7 of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) to reduce the risk to biodiversity from pesticides.

Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) Target 7:

Canada committed to the GBF in December 2022. The Framework will guide global actions through 2030 to support the conservation and sustainable use of nature. ECCC is coordinating and facilitating a whole-of-government implementation of the GBF in Canada, whereby the work on biodiversity will become further integrated into the core mandates of multiple federal departments.

This requires the development of a comprehensive national biodiversity strategy and action plan to 2030. A component of GBF Target 7 aims to reduce the overall risk from pesticides by at least half by 2030, including through integrated pest management, based on science, while taking food security and livelihoods into account.

Health Canada, AAFC and ECCC are working to identify science-based approaches to meet Target 7 and are supporting discussions through an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group at the international level to fine-tune agreed-upon indicators to facilitate their use. Domestically, significant gaps remain in understanding the current level of pesticide application, their concentrations in the environment, and their impact on biodiversity. While recent water monitoring and pesticide use pilots have demonstrated effectiveness, additional pan-Canadian data is needed to support data requirements for the successful implementation of the GBF.

Notice of Intent: Strengthening the Regulation of Pesticides in Canada

In spring 2022, PMRA launched Health Canada’s targeted review of the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA) and consulted a broad range of stakeholders and partners, including Indigenous organizations, through a the discussion document: Further strengthening protection of health and the environment: Targeted review of the Pest Control Products Act. The consultation sought feedback on whether changes to the PCPA were needed to modernize and strengthen Canada’s pesticide regulatory system. The What We Heard Report (WWHR) provided an overview of the feedback Health Canada received through this consultation process.

The Notice of Intent published today summarizes key concerns raised during consultation, propose regulatory amendments to address these concerns and solicits stakeholder views. Health Canada determined that opening up the PCPA wasn’t necessary, as policy and regulatory initiatives are sufficient to achieve the goals of the Transformation agenda.

Sustainable Agriculture Strategy

The Sustainable Agriculture Strategy (SAS) is an integrated and coordinated approach to establishing a long-term vision and strategic approach to agri-environmental issues, including climate adaptation and resilience, climate change mitigation, water, biodiversity, and soil health. The SAS will help set a shared direction for collective action to improve environmental performance in the sector over the long-term, supporting farmer livelihoods and the long-term business vitality of the sector and provides an opportunity to discuss the sustainable use of pesticides and potential impacts on water, soil health, and biodiversity. Consultations on the SAS ran from December 2022 to March 2023 and included an online public discussion paper and survey, stakeholder workshops on components of the Strategy and regional producer engagement. A “What We Heard Report”, to summarize feedback from consultations, is expected to be released later this year. 

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