Glyphosate in Canada

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in Canada and plays an important weed management role in agriculture and non-agricultural land management. Products containing glyphosate are used to control weeds including invasive weeds, and toxic plants such as poison ivy.

Regulatory requirements for pesticides

Health Canada's primary objective in regulating pesticides is to protect the health of Canadians and the environment.

Pesticides must be approved by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) under the authority of the Pest Control Products Act and Regulations, before they can be imported, sold, or used in Canada.

Pesticides are subject to rigorous science-based assessments by Health Canada scientists before being approved for use in Canada. All registered pesticides must be re-evaluated on a cyclical basis to make sure they continue to meet current health and environmental safety standards and continue to have value.

Glyphosate and food

Health Canada scientists conduct a thorough risk assessment to confirm that eating foods treated with a pesticide would not result in any human health concern to any segment of the population, including pregnant women, infants, children and seniors. These scientists then establish Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs), which is the legal maximum allowable amount of pesticide residues that may remain in or on foods.

Consistent with international approaches, Health Canada determines MRLs on raw agricultural commodities, and when necessary, for processed commodities. Both the raw agricultural and processed commodity are required to comply with the established MRLs.

All historical and current Maximum Residue Limits, including those for glyphosate, are publicly available in Health Canada’s Online MRL Database.

Glyphosate compliance

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for monitoring and evaluating compliance with Canadian MRLs. The CFIA inspects both domestically produced and imported foods for pesticide residues. Imported foods must meet the same Canadian MRLs as domestically produced foods.

When the CFIA inspects food products containing ingredients with different MRLs, compliance is determined when the residue in the final food product is below the highest MRL of all the ingredients.

For example, in a product containing both:

Any glyphosate residues from a food product containing both the above ingredients would be compared against the MRL of 15 ppm.

Since Canadian MRLs are set well below levels that could pose a health concern, food with residues over the maximum limit may still be safe for consumption. When foods test at levels above the established limits, results are referred to Health Canada for a health risk assessment.

CFIA’s most recent survey report, “Analysis of Glyphosate Residues in Food from the Canadian Retail Markets between 2015 and 2017”, states that of the 0.6% of samples that exceeded MRLs, a health risk assessment showed no risk to human health.

Overall, the CFIA’s 2015-2017 survey report states that the compliance rate with Canadian MRLs for glyphosate was 99.4%.

Re-evaluation of glyphosate

Health Canada’s proposed re-evaluation decision (PRVD2015-01) was published in April 2015 for consultation. Relevant data and information considered came from registrants, published scientific reports, federal and provincial governments, and other regulatory agencies. Health Canada’s proposed findings were that, when used according to the label instructions, products containing glyphosate are not expected to pose risks of concern to human health or the environment.

Re-evaluation Decision RVD2017-01, Glyphosate summarizes the final decision on the re-evaluation of glyphosate in 2017 and includes the reasons for the decision. Comments received during the consultation period were taken into consideration.

During this re-evaluation, Health Canada assessed the potential human health risk of glyphosate from drinking water, food, occupational and bystander exposure, as well as the environmental risk to non-target organisms. The dietary exposure assessment determined that the levels found in food would not be a health risk to Canadians.

Health Canada granted continued registration of products containing glyphosate for sale and use in Canada, with changes to product labels to provide Canadians with additional information on how to use these products safely.

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