As an industry committed to sustainability, the agriculture sector is focused on protecting the waterways in and around the areas where crops are grown. Water is essential to agricultural production and protecting water is critical to preserving our collective license to operate. When it comes to the use of pesticides, the goal is always to ensure that these products are applied when and where necessary, and that they remain where they can be effective.
CropLife Canada and the plant science industry has long advocated for a national water monitoring program in Canada. In order for a pesticide to be approved for use in Canada, it must pass the rigorous safety standards set by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), which include considerations of the impact of a product on both surface and ground water.
Canada has not historically had a consistent national water monitoring program to assess pesticide occurrences in water. As a result, the PMRA has often had to use modelling data that has led to overly conservative approaches in risk assessments and resulted in negative regulatory decisions, including reduced use patterns, cancellation of uses and the discontinuation of products. In many cases, had real-world monitoring data been available, the PMRA would have made much different decisions that would have maintained access to important tools for growers.
To address the challenge of a lack of access to high-quality water monitoring data, the PMRA is currently developing a national water monitoring program for pesticides in water. This program is an important step towards building our collective capacity as an industry to address regulatory needs, such as refining risk assessments, confirming the effectiveness of mitigation measures and enhancing public trust in the scientific rigour of Canada’s pesticide regulatory system.
A two-year pilot program of the National Water Monitoring Program for Pesticides (NWMPP) began in 2022. Led by the PMRA, the program is also supported by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The stated goals of the program are to inform the development of a larger national program; inform the development of a water monitoring framework; and generate data to better inform future pesticide re-evaluations and special reviews by the PMRA.
In the first year of the program, 89 surface water sites across the country were sampled approximately twice weekly for more than 190 pesticides. In the second year of the pilot program, the PMRA plans to add more sampling locations, including many in Ontario’s fruit and vegetable growing regions.
As an industry, we collectively benefit from taking all the available measures to minimize off-target movement of pesticides. Growers should continue to be diligent in following the label directions on products to ensure their appropriate use and adherence to any required mitigation measures. Ontario growers should also continue to follow best management practices for pesticide application as outlined in the Ontario Pesticide Education Program.
CropLife Canada is continuing to closely monitor the implementation of the pilot national water monitoring program to ensure that it is science-based and will support improved regulatory decision-making. The more high-quality data we have as an industry, the better we can quickly respond to any issues that occur and develop appropriate mitigation measures.
We believe that through robust data collection and industry-government collaboration that growers can benefit from science-based regulatory decisions that provide them with timely access to safe and effective crop protection products while ensuring the protection of human health and the environment.