Some positive steps forward were made in crop protection in 2021 including new federal funding directed at pest management and conclusions on some of the prominent neonicotinoid reviews. However, there are known headwinds and some notable uncertainties going into 2022 that will need to be addressed.
August 2021 Funding Announcement
A joint announcement was made by the sitting Ministers of Health, Agriculture and Agri-Food, and Environment and Climate Change on August 4, 2021, just prior to the start of the 2021 federal election campaign. On the positive side, an additional $50 million in pest management activities was promised by the Ministers. Of the total, $42 million was earmarked for the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). A further $7 million will be allocated to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), and $1 million to Environment and Climate Change Canada in supporting work to accelerate the research, development and adoption of alternative pest management solutions. This has been confirmed to be proceeding following the election of the new federal government in September 2021.
Additional funding for these organizations is essential and is allowing activities such as improving PMRA’s data collection in water monitoring and crop protection use information to proceed. However, the announcement came with some political strings attached. Firstly, it announced another review of the Pest Control Products Act, which as recently as 2020 was determined fit for purpose by the federal Pest Management Advisory Council. Secondly, the Minister of Health announced a pause on MRL increases, notably glyphosate, until spring 2022 without any scientific reasoning whatsoever. Third was the creation of a new expert panel to provide advice to PMRA on their decision-making despite the agency being already well equipped with expert staff and widely regarded as a world-class regulator. What seems to be clear from the previous six months is that we can expect more political oversight at PMRA than we might have seen in the past.
2021 Minister’s Mandate Letters
The December 2021 Minister’s Mandate letters presented a stark contrast for crop protection compared to those issued in December 2019. In 2019, the Minister of Health was asked to “ensure that the PMRA makes timely science-based decisions to support the safe and sustainable use of effective pesticide products in Canada,” Note that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food was directed to “support the Minister of Health to ensure that the PMRA is making science-based decisions that lead to the safe and sustainable use of crop protection products in Canada.”
In 2021, the Minister of Health was asked to “ensure Canadians are protected from risks associated with the use of pesticides and to better protect human health, wildlife and the environment, modernize and strengthen the Pest Control Products Act to ensure it supports transparency, use of independent scientific evidence and input to the decision-making process.” Note that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has been asked to “support food producers who choose alternative pest management approaches that reduce the need for chemical pesticides.” While the outcomes of these statements are still playing out, there’s no denying that there has been a shift in the lens through which crop protection is viewed, at least in Canadian federal politics.
Minor Use Program Funding
The single most important crop protection challenge facing edible horticulture currently is the lack of capacity in minor use. The Minor Use Pesticides Program (MUPP) of the Pest Management Centre (PMC) is a key source of data for new crop protection registrations for horticulture crops. Many of these registrations would not otherwise occur without the help of PMC as the market size is too small to justify the registration costs for these crops. As recently as 2019, PMC has taken on approximately 40 projects annually to generate efficacy/crop safety and/or crop residue data in support of new registrations. This has fallen off dramatically in recent years – down to just 22 projects expected for 2022.
The PMC budget has been flat for a decade with inflation eating more and more into project funds each year. Furthermore, the budget for the alternative pest management strategies work was most recently a meager $210,000 down from more than $2 million a decade ago. While it’s been indicated that a portion of the $7 million in new funding announced in August 2021 for AAFC will be directed towards the PMC, details haven’t been confirmed. Any temporary funding also doesn’t fix the longer-term budget limitations and lack of a permanent funding source faced by the organization. This will no doubt impact new registration capacity for edible horticulture crops. Obtaining new stable funding for PMC remains a top priority for 2022.
PMRA – Re-Evaluations
On the re-evaluation side, probably the biggest story of the year was the completion of some of the neonicotinoid insecticide reviews. The full re-evaluation for imidacloprid (Admire) is now complete with all outstanding special reviews (including pollinators, aquatic invertebrates, and squash bees) completed for both thiamethoxam (Actara, Cruiser) and clothianidin (Clutch, Titan). Final re-evaluations for the latter two are currently underway and are expected to be completed in 2023. However, it is believed that major mitigation requirements have likely already been addressed by the special reviews. PMRA released its review decisions for these products and their risks to pollinators after reviewing more than 500 scientific studies. These important tools are expected to remain registered for some critical uses in edible horticulture.
Re-evaluations were also completed for tebufenozide (Confirm), fenhexamid (Elevate), pyriproxyfen (Distance), lambda-cyhalothrin (Matador), kresoxim-methyl (Sovran), cyromazine (Citation), and cymoxanil (Curzate). All remain registered for some uses with additional mitigation requirements needed. Finally, no re-evaluations were completed in 2021 where all uses of a product were cancelled.
OFVGA Crop Protection Committee
The Crop Protection Committee met twice in 2021 with a virtual meeting in April and hybrid meeting in November. The OFVGA would like to thank all the committee members who contributed to crop protection efforts this past year.
The OFVGA collaborates with numerous organizations in order to advocate for crop protection on behalf of edible horticulture in Ontario. We wish to thank our member organizations, CHC, PMRA, AAFC, OMAFRA, and CropLife Canada who continue to work towards making crop protection in Canada better for growers and ensure safe and abundant food for consumers.