Federal government lifts pause on pesticide MRL reviews, while banning cosmetic pesticides on federal land

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The federal government is lifting its nearly two-year pause on reviews of pesticide maximum residue limits (MRLs), while also introducing a ban on cosmetic pesticide use on federal land.

Ministers representing Health Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada shared the multi-pronged announcement on Tuesday as part of the government’s larger agenda to update pesticide rules and the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA).

“By taking these initial steps today, we are paving the way towards stronger pesticide management in Canada,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

MRLs are used as a standard for trade and to ensure crop protection products are being used properly. Prior to pausing MRL reviews in 2021, Canada’s MRL standards were regularly updated to reflect scientific findings and align with international CODEX standards recognized by other countries.

The government says the increased focus on biodiversity and the ban on cosmetic pesticide use on federal lands are part of reaching Canada’s international commitment in the 2022 Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which includes a target of reducing overall pesticide risk — not necessarily the amount used — by at least 50 per cent by 2030.

The PMRA put the brakes on MRL reviews in August 2021, prior to the federal election. CropLife Canada and commodity groups whose members rely on access to pesticides have raised concerns that the pause on MRL reviews politicized what should be a non-partisan, science-based regulatory process.

At the time, the government also announced $42 million to support water monitoring and PMRA program improvements.

“Pesticides are part of the toolbox agricultural producers use to protect their crops from pests and contribute to their productivity,” said Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, who just returned from a ministerial trip to India on Tuesday. “The measures announced by our government today help to ensure responsible access, framed by reliable data, to these essential inputs, while protecting health and the environment.”

As part of Tuesday’s announcement, the government also published a list of proposed amendments to its Pest Control Products Regulations. The proposed amendments are the subject of a 60-day comment period.
More to come.

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

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