Video—Pest Management Agency needs to quicken its pace to prevent unacceptable risks to Canadians and the environment

Audit at a Glance—Pesticide Safety

Video Transcript

Hello. My name is Julie Gelfand, and I am Canada’s federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Our audit of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which registers pesticide products for use in Canada, examined how the Agency has managed selected aspects of its mandate.

There are currently about 7,000 pesticides, containing some 600 active ingredients, available in the Canadian marketplace. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency is required to re-evaluate the safety of registered pesticides every 15 years.

Ninety-five percent of the Agency’s re-evaluations result in new measures to protect human health or the environment. During the period of our audit, the Agency completed some 14 re-evaluations per year. At the end of our audit, more than six times that number remained incomplete.

With more re-evaluations due to start each year, the Agency needs to quicken its pace to prevent unacceptable risks to people and the environment from the unsafe use of pesticide products.

I am also concerned that it took the Agency an average of five years—and up to 11 years—to remove some pesticides from the market when it determined that they posed unacceptable risks for all uses.

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency may grant a conditional registration when it finds that it needs more information to confirm its assessment of a product’s value, and of the risks to human health or the environment. During the time that a pesticide is conditionally registered, it can be bought and used, and other products containing the same active ingredient may also be marketed.

We found that nine products remained conditionally registered for more than a decade. Eight of these belonged to the neonicotinoid class of pesticides. These products continue to be used extensively in Canada despite widespread concern that they may pose a threat to bees, as well as broader ecosystems.

Our audit concluded that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency considered health and environmental risks, and value, in re-evaluating pesticides. However, with respect to conditional registrations, re-evaluations, special reviews, and cancellations of registrations, we concluded that the Agency had not always acted in a timely manner to fulfill its statutory objective of preventing unacceptable risks to the health of Canadians and the environment from the use of pesticides.