by SUSAN MANN
A trade association representing the crop protection industry is waiting to see what effect job cuts at the Pest Management Regulatory Agency will have on future pesticide registrations.
Pierre Petelle, vice president chemistry for CropLife Canada, says they have mixed feelings about job losses. “Time will tell if the government went too far in cutting.” But the association also has faith PMRA did the cuts strategically and it won’t impact “their submission timelines and their ability to review the applications that our members are putting in.”
CropLife represents crop protection manufacturers, developers and distributors of plant science technologies including pest control products and plant biotechnology.
Fifty-four jobs at Health Canada’s PMRA, responsible for pesticide registrations in Canada, were declared surplus as part of government budget cuts announced earlier this year. The agency’s budget for the 2012/13 fiscal year is $47 million; 407 people remain on staff.
Stephane Shank, Health Canada senior media relations adviser, says by email no further cuts are expected.
But there will be changes at PMRA. Shank says the most substantial changes in the organization will be to streamline registration and submission management activities as well as to introduce new approaches to value assessments and the re-evaluation of older chemicals. The agency will also reduce administrative support and the amount of facilitation work it does with user sectors.
“Our priority of protecting human health and the environment will not change,” Shank says. “We will be strengthening our science capacity in some areas and will continue to build on our strong foundation of international collaboration.”
Charles Stevens, chair of the crop protection section of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, foresees some positive developments in the changes at PMRA. One of these is the potential for greater collaboration on pesticide registrations between the Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for this activity in the United States, and PMRA.
“If they can share and register together as a North American registration process or as a global process, that reduces the cost of the registration,” he says, noting each agency could do a portion of the process that would then be accepted in the other country. For example, one country can do the environmental study on a product while the other could do the toxicology work rather than each country doing all the studies separately in their own jurisdiction.
The two agencies working together on registrations would mean farmers here could get the same products as U.S. producers and use them the same way, he says.
Moreover, there weren’t any job cuts at the Pest Management Centre, which does the research so pest control products for minor use crops can be registered, Stevens notes. The centre is funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Petelle says PMRA has been doing a very good job lately -- especially in the last year and a half -- of meeting the timelines it sets out to review submissions for new products. And “there will definitely be some process improvements and efficiencies in order for them to continue to operate.”
These could include improvements in administrative requirements or taking better advantage of global joint reviews and work sharing with other nations. Petelle says they view that as a positive development.
But the negative side is the people who are left may have way more work to do in the future because the number of submissions for registrations in a given year can vary. “There’s probably no wiggle room to absorb a sudden influx of submissions based on our members bringing out several new products,” he says.
Petelle says some of the work PMRA did with grower groups to find alternatives when products are being phased out will be axed. Also, if it takes longer to approve new pest control products growers might miss a growing season of being able to use a product if the timing doesn’t work out for a submission. But CropLife will closely monitor the process, he says. BF