An open letter to leaders of Pest Management Regulatory Agency

Dear Sir or Madam,

Last week I was informed that Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency publishes data on pesticide use in Canada. Hoping to learn more, I visited the PMRA website looking for the relevant data.

I wanted to know what information is available in Canada because the U.S. Department of Agriculture maintains an easy to use website, chock full of data on pesticide use on every major crop in the lower 48 states.

As you know, the PMRA has published data on pesticide sales in Canada since 2007, following the passage of 2006 legislation requiring companies to report annual sales figures.

Strangely, despite that requirement, there is scant pesticide sales volume data on your website.

The executive summary from 2012, the latest year that data is available, is 47 words long. There are instructions on how to order a copy of the 2012 Pest Control Products Sales report. I clicked the link and filled out a brief form to place an order.

Again, strangely, after requesting a copy, I received an automated email from the PMRA saying my order has been forwarded to “a subject matter expert for consideration.”

Admittedly, I have never worked for the federal government, but it’s unclear why a government employee has to approve a request for a document on pesticide volumes.

Perhaps it’s about fears over ISIS, or officials need time for a background check: to dig up the nugget that I sat through a David Suzuki lecture in university or once, to impress a date, ordered an organic kale salad?

Why does this all matter, you may ask. Why should government employees waste time on fancy-schmancy websites that provide actual data rather than pages and pages of platitudes promoting the government’s dedication to transparency and openness?

Like it or not, many Canadians believe the PMRA cannot be trusted because the agency is in cahoots with the agri-chemical industry.

The logic or conspiracy theory, depending on perspective, claims that agri-chemical behemoths control the PMRA pesticide registration process because corporate research is not made public and most of the experts at the agency are former industry scientists.

Given that millions are suspicious, the PMRA may want to rethink a process where government employees scrutinize requests for data, especially information that should be publicly available by law.

If Canadians view the PMRA as a secretive and Machiavellian body, it compromises the science around all agricultural chemicals and the integrity of farmers who use those products.

The following statement on the Health Canada website sums it up neatly in 49 words:

“The Government of Canada is making more data and information available to Canadians than ever before…. As a regulator, Health Canada plays an important role in protecting the health and safety of Canadians and is committed to greater transparency and openness to further strengthen trust in our regulatory decisions.”

Robert Arnason
The Western Producer

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