TORONTO — CropLife Canada would like to see a reinvigorated global joint review process for pesticides.
Pierre Petelle, vice-president of chemistry with CropLife, said the reviews have proved beneficial for the Canadian industry.
They reduce product approval times, lead to standardized maximum residue limits and bring new active ingredients to Canadian farmers years before they would have under the old system.
“From a Canadian farmer perspective, it has paid huge dividends,” he told delegates attending the 30th annual Pulse and Special Crops Convention.
Canada is a small player in the pesticide market. In the past, Canadian growers would wait years for new products their U.S. counterparts were already using.
“With global joint reviews, the companies are including Canada in that first submission,” said Petelle.
“We’re not waiting five to 10 years to get those technologies.”
The first North American joint review was completed in 1998 following years of a technical working group under the North American Free Trade Agreement that standardizes risk assessment approaches in NAFTA countries.
Most new active ingredients used in Canada since then have gone through either a work share program with the U.S. or a joint review process with the U.S. and other countries.
The idea is that the work is divided among regulatory bodies in different countries.
For instance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might conduct the environmental review while the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) carries out the toxicology review. Each agency then peer reviews the other’s work.
The process results in one joint data package but independent decisions on that package.
It has drastically reduced the regulatory approval timelines for new pesticide products.
The joint review process was eventually expanded to include member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The first OECD review was completed in 2008 when regulatory bodies in Canada, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Australia and New Zealand completed an insecticide review in 15 months compared to the usual 21 to 24 month period.
Petelle said one big benefit of global joint reviews is that 76 percent of them result in harmonized maximum residue limits for the product and another 18 percent have MRLs that are within 0.5 parts per million.
“It’s a proven way of getting harmonized MRLs,” he said.
When countries conduct their own reviews, it tends to result in MRLs that are all over the place, which can be a barrier to trade.
“Unfortunately the global joint reviews have stumbled a little bit in the last couple of years,” said Petelle.
European countries have stepped away from the process.
He believes part of the problem is that it is hard for other countries to match the capacity and expertise of the PMRA and the EPA.
“It’s daunting sometimes for some of these countries to step in and take a significant role,” said Petelle.
The Canadian and U.S. governments created a highly regimented process and that has scared away some countries.
“They’re now looking at how to be more flexible and maybe just have partial joint reviews as opposed to the whole kit every time,” he said.
For instance, some countries may want to participate in the MRL review and not the whole toxicology and environmental review. That may appeal to importers that are not going to use the chemistry but need MRLs in place to import crops sprayed with the product.
CropLife would like to use the upcoming NAFTA meeting as a forum to bring regulators together to see how they can reinvigorate the global joint review process.