The PMRA began publishing the information in 2007 following the passage of the Pest Control Products Act
Canadians and farmers may not know it, but the federal government does track the use of pesticides.
In 2007, Health Canada and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency began publishing data on herbicide, insecticide and fungicide sales, following the passage of the Pest Control Products Act in 2006.
The act included a provision on reporting and transparency, in which agri-chemical companies have to submit the quantity of pesticides sold to Health Canada.
“It shows every active ingredient by kilogram sold in that year,” said Pierre Petelle, CropLife Canada’s vice-president of chemistry.
“They give ranges … so they’re not sharing market share information. It’s all there and available. That was one of the goals of the act, to be much more transparent.”
The PMRA website has annual sales reports on pesticides from 2007-14. The federal data provides ranges of amount sold for active ingredients and detailed reporting for chemical groups.
The Alberta government goes a step further by providing more precise figures on sales of active ingredients.
Every five years, Alberta Environment and Parks publishes a report on pesticide sales, based on vendor data.
As an example of the detail, the most recent report said 694,347.4 kg of glufosinate were sold in Alberta in 2013. In 2008, pesticide dealers sold 394,652.8 kg of glufosinate.
The province collects and publishes the data to monitor pesticide trends and to develop appropriate programs to protect the environment.
Rene Van Acker, a University of Guelph weed scientist, said this sort of information is useful for farmers and the public.
“Are there red flags here, in terms of overuse, of a particular mode of action? Are there things we can do differently?” Van Acker said, as examples of how the data is helpful.
“It also gives us some data on changes, in sheer quantity of active ingredient applied, versus long ago … (to show) here’s where we’ve made tremendous progress, here’s where we have work to do.”
The Alberta data indicates that farmers are using more herbicides and fungicides, per acre, than they did 15 to 20 years ago:
- In 1998, Alberta farmers applied 1.95 kg of active ingredient per acre.
- In 2008 they applied 2.48 kg per acre.
- In 2013 they used 3.3 kg per acre.
Increased use of glyphosate is the main reason why pesticide use has jumped in the last 15 years.
Neil Harker, an Agriculture Canada weed scientist, said tracking kilograms of active ingredient can be misleading. Certain herbicides, such as sulfonylureas, are not in the top 20 of active ingredients in Alberta because the product is applied at a very low rate.
Ian Affleck, CropLife Canada’s managing director of science and regulatory affairs, plant biotechnology, agreed that pesticide use data tells only a portion of the story.
“It’s not about more or less. It’s about the values that those tools deliver in support of sustainable farming.”
The PMRA’s reports on pesticide sales can be found at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_corp-plan/sales-ventes/index-eng.php.
Anyone interested in the data must send a request to the PMRA because the reports are not available on its website.