Letters to the editor – March 29, 2018

Pesticides are vital

Since the responsibility of pesticide registrations was taken away from Agriculture Canada in 1995, and moved to Health Canada, and then put in the hands of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) as an inter-agency department between Agriculture Canada, Environment Canada, and Health Canada, there has been a disturbing trend of farmers losing access to many key pesticides.  

Some changes were long overdue, but it has allowed special interest groups to impose their will upon farmers.  Four environmental groups, the David Suzuki Foundation, Friends of The Earth Canada, Ecojustice Canada, and the Ontario Nature and Wilderness Committee, have succeeded in using our courts to force the review of 31 currently registered pesticides by the PMRA.

In July 2017, the Federal Court of Canada has denied applications from the federal government and four chemical companies to block the lawsuit involving what these groups identify as pesticides of concern.

With the Earth’s population expected to increase to 9.7 billion by 2050, agricultural productivity must be correspondingly increased. This can only be made possible by maintaining access to effective pesticides, and improving yields through traditional breeding and genetic modification.

The Great Potato Famine of Ireland in 1845 was due to the lack of effective fungicides at the time. One such fungicide that was developed for its control was chlorothalonil, a fungicide that the PMRA plans to greatly curtail.

While new fungicides have been developed, they are applied in early disease development, as opposed to a protectant.

Corn yields have been vastly increased when atrazine was introduced in the 1950s, and it is one of the pesticides environmental groups are fiercely targeting.

Neonicotinoids were developed as an answer to organophosphates and organochlorines, which are proven to cause chronic neurological symptoms, but they are also being targeted by environmental groups.

Last year, cyhalothrin lambda (Matador) became target of scrutiny by the PMRA, which proposes to eliminate all food uses.  Carbamates such as carbofuran are also being eliminated, even though they work through the same mechanism as organophsophates, their effects are reversible, and despite high acute toxicity, they produce no lasting effects after medical treatment.

The PMRA targeted fumigants, and imposed onerous restrictions on their use in 2015, and imposing blanket regulations upon them, rather than selectively targeting each product based upon risk, such as the highly toxic phosgene, 1,3-dichloropropene, and chloropicrin, which were also used as chemical warfare agents in the First World War, and leaving the more benign fumigants like metam-sodium and dazomet.

This hijacking of the PMRA and our courts by environmental groups has resulted in bans and restrictions being imposed on farmers based upon pseudo-science, and fear mongering, rather than real evidence based science.

Atrazine is the subject of much debate by environmentalists, but the studies done on frogs employed concentrations 100,000-fold greater than typically found in bodies of water near fields, and atrazine is only weakly estrogenic, much like plant phytoestrogens.  

Neonicotinoids have been fingered as the culprit in bee decline, but new studies show it is a complex of factors caused by varrao mites, zozema, Israeli acute paralytic virus, and invertebrate iridescent virus-6.

Pyrethoids such as Matador have been used safely for three decades, and there is very little evidence in medical literature regarding long-term adverse effects. Pyrethroids are rapidly broken down by sunlight, with photo-stable pyrethroids lasting only days, they have a high selectivity for invertebrates, and are highly effective at concentrations of two to five parts per million. In birds and mammals, pyrethroids are rapidly eliminated through glucoronidation, and they do not readily permeate the blood-brain barrier, and except for cases of ingestion of spray concentrate, adverse effects are usually dermal irritation, and allodynia, which do not persist.

At the current pace we are losing access to key pesticides, farming will no longer be profitable for Canadian farmers.

GM crops could significantly reduce the use of pesticides, but environmental groups and consumers are not willing to accept their widespread use.  It is time the government of Canada puts the registration of pesticides back in the hands of Agriculture Canada, and disallow the use of our courts by environmental groups to launch frivolous and groundless actions based on pseudo-science.

Robert Hogue
Roseridge Farms
Kelowna, B.C

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