Canada is once again considering raising the amount of pesticide residue allowed on berries, sugar beets and other foods after public resistance to proposed changes prompted a two-year pause.

The evaluation process was halted in 2021 after it was revealed officials were planning to increase the amount of glyphosate — a common herbicide — allowed on imported foods. The pesticide industry was pushing for the changes, but public outcry over the allowances and the government's lack of transparency forced it to backtrack on the plan and promise to rework its pesticide evaluation process.

There is growing concern about the harmful impact of pesticides on human health, agriculture and biodiversity, prompting calls from researchers to reduce their prevalence. While the European Union and other countries have in recent years committed to curbing their use, Canada has not.

In June, officials announced they would restart the "science-based process" of creating or updating the so-called "maximum residue limit" (MRL) on some pesticides. The MRL is the amount of pesticide residue allowed on foods sold in Canada and is determined by how and when the pesticide is used. Pesticide companies can ask the government to increase the limit and need to provide scientific data to back up their request.

In a statement, Health Canada — the ministry responsible for Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) — said the two-year pause allowed it to better understand “expectations of Canadians about the pesticide regulatory review process, including the settings of MRL and its transparency."

Since that announcement, the government has started the process to increase or modify MRLs for eight pesticides — excluding glyphosate — with public consultations due to end in September. Officials have said that because MRLs also apply to imported foods, increasing these limits is vital to align Canada with levels allowed in the U.S. and other countries.

For instance, on June 27, the PMRA announced plans to increase the MRL for the fungicide fludioxonil on imported sugar beets from 0.02 parts per million (ppm) to 4 ppm. The increase was requested by pesticide manufacturer Syngenta so foods that contain levels of fludioxonil currently allowed in the U.S. but not in Canada can be imported and sold in here.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the chemical can disrupt humans' endocrine systems, but giving lab animals levels of the pesticide far higher than the limits proposed by the PMRA did not kill them.

But critics ranging from environmentalists to Bloc Québécois MP Monique Pauzé have blasted the agency for proposing to raise the limits at all.

Canada is once again considering raising the amount of pesticide residue allowed on berries, sugar beets and other foods after public resistance to proposed changes prompted a two-year pause.

In late June, the former co-chair of a scientific advisory committee convened by the PMRA resigned citing issues around transparency. In his letter announcing his resignation, Bruce Lanphear, a public health expert at Simon Fraser University, lambasted the agency for providing Canadians "a false sense of security" that they are adequately protected from pesticides. This included issues around MRLs, he told Canada's National Observer in a July interview.

Safe Food Matters president Mary Lou McDonald agreed. Accessing the health and safety data the PMRA uses to determine MRLs is challenging due to stringent limits on what data can be seen — and shared — by the public to protect pesticide companies' intellectual property. She noted issues with the accuracy and relevance of the data used by the government in its assessment process.

Moreover, she noted the PMRA and pesticide manufacturers have a close working relationship — an issue also flagged by Lanphear.

"It goes against basic logic in light of all that’s known on protecting human health," said Pauzé. "Other jurisdictions have opted for more prescriptive regulations, namely in Europe. There are questions that need answers."

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I get the impression that US and Canadian politicians and bureaucrats are so hopelessly compromised by the pressures from the pesticide/herbicide and pharmaceutical sectors they have given up on trying to regulate these behemoth monsters whose lobbying and money is so overwhelming and endless they cannot be fought .
Thus all of us human guinea pigs will be so toxic when we die we'll have to be cremated to avoid our toxins leaching into the water tables in graveyards. When arsenic was commonly used in the embalming industry people who lived downstream from graveyards were made sick by the arsenic and died prematurely. Ask the Bronte family.

Nowadays our bodies are all so compromised by the "forever" chemicals which are prevalent in our waterways, drinking water sources, foods and everyday objects that fill our homes and gardens. How much worse could a few more parts per billion from sundry poisons be in the wider scheme of things? I guess it is inevitable we will find out - eventually. We are losing trillions of invertebrates from our soils; critters essential to the continuation of life on earth, This invisible holocaust will destroy earth's biomes, including us.

Better living through chemistry has always been a snare and delusion, akin to the efforts of the alchemical fraternity's search for gold from earth's base elements.

Better living through chemistry at this point means understanding what the "new chemicals" we've wrought have upon us, the rest of all-that-lives, and stopping their use.
I can well imagine that there'll be a balancing act, for a time during which better ways of doing things, than relying upon toxic materials to improve appearances.
We don't actually *have* safe food, water and air, and haven't had for at least half a century. It's just gotten so much worse that it's obvious to a whole lot more people now, than then. That the problem is so old and entrenched isn't any reason, let alone excuse, for carrying on in the same vein.
It's "interesting" that we have a Minister of Innovation (and other things) and the ideas entertained under the rubric of "Innovation" aren't actually innovation at all: it's more of the same.
Perhaps we need to take stock of what's *actually* "better" and what is merely window dressing -- and for that it is necessary to open the range of considerations we use to judge. Probably everyone understands that the way always has to be forward: There *is* no Going Back ... and for that matter, there hasn't *been* any "Golden Age" when things were all "Great", to recapture.
However, there certainly is abundant information about specifics that were better, just as there are specifics that were worse. Babies and bathwater, and all that ... plus serious consideration of reusing that bathwater, too.
Arsenic was used also in yellow and green pigments for paint and print processes during the Victorian era. The materials degrade with time, disintegrating into toxic breakdown products. Same story as many of the substances in use today, with different particulars: mainly less visible or obvious.
And there's where chemistry comes in again.
I'm grateful for the efforts of people like MaryLou McDonald and Bruce Lanphear ... and many others highlighted in NO's pages ... as well as to NO itself for bringing so much to our attention.
As with tobacco and carbon fuels, the agro-chemical industry has known for decades that its products are toxic. Both the US and the Canadian governments have known in advance of licensing production, sale and use of many substances would cause nasty effects, including some deaths. Death, however, shouldn't be the point at which regulatory concern might enter the picture: death comes about as a result of biological processes degraded or interrupted by exposure to those toxic chemicals, sometimes with sub-lethal but pretty much permanent negative health effects that start at a very low level of exposure, and can worsen over time. Worse, the exposure of people to those chemicals compromises the health of their n offspring, yet unborn and even not yet conceived. I have no reason to suspect the same thing doesn't happen with other life-forms.
I will never forget how I felt the evening I discovered that the chemicals that had been found in my blood were actually toxic to people, and that governments knew they were so before licensing them: they "weighed" the relative desirability of letting the chem-cos make themselves rich (boosting "the economy") against the health of people. It's been like that for a long, long tmie, and it has to stop. "It" doesn't *need* to stop: the world needs it to stop.
(Another pet peeve: that business of people telling others what they "need" to do, based on what those doing the telling want. They do it as early as kindergarten -- and maybe in daycare. I just wish people would start using "language according to the dictionary." Anything else sets everyone up for gaslighting and consumption of lies. Think of it as a pre-determinant of communications eco-system.)