THE FEDERAL REGULATORY SYSTEM AND
THE ROLE OF
THE PEST MANAGEMENT REGULATORY AGENCY
1.1 The regulation of pesticides is a shared
responsibility between the two levels of government in Canada. The federal
government is responsible for the pre-market approval and registration of
pesticides, while the provinces and territories regulate the post-registration
sale, use and distribution of the products within their boundaries. Depending on
their enabling legislation, municipalities may also play a role in regulating
use at the local level.
1.2 The authority for regulating pesticides at the
federal level is provided under the Pest Control Products Act. Section 5
of this Act generally prohibits the sale or importation into Canada of any "pest
control product" unless the product has been assessed and registered, it
conforms to prescribed standards, and it is packaged and labelled in the
prescribed manner. Given the broad definition of "pest" and "control product" in
section 2 of the Act,2 this general prohibition
applies to all manner of pest control products, including fungicides,
insecticides, herbicides and antimicrobials such as disinfectants, swimming pool
chemicals and wood preservatives. For ease of reference, the more generic term
"pesticide" will be used throughout this report, even though the term is not
used in the Act.
1.3 The Act is supplemented by the Pest Control
Products Regulations. These regulations set out detailed provisions respecting
the pre-market assessment and registration of pesticides, the cancellation or
suspension of registration certificates and the labeling and packaging
requirements. A further set of regulations prescribes the fees to be paid for
product assessment and registration, and for maintenance of the registration
certificate. These regulations are entitled the Regulations Prescribing the Fees
to be Paid for a Pest Control Product Application Examination Service Provided
by or on Behalf of Her Majesty in Right of Canada, for a Right or Privilege to
Manufacture or Sell a Pest Control Product in Canada and For Establishing a
Maximum Residue Limit in Relation to a Pest Control Product.
1.4 The Pest Control Products Act and companion
regulations are formally administered by the Minister of Health. The day-to-day
operations, however, are carried out by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency
(PMRA). The PMRA was created within Health Canada in April 1995 to consolidate,
under a single agency, the resources and responsibilities for pest management
regulation at the federal level. Prior to the PMRA's establishment, several
federal departments were involved in the decision-making process, namely, Health
Canada, Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Fisheries and Oceans
Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, whose Minister was responsible for
administering the Act. Although no longer involved in the decision-making
process, these departments support the work of the PMRA, primarily through
research and monitoring activities in their respective fields of expertise.
1.5 In order to register a pesticide for use in Canada,
an applicant must submit detailed scientific tests and studies to the PMRA
respecting the product's safety and value. Based on this information, the PMRA
conducts a risk assessment, which considers the inherent toxicity of the
product, the degree to which humans as well as the target and non-target
environment may be exposed to it, and the possible harm to human health and the
environment that might result. A value assessment is also carried out, which
considers whether the use of the product will contribute to pest management and
whether the application rates are the lowest possible to effectively control the
target pest. It should be noted that the PMRA does not conduct its own tests
when assessing a pesticide. Rather, it carries out a scientific review of the
test data submitted to it by the applicant. The assessment process is discussed
in detail in Chapter 8.
1.6 The PMRA also sets maximum limits for pesticide
residues on food, which are promulgated under the Food and Drugs Act.
These are termed the "maximum residue limits" or "MRL" for short.
1.7 Provided the prescribed requirements are met,
section 13 of the Pest Control Products Regulations requires registration of the
pesticide under review. Section 18, however, stipulates that registration must
be denied where, among other things, the use of the pesticide would lead to an
"unacceptable risk of harm to human health, plants, animals or the environment."
What constitutes an "unacceptable risk" is not defined in the Act or the
1.8 Risk management of registered pesticides is
achieved primarily through setting conditions of use. Non-compliance with the
conditions of use set out on the product label or with any other condition of
registration is a violation of the Act and may lead to a suspension,
cancellation, use restrictions or the phasing out of the pesticide.
1.9 The PMRA is responsible for monitoring compliance
with the Act. It carries out this function through a network of regional offices
and inspectors across the country, in co-operation with provincial and
territorial governments and other federal departments. The Canadian Food
Inspection Agency (CFIA), on the other hand, is responsible for verifying
pesticide residue levels in foods at the point of sale to ensure that they do
not exceed the maximum residue limits set by the PMRA. The CFIA is also
responsible for inspecting pesticide content in other products, such as animal
1.10 Any person who contravenes a provision of the Act
or the regulations is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a
fine not exceeding $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six
months, or both. On conviction by indictment, a fine not exceeding $250,000 may
be imposed, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both.
The Act defines "pest" to mean "any injurious, noxious or
troublesome insect, fungus, bacterial organism, virus, weed, rodent or other
plant or animal pest, and includes any injurious, noxious or troublesome organic
function of a plant or animal."
The term "control product" is in turn defined to
mean "any product, device, organism, substance or thing that is manufactured,
represented, sold or used as a means for directly or indirectly controlling,
preventing, destroying, mitigating, attracting or repelling any pest and
(a) any compound or substance that
enhances or modifies or is intended to enhance or modify the physical or
chemical characteristics of a control product to which it is added, and
(b) any active ingredient used for the
manufacture of a control product."