The controversy over pesticide use in BC has been driven by environmental activists demanding to know every detail of harm or risk that may come from a product. The BC NDP party has for years tried to introduce legislation to eliminate pesticides in BC regardless of the science from credible pesticide research experts. The NDP, Wildsight, Suzuki Foundation and others joined the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) in the misguided belief that pesticide use is tied to an unknown risk. They stake their claim on opinion polls that are skewed to get a desired result. While these groups continue their anti-pesticide campaign Health Canada has been working to improve their testing strategies by commissioning an expert panel chaired by Dr Len Ritter to review the testing strategies used on chemical safety assessment.
“Recent estimates suggest that toxicity data are lacking for 87 per cent of chemicals on the market (reviewed in Hartung, 2009). While the toxicological base supporting the safety of some chemicals, such as pesticide active ingredients, is extensive and has contributed significantly to our understanding of the toxicology of these products, on a practical level it cannot be applied to the tens of thousands of chemicals that regulatory agencies worldwide must now categorize. Consequently, there is a significant gap between expectation and capacity in toxicity testing, and an urgent need for new approaches that are more predictive, more reliable, faster, less expensive, and that provide mechanism-based, chemical-specific toxicity information in order to better inform human health risk assessment.
In May 2009, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada asked the Council of Canadian Academies to appoint an expert panel to answer the following question:“What is the scientific status of the use of integrated testing strategies in the human and environmental regulatory risk assessment of pesticides?” Although a complete set of alternative methods that could replace the entire current testing paradigm does not yet exist, the state of the science is evolving rapidly, and the Panel expects to see a global evolution toward the use of integrated testing strategies in decision-making, with the anticipation that this will better inform decisions for both data-rich chemicals and data-poor chemicals, over the next two to 10 years. The Panel expects that the regulatory deployment of Integrated Approaches to Testing and Assessment (IATA) will vary depending on the types of chemicals and the nature of the decision-making process that the data are intended to inform.
The potential risks associated with exposure to pesticides are already a particular worry for many people, and adoption of new IATA strategies in regulatory processes are almost certain to further underscore and exacerbate these concerns. Regulators must recognize the need to engage the public in meaningful dialogue in order to provide assurance that the new IATA approaches seek to reduce overall uncertainties in the assessment of chemical risk. Moreover, that these changes will provide more reliable assessments of potential risks to human health and the environment, rather than to simply streamline processes and sacrifice safety for social or economic benefits.”