No more 'conditional registration' of pesticides: Health Minister

The federal government is responding to calls from environmental activists over conditionally approved pesticides, saying it will end the rare practice of allowing the use of pesticides that aren’t fully approved for sale.

Health Minister Jane Philpott says conditional registrations of the chemicals will no longer be granted, effective June 1.

Two separate House of Commons committees and Canada’s environment commissioner had called on the government to end the practice of allowing some pesticides to be used while the products undergo a more rigorous scientific evaluation.

Under conditional registrations, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency has allowed pesticide manufacturers to provide information on a product after it had been approved.

Such registrations are currently granted when a scientific review determines that a pesticide poses an acceptable risk to people and the environment, but more information is needed.

But unlike full registrations, conditional registrations don’t undergo public consultation before the pesticides are put into use.

Roughly one per cent of all pesticides in Canada are conditionally registered, says Health Canada.

Moving away from conditional registrations will ensure that all pesticides undergo the same public scrutiny and scientific testing, the minister said in a statement.

“The government of Canada is committed to making regulatory decisions that are open and transparent, which is why we have decided to discontinue the use of conditional registrations,” said the statement.

Environmentalists had warned that some pest control products were being approved for sale without enough scientific research.

They point to recent concerns about neonicotinoids, or neonics, and their potential effects on Canada’s bee population.

Early last year, environmental law firm Ecojustice complained to the Commons standing committee on health that the vast majority of pesticide registrations and amendments to registrations have been excluded from any public notice or consultation.

In 2013, four environmental groups represented by Ecojustice filed a notice objecting to the pesticide regulator’s decision to extend a conditional registration of four clothianidin pesticide products, which the groups said were suspected of killing bees.