Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Canada Races to the Bottom with Pesticides

The Four Horsemen of Structural Adjustment in the global neoliberal world of 21st century corporate neofeudalism are free trade, free capital flows, and government deregulation and privatization. They are the most insidious elements of the pathetic and discredited Washington Consensus development model: neoliberal toadie and current w.Caesar Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has declared that neoliberalism has not reduced poverty in our hemisphere. Despite this, neoliberalism marches on, and not just in destroying lives in the majority world.

But that doesn't stop minority world countries like Canada from seeking harmonization with its master, the US. Our government regulations on pesticide limits are "too high" because they are higher than someone else's.

Government regulation is bad. If some state has lower regulations, we should all meet their level. Ideally, no regulation is best. Let the market god take care of us all. I sprinkle DDT and Thalidomide on my Mini Wheats[tm] each morning.

But below we read of the necessity of lowering our regulations because that's an inherent good. So much for the race to the bottom being just majority world nations wooing global capital with lower wages and environmental standards, and better union busting. Now we've joined the race.

By the way, a "trade irritant" is an excuse in neoliberal-land for one nation to spank another because the other isn't being as free a trader.

Canada boosts pesticide limit
More residue to be allowed on fruit, vegetables to match U.S. levels; current strict rules pose a 'trade irritant'

Kelly Patterson
CanWest News Service

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

OTTAWA -- Canada is set to raise its limits on pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables for hundreds of products.

The move is part of an effort to harmonize Canadian pesticide rules with those of the United States, which allows higher residue levels for 40 per cent of the pesticides it regulates.

Differences in residue limits, which apply both to domestic and imported food, pose a potential "trade irritant," said Richard Aucoin, chief registrar of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which sets Canada's pesticide rules.

However, Canada will only raise its limits "where this poses no risks," he stressed.

U.S. pesticide residue limits are often higher because their warmer climate means they are plagued by more pests, Aucoin said.

Canadian caps are higher in only 10 per cent of cases, he explained, adding these may be lowered under the harmonization plan. Aucoin said Canada won't be raising its limits for all of the cases where its rules are stricter, but "will likely be asked to raise them" for cases now being identified as priorities by growers.

The agency is reviewing its limits on a case-by-case basis, he said.

But Canada should never lower its standards in the name of harmonization, said David Boyd, an environmental lawyer and author of a 2006 study of international pesticide regulations.

"We should look to equal or surpass the best in the world, not only measure ourselves against the U.S.," where regulations are weaker than in jurisdictions such as the European Union, he said.

Canadian regulators and their U.S. counterparts have been working to harmonize their pesticide regulations since 1996, as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Now the effort is being fast-tracked as an initiative under the Security and Prosperity Partnership, a wide-ranging plan to streamline regulatory and security protocols across North America.

The SPP's 2006 report identified stricter residue limits as "barriers to trade."

Boyd's report, published by the B.C.-based David Suzuki Foundation, raised concerns about the levels of pesticide residue allowed both in the U.S. and Canada.

Comparing 40 U.S. limits with those set by Canada, the European Union, Australia and the World Health Organization, he found the U.S. had the weakest rules for more than half of the pesticide uses studied.

In some cases the differences were dramatic: The U.S. allows 50 times more vinclozolin on cherries as the E.U., and 100 times as much lindane on pineapples.

Canada fared no better: For permethrin on leaf lettuce and spinach, the Canadian and U.S. limit was 400 times higher than in Europe, and the Canadian cap on methoxychlor was 1,400 times the European limit.

Both countries also allow pesticides that have been banned not only in Europe but also in some developing countries, Boyd noted.

Methamidophos, for example, is permitted in Canada but banned in Indonesia and other developing nations, he found.

The pesticide is now being re-evaluated in Canada.

Aucoin said residue limits are set according to exacting standards in Canada, adding that differences in ecosystems and patterns of use can account for the variation from country to country.

Raising the limits "will not change the amount of pesticides coming into the country," he said, noting the residue levels on imported produce are usually well below even the Canadian limits.

"The trend in both Canada and the U.S. is to use less, not more," he said, explaining the high cost of bug-killers has prompted farmers to cut back.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which monitors residue levels, has found "a relatively small number of violations" of Canada's maximum levels in recent years, he said.

But Boyd's study also raises questions about Canada's monitoring system.

He noted the federal food inspection agency found residues in only 10 per cent of the produce it tested in 2004-05. In the same period, U.S. regulators found residues in 76 per cent of the fresh fruit and vegetables they tested.

British officials found pesticides in 40 per cent of their produce in 2006.

In the cases of Canada and the U.S., less than one per cent of the residues exceeded the legal limits.

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