Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Issue 6 - Evidence
OTTAWA, Wednesday, November 27, 2002
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, to which was referred Bill C-8, to protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests, met this day at 3:45 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator Marjory LeBreton (Deputy Chairman) in the Chair.
The Deputy Chairman: Honourable senators, our witnesses today are from the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the Ontario College of Family Physicians and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
Ms. Kasperski, please proceed with your presentation.
Ms. Jan Kasperski, Executive Director, Ontario College of Family Physicians: Honourable senators, the Ontario College of Family Physicians was established about 50 years ago for the prime purpose of setting standards of practice in family medicine and overseeing the establishment of residency programs across Canada. Over the years, we have stayed close to those academic roots. Today, we are very involved in the education of medical students, of family medicine residents and practising family physicians.
About 10 years ago, Health Canada released a survey showing that Canadians considered their family doctors to be the most credible source of information on health and the environment. The survey emphasized the key role that family doctors play in the prevention, assessment and treatment of exposures to various environmental contaminants. However, our members identified a lack of knowledge in this area, and the OCFP established the Environmental Health Committee to provide doctors with evidence-based education that they needed to better understand the issues related to the environment and health.
During the ensuing years, our committee has undertaken a number of research and educational projects that address a wide variety of environmental issues and concerns.
In 1996, the committee undertook a review of the literature on pesticides. That literature review included more than 300 studies and concluded that the harmful health effects from pesticides are undeniable. The findings from the review were developed into an easy-to-read newsletter for family doctors and a patient education brochure that has been widely circulated amongst the general public and levels of all government.
In distributing our newsletter and through subsequent educational programs, we asked our family doctors to be on the alert for the possibility of acute or chronic pesticide toxicity. We also asked them to educate their patients about the known health concerns associated with pesticides. We encouraged them, in their communities, to lobby for alternatives to pesticides among homeowners, local businesses, schools and municipalities.
Two years ago, with our partner CELA, we released a paper called ``Environmental Standard Setting and Children's Health,'' and more recently, in Europe, WHO distributed a paper called ``Children's health and environment: A review of the evidence.'' Both papers point to the wide variety of possible health effects in children due to pesticide exposures. Children are exposed to increased levels of pesticides and, compared with adults, are much more likely to be harmed. Exposures occur because of children's lower-to-the-ground exposures. They roll around in the grass and are on rugs that are pesticide infected, and they also have hand-to-mouth behaviours that most of us have outgrown. Their eating habits also lead them to take in more food and water per kilogram of body weight than adults, and their diet is much less diverse.
Because their bodies are still developing, fetuses, infants and children are much more vulnerable to toxic substances than adults. They absorb more toxins and are not able to metabolize or eliminate toxins as efficiently as an adult. Their immature blood-brain barrier and immune systems are less likely to protect them from harm. Both of these papers emphasized the lack of appropriate toxicological testing and the shortcomings in the regulatory processes that fail to protect children from harm.
Let me be clear: Pesticides are designed to kill. They do so by disrupting processes inside cells. Their ability to disrupt cellular processes in animals and in vegetation means that they can disrupt human cell processes as well.
I will take you through the brain and through reproductive issues as examples of what pesticides can do. Our human brain has 100 billion neurons and an exponentially larger number of synapses. These are the connections that link various neurons in the brain. Between conception and the years of two, the brain grows and changes quite dramatically. The connecting links between nerve cells are established and specialized during this period of time. We begin to see specialized nerve cells differentiating and maturing. This process of change, specialization and the laying down of synapses is completed by age two, and it forms the hard-wiring of the brain. If there is any interference in brain development during this period of time, we begin to see problems with gross motor skills, coordination of movement, inability to process simultaneous inputs and an inability to adjust to new environments.
When we look at the animal research, mice and rats exposed to common household pesticides — especially those considered to be relatively safe and at levels which are not known to show overt toxicity — these animals show fewer brain cells, permanent changes in the level of neurotransmitters, defective cell-to-cell signalling and hyperactivity behaviours that persist into adult life.
We are seeing across North America short, sharp increases in the rates of autism and ADHD. These have been identified as likely being related to increased use of pesticides. We are also seeing a whole host of other less severe problems involving memory and attention, which can affect learning abilities. We are also seeing an inability to develop the skills to socialize and form relationships.
In looking at the health risk value in pesticides, we need to take into account the cost associated with the health and education of children who have reduced brain functions due to exposures. From a population perspective, a reduction of only five IQ points across the population would result in a 57 per cent increase in those classified as mentally challenged and a corresponding 57 per cent decrease in those classified as intellectually gifted. These are the people capable of innovation in our knowledge-based economy. It makes economic sense to protect the brains of our young.
During pregnancy, the major organs are formed between three and eight weeks. It is this period when pesticides appear to have their strongest effect. It is also the period when most women are unaware that they are pregnant and cannot take protection for themselves. Research from California and Ontario shows increased rates of miscarriages, particularly of deformed fetuses, amongst farm women exposed to pesticides before conception and during those critical three to eight weeks.
A study from Montreal indicates increased rates of leukemia in children exposed as fetuses to maternal use of pesticides in the home and the garden. The risk is particularly high for children who have a genetic subtype which causes an inability to break down pesticides. Thirty-six per cent of Canadian children have this subtype and, therefore, a corresponding increased vulnerability to adverse health effects, including cancers.
Pesticides are implicated in a wide variety of health problems, yet the industry continues to state that the science is overstated and not rigorous enough. We acknowledge the fact that, in some instances, we will have limited information. In the absence of information demonstrating safety, we need to exercise caution.
Recently, insect repellents containing DEET were removed quietly from use for children, but for 20 years we exposed children to products that should never have been approved.
Releasing products and then standing back and waiting for proof of harm is not the way to proceed. It is for this reason that the Ontario College of Family Physicians is pleased to see this bill come forward. We wish to see the integration of the precautionary principle throughout the bill, and we are pleased to see clear definitions of the concept of acceptable risk. The wording ``reasonable certainty of no harm'' must be interpreted as an industry obligation to demonstrate safety rather than researchers having to prove harm.
We also ask that mandatory reporting of adverse health effects by health professionals be incorporated into the process. Such a system has been long-standing in Britain, South Africa and California. This information and balanced evidence from credible, non-industry scientists should form the basis of the registration and deregistration processes. Both government and industry will benefit from a transparent process that includes risk assessment conducted in a non-biased manner.
To further strengthen the bill, it must be made clear that the overall intention of the bill is to reduce the use of pesticides in general and to increase the use of low-risk alternatives. The prevention-pollution-prevention approach needs to be clearly articulated in the bill. We need a special section that really deals with the cosmetic use of pesticides for lawn and other non-essential uses.
All products need to be clearly marked so that people can know what they are receiving when they use these products. Transparency of information and public participation in the review process will go a long way in restoring public confidence that government is doing its absolute utmost to protect the health of people and the environment, especially our most vulnerable citizens, our children.
As part of our package, we presented honourable senators with pictures drawn by children from Mexico. Some of the children were protected from exposures to pesticides, while others were not. The drawings very much speak for themselves. The details we see in drawings by four- and five-year-olds not exposed clearly show that these are people they are trying to draw. The squiggles you see from children exposed demonstrate the limited cognitive abilities that will remain with them for a lifetime. We do not want this to happen to Canadian children.
Mr. Kapil Khatter, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment: Honourable senators, we now have a bill that is much improved since it was first introduced; however, it still has many weaknesses. It does not establish a strong precautionary principle as its central approach. It does not go far enough to protect children in other vulnerable populations. There are too many limitations in public access to information. Relating to information gathering of the kind of information we need to ensure that pesticides are not having health effects on our children and on the rest of the population, it is really a case of, ``If we do not look, we will not find.'' Finally, the bill does not give us completion deadlines and timelines on the re-evaluations that are being done on our pesticides, and it does not change the fact that pesticide re-evaluations in process have been dragging on for years. That is something we definitely need to see changed.
In my presentation, I will address children's health and the safety factor in the bill under clause 7(7) and clause 19(2). The tenfold safety factor is the leading edge of risk assessment in the evaluation of pesticides. Risk assessment has been evolving over the years and, as decades go by, we continue to strengthen it and add more tests that we expect to be done to make our risk assessments stronger. It is one of the reasons we have been calling for re-evaluation of pesticides that were brought into regulation or evaluated in earlier decades, as we know that those standards were not as strict.
The new tenfold safety factor is probably the strictest standard that we have. It was brought in after the National Academy of Sciences put out a report in 1993 that talked about how a group of scientists found that the amount of pesticides found in food and water that children were being exposed to was likely enough that it could be causing health effects of the standards we had. This is built on the fact that when we do risk assessments, there is always uncertainty. We are looking at animal studies rather than people. We cannot do long-term studies. No pesticide is tested for 30 or 40 years before it comes on the market to know what the long-term effects will be. Risk assessment, as much as it is a science, is also an art. Because it puts together a number of different studies, it multiplies the uncertainty that each scientific study will have. The thinking around risk assessment is that there is always a certain amount of uncertainty.
Even though we get industry to submit all these studies, the National Academy of Sciences has recommended an extra safety factor to ensure we are protecting children, given all this uncertainty.
Furthermore, many pesticides have not had complete batteries of tests in that the testing is evolving and we do not have good testing for the immune system. We have not figured out how to deal with endocrine disruption. We think a new test called the developmental neurotoxicology study is important for ensuring that the developing nervous system is not affected. To give you an example from the United States, out of 350 organophosphate free pesticides registered, only nine pesticides have undergone this study. The remainder have all been regulated or brought on to the market without the proper study that we know we need to show that there are no neurological effects to the developing child.
We know that there is uncertainty and we know from past studies of PCBs, lead and mercury that we cannot rely on animal studies. We did use this extra safety factor we are now calling for, and we found that that was a problem. There were health effects and we had to change the standards.
With this bill, we have tried to imitate the U.S. Food Quality Protection Act, which, after that 1993 study from the National Academy of Sciences, brought in the tenfold safety factor. However, this safety factor was ``discretionary,'' with similar wording to what we have now in that the administrator has the right to use a different safety factor than the tenfold safety factor. We all know that is a code word for being able to use a lower safety factor, if one chooses.
The result has been that from 1996 to 1999, out of 120 evaluations, the full tenfold safety factor has only been applied 15 times and was not the intention of the National Academy of Sciences, which wanted us to use this safety factor all the time because of the uncertainty that always exists, even when we have a full battery of tests.
What is ironic about our bill is that we do not go that far. The safety factor is limited only to pesticide use around homes and schools and not to agricultural pesticides, despite the fact that children live on farms and that the original report of the National Academy of Sciences said that we need this safety factor because children ingest pesticide residues through food and water. Therefore, any pesticide needs a safety factor to be covered.
In conclusion, we are recommending that we at least harmonize with the United States and have the safety factor applied to all pesticides, not just those around schools and homes. In the United States they have been pushing for that safety factor not to be discretionary, and we see a failed experiment there. All children should be protected by the full tenfold safety factor so that we do not end up in a situation where it is never used.
Ms. Kathleen Cooper, Researcher, Canadian Environmental Law Association: Honourable senators, we are, in general, very pleased that Bill C-8 has been introduced. In our view, it was long overdue. In 2000, we published an in- depth report with the Ontario College of Family Physicians regarding children's health and standard-setting in Canada. One of the research questions was whether the law is protective of children, and in that report we took a close look at pesticides.
We concluded that environmental standard setting, in general, is not and was not protective of children, and we found particular problems with the pesticide standards. We found that even where good intentions exist and child protective measures are included, often the end result is standards that are not protective. The loss of those child protection measures results from the compromises Mr. Khatter described: the lack of an overall precautionary approach and the ability of risk management exercises to dilute or eliminate those child protective measures as the negotiation process happens in the final setting of standards.
Bill C-8 does go a long way toward putting in place key requirements that would legislate a level of protection for children in assessing pesticides. There are some specific children-focused measures, as well as limited time frames for pest control product approvals, provisions for special reviews, requirements for periodic re-evaluations of pest control products, including looking at the large backlog of products urgently needing re-evaluation.
One key change is that the burden of proving that pest control products are acceptable is now placed on the applicant. It is an essential improvement in Bill C-8 that we fully support.
In the earlier bill, Bill C-53, a number of important amendments were made that we also strongly support. The bill was strengthened with the addition of important definitions, including a definition for acceptable risk, formulants, revising the definition of a pest control product to include formulants and contaminants. Clauses 7 and 19, having to do with the registration of new products and the re-evaluation of existing products, were also improved to include the need to aggregate exposures, when all exposures come from particular pesticides, and also to assess the cumulative effects of pesticides with common mechanisms of toxicity.
There were also amendments to ensure mandatory public consultation when policies and guidelines are developed. Likewise, the amendment to periodically review the act and report on those reviews every seven years is an important measure that we think will ensure ongoing improvement and public accountability. As you know, this is the first time this law has been revised in 33 years. Therefore, every seven years is definitely an improvement.
Finally, two areas where Bill C-53 improved upon the existing Pest Control Products Act and for which some useful amendments were made include an emphasis on lower risk pesticides and overall improvements in public access to information.
We have suggestions for amendments to further refine the bill to strengthen two areas: first, a legislated mandate and a range of provisions throughout the bill for risk reduction with respect to pest control products, and, second, a range of improvements to the public participation, the right to know and access to information provisions of the bill.
The chart attached to our submission outlines a series of amendments that we suggest are useful to Bill C-8. This is an amended version of the chart that we submitted to the Commons committee, with remaining amendments that we believe will further strengthen the bill in the direction the government and Parliament have already moved.
On the first area of reduced risks, some of our amendments, noted previously, were included in amendments to Bill C-53, but we do remain convinced that the overall mandate section of the bill should explicitly provide for a reduced reliance on, risk of and use of pest control products by promoting ecosystem-oriented, least toxic approaches to pest management within a framework of pollution prevention. That is within the environmental direction of the government as a whole.
We made suggestions to the Commons committee for amending various clauses to accomplish that mandate. They are included in the attached chart. Those still in need of amendment have to do with a series of changes requiring that where there are effective alternatives, only those pest control products that pose a lower risk of harm than the effective alternatives would be approved. We have suggested appropriate amendments to the evaluation and decision section for new applications, special reviews and re-evaluations.
Another suggestion is the reduction and eventual phase-out of non-essential use of pest control products, the so- called cosmetic use of pesticides. We have made a number of suggestions for amendments to phase out and eventually eliminate the registration of pest control products for cosmetic use, such as lawn and garden applications. Essentially, the products would not be registered unless they were intended to protect public health or for normal agriculture use.
We suggest consequential amendments as well with respect to parks, golf courses, and sports fields. We have made suggestions for phasing in these changes in a way that accommodates differences in use in those areas mentioned.
The second major area I mentioned is public participation, right to know and access to information. Again, there are some very valuable improvements in Bill C-8, improvements, indeed, upon Bill C-53 that occurred as a result of amendment. We have suggestions to improve these further.
We suggest amending Bill C-8 to make it clear that the names and content of active substances, formulants and contaminants as well as the results of the tests to establish a product's efficacy and harmlessness should all be deemed not to be confidential business information and thus would be available through the proposed registry for public review. The idea is to make it very clear in the bill what kind of information should be available, and we have noted what that should be.
We have also suggested some minimum labelling requirements that should be in the legislation rather than in regulation because of the overriding importance for key types of information, including ingredient information, poison control and treatment information, and several other things that should be in the law and required to be on the labels. They would help with health and safety protection, provide consumers with essential information to make informed decisions, and ensure that uses of products would occur according to product design.
Likewise, we have suggested a national pesticide sales database. Ms. Kasperski mentioned, and I fully support the comment, that there is a crucial need for an adverse effects database in the bill to improve the data collection and study of the use of pesticides and their effects.
In closing, I point out that we have collaborated for several years with the World Wildlife Fund on suggestions for improvements to the Pest Control Products Act. We have also, as has been mentioned, collaborated closely with our colleagues at the Ontario College of Family Physicians and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, as well as Pollution Probe, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada and other organizations focused on child health and environmental protection. We express support for the submissions they have made to you on this bill.
The Deputy Chairman: Ms. Kasperski, you talked about the increased incidence of autism and ADD. In your presentation, on page 4, you recommend a mandatory system regarding health officials to report adverse health effects of pesticides. Such systems are long-standing in Britain, South Africa and California.
On the incidence of autism and ADD, have comparative studies done between the increasing number of cases in Canada versus areas like California and Great Britain where these systems have been in place?
Ms. Kasperski: I believe Ms. Cooper can answer that.
Ms. Cooper: I can look up the specific studies in my office. I cannot answer off the top of my head. I do not think there are comparative studies, but I think the trends are the same. We have less information to go on in Canada, but I do know of a study reported on by some people from Health Canada and Environment Canada on the number of children affected in terms of neurological developmental effects. The numbers are very high. If I remember correctly, in this study that was done for the federal government, 28 per cent of the children had some kind of developmental neurological dysfunction. That is a very high number. There are some other high numbers as well.
We see very high numbers, increasing numbers comparable to other countries, where the brains of lots of children are clearly are affected by something, and they are having trouble learning and coping. We also see the results of studies that show that pesticides could be causing neurological damage. We cannot make a direct cause-and-effect relationship, but it certainly gives us great pause to see that kind of information side by side.
The Deputy Chairman: I do not think a day goes by when we do not hear stories about our own families. ADD seems to be an ever-increasing situation. Is there any data available from parts of the world that do not use pesticides for cosmetic purposes, where people are not exposed, where we in fact do not see ADD and autism at all?
Ms. Kasperski: That sounds like a good study.
Mr. Khatter: They are expensive studies to do, and I do not think there have been many. The example that Ms. Kasperski gave, the developmental tests they did on those Indian children, are a good proxy for the developmental problems we are seeing. It is a natural experiment because there is this division of kids who have similar genetic backgrounds and are in two different groups. It is very expensive to follow children over a long period of time.
Trying to do this kind of study and trying to get this kind of information is partly why we are asking for more information gathering capabilities. We cannot do the comparison of autism in a certain community to the use of pesticides in that community because we are not getting the information about the pesticide use. Unless we start tracking that kind of information, we will never be able to make these kinds of conclusions.
Senator Morin: I would like to jump in on the autism debate. I think it is very dangerous to say there is a relationship between autism and pesticide use. I do not think you are helping your cause by saying things like that. Autism has been related to many things, including vaccinations. Right now, the big thing is that there is a link between vaccinations and autism. The fact is that the incidence of autism is increasing, but we really do not know why. We must be careful here. I notice in your written submission that you do not say there is a link. You say there are increases in rates of autism and attention deficit. I do not think it has been proven that there is a link between pesticides and autism.
Research is very important. A program was set up about five years ago by the federal government for research on toxicology, which cost many millions, and it was phased out. I was amazed that there was so little lobbying. This program was extremely important as far as pesticides were concerned. Nothing happened. It was as if it had no importance whatsoever. I think that was a big mistake for all of us. It was a very important program at the federal level with Centres of Excellence at various universities dealing specifically with toxicology. At that time, I went through the list, and most of it was on the human use of pesticides. The program has disappeared, and I think we should have reacted at that time.
I congratulate the Ontario College of Family Physicians for doing extraordinarily good work in the environmental field, not only on pesticides but also on air pollution. It is better known for its extraordinary work on air pollution, which is especially useful at this time in the Kyoto discussions. In my speech to the Senate, I have been using your material, so I thank you for that. The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment is also doing an excellent job.
I am always surprised about the precautionary principle. What is the difference? Why are you not satisfied with the statement that a new product will be accepted or registered only if there is reasonable certainty that no harm to humans will result from exposure to the product? To me, that is much stronger than saying, ``If there is a doubt, take it out.'' This is a much better application of a science-based approach than remaining in the limbo of doubt. I find that preferable to saying, ``Do not register if you have a doubt.'' It is more than that. You should be certain that there is no harm.
Concerning the health of children, I agree that this is where the importance lies. Perhaps the difference between farm kids and school kids is that this bill is referring to pesticides used inside the schools or on the lawns, whereas for kids on the farm, pesticides come from drifts. I agree that children on farms are certainly affected and, therefore, this issue should be studied carefully.
I have a question for the witnesses around the table relating to the tenfold safety factor. Perhaps someone could elaborate on the level. What is the threshold? What are we talking about? The issue of cosmetics has come up often. What is it? What is the threshold? That is the point I want clarified. That is a good question.
Concerning the prohibition of pesticides for cosmetic use, I am bothered by the fact that under this bill registered products believed to be acceptable and of low risk — products used on lawns, parks and golf courses — would fall under the Criminal Code. If you use a product that is low risk and acceptable, you could be sentenced to six months in jail or be fined $1 million. It is my belief that using a product that is acceptable under certain circumstances falls under a municipal bylaw. I have difficulty with that point.
I will not go into all the amendments. Am I correct in my understanding that all those amendments have been presented to the House?
Ms. Cooper: In the table, yes, and many more.
Senator Morin: Am I correct that the House has turned them down?
Ms. Cooper: They chose not to include them.
Senator Morin: I realize that.
I have questions relating to the matter of registration. I do not believe someone would register a product that would be more toxic. This is really what you are telling them to do. It appears obvious to me.
As far as the issue of access to information is concerned, we should follow the U.S. closely. They are our partners. We use the same products, which are going back and forth over the border. The Americans buy products here and we buy products from the U.S. Therefore, we should follow the Access to Information Act as closely as possible. It is my understanding that the U.S. has just reviewed their legislation. We should follow it. As far as I know, our policies are similar to those in the U.S.
Ms. Cooper: Honourable senators, I have a response for almost every question. We did not make a specific link between the science and the autism data. We know we cannot and we have said so. Doctors who have reviewed that information say that. However, when the doctors look at the trends in both areas, it gives them great pause for thought. They are concerned, and they are trying to see if there are links. The notion of the precautionary approach is to not let those effects happen if we can prevent them. If we do ultimately find a causal relationship between pesticides and all those effects on the population, we have done a great disservice to our children.
In response to your question asking why we are not satisfied with reasonable certainty of no harm, our response is that we are satisfied with it. That is a very important and valuable amendment to Bill C-53 that is now in Bill C-8, so we are supportive of that in terms of measures to implement the precautionary approach.
I will defer to Mr. Khatter on the issue of the tenfold safety factor.
On the issue of cosmetic pesticides, bylaws are definitely a tool. We are focusing on suggestions as to the role the federal government can take within the registration process and encouraging reduced-risk products.
I will defer to my colleagues on the remaining topics.
Ms. Kasperski: I will speak a little bit about associations.
A study just came out recently in Southwestern Ontario, and it looked at women under 55 and women over 55 who had experienced breast cancer. The study demonstrates that women who were on farms during the period when pesticides started being used were much more at risk of breast cancer than women over 55 or those who were not on farms.
In releasing this information, the scientists were careful not to contaminate their findings by clearly associating the pesticide use with the breast cancer; however, they certainly suggested that is likely what they were seeing.
As family physicians, when we start to see associations between the animal research and what we are seeing in children, we are worried. That is not to say that the associations are so strong that we can identify that as a cause; however, it makes us very concerned and nervous about the exposure of children to pesticides.
Whether it is daddy bringing home a golf ball from a golf club that has been using pesticides and the kid putting it in their mouth, or whether it is kids rolling on the grass at a school, we have exposures regardless of where the pesticide is used. If it is used on a farm, we have exposure through foods. We are very worried.
We are particularly concerned about inappropriate and unnecessary pesticide use. Therefore, when we ask for support around the issue of cosmetic pesticide use, we feel that is where we could phase pesticides out without doing any harm whatsoever to agricultural uses of the product.
We are working with many municipalities all across Canada on the cosmetic use of pesticides. One of the comments that keeps coming back to us is, ``Well, if the feds have let this stuff go, they must feel it is okay. Why are you asking for bylaws?'' If the legislation did not make it a criminal offence, but certainly spoke to the fact that, just like cigarettes, the product is not safe and should be phased out, then we would have better answers.
Senator Morin: Cigarettes are not being phased out.
Ms. Kasperski: I know that, but we would like to see the same kind of message being delivered regarding the cosmetic use of pesticides, that this is an inappropriate use of the product.
Mr. Khatter: You wish to have more information relating to the tenfold safety factor.
Senator Morin: What is the threshold?
Mr. Khatter: The threshold meaning?
Senator Morin: Ten times what?
Mr. Khatter: A pesticide evaluation is done solely on animal studies before a pesticide is put on the market. Standard toxicology tries to estimate the difference between a rat and a human. Because rats are smaller, they have different systems and they do not live anywhere as close to as long as people do. They also try to estimate the difference between a healthy adult and a frail elderly person in terms of reasonable and tolerable daily intake levels.
Standard toxicology does not try to be precautionary or go one step further in terms of ensuring that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm. It tries to give an approximation of what is probably safe. The tenfold safety factor is taking that tolerable daily intake that would have been calculated by standard toxicology and multiplying it tenfold, because we know from past experiences that children at a certain window of vulnerability or a certain part in their development could be 1,000 times more sensitive to lead or estrogen than an adult might be. We need to have that tenfold buffer to ensure that we are not exposing children at a level that is perhaps safe for an adult but might not be safe for them.
Senator Morin: I congratulate you. What you are doing is extremely important and all Canadians benefit.
Senator Fairbairn: I would like to ask a few questions related to agriculture and pesticides. I suppose there is no perfect science in making all the connections. I come from Southern Alberta, which has a very high agricultural usage of land for crops and animals. Many people my age have, in recent years, all of a sudden developed illnesses or concerns where there had been no family history, diseases like epilepsy and cancer. They grew up in a time when there was a much more raw use of pesticides on the land than perhaps there is today.
This issue was raised in a study the Agriculture Committee conducted of the packages that some of the large companies promote. Farmers are asked to use specially treated seeds. When you get the seeds, you also get with it, or should buy with it, the kind of materials to most properly make it grow well and protect it. It is almost a package deal, where if you are getting this marvellous, newly created seed, the way to have the best returns on it is to use the marvellous, newly created fertilizer or whatever.
I am just wondering if this issue has entered into discussions within your associations. The issue is still out there in the agricultural sector. I wonder if one of you could comment on that.
Ms. Cooper: You raised many points that are relevant to the need to reform the legislation. When you say that you are from a time when there would be more raw use of pesticides than today, I take it you mean greater use of more toxic products. That is probably the case further back in time. However, I think there is still a serious issue of continued use of pesticides that have not been re-evaluated and urgently need to be, particularly with respect to evaluating their effects on children.
In terms of promoting a whole package of chemical systems on farms, the corresponding activity that is positive and underway and needs to be expanded is the approach of integrated pest management on farms. I was just at a two-day meeting of the Pest Management Advisory Council. Good progress is being made toward reducing pesticide reliance through integrated pest management programs, but a great deal more needs to happen.
This new bill will give the agency and the various stakeholders the tools to put in place reduced-risk pesticides. We suggest a whole series of amendments to strengthen that part of the bill because we do not think the bill goes far enough. Clause 7 of the bill is great, but the mandate section of the bill and the various sections in terms of new product registration and re-evaluation should focus on reducing risk.
I believe you are describing a situation that is in need of reform, and this bill could be strengthened to move further in the direction of registering reduced-risk pesticides.
Ms. Kasperski: We have been invited from time to time to meet with farmers who are going organic. One of the most exciting conferences that we attended was a barnburner. It was an opportunity to bring people in the city together with organic farmers. They purchased goods so that the farmers could go into the year knowing that whatever they were able to produce would indeed be sold. These kinds of opportunities to encourage organic and low-risk products can be very much enhanced by the language that Ms. Cooper recommends.
Senator Fairbairn: I notice that one of your partners is the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. I have just come from a provincial annual conference in Alberta, and it is a vital organization with an extremely important and sad context. When one listens to some of your comments and reads your brief, it is one thing to have genetic difficulties, but it is another thing to have, through carelessness or lack of knowledge, created these connections ourselves.
I am wondering, because it is an important area within our education system, whether you could expand on the concerns that may be seen as directly influencing some of the issues that learning disabilities raise.
Ms. Kasperski: I took on Fraser Mustard. If anyone has taken on Fraser Mustard, enough said. I told him that he needs to get involved in the work around the environment. He has done a lot of work with Margaret Mead to really influence the thinking around the importance of those early years. I said to him that focusing on raising the level of skill sets, knowledge and the socialization of children is great, but if we are going to blow those brains out through contaminants in the environment, then we are not getting the best bang for our buck. I was trying to get him involved in the environmental issues. He said to me, ``Next year.'' I said to him, ``This is an important year.''
We are certainly seeing evidence about how brains develop. I have walked you through what happens during those first two years and the opportunities where disruptions can take place in that hard wiring. You cannot redo the hard wiring once it is there.
We have some wonderful opportunities with this legislation to put into place regulatory framework that will protect our children. We do not want to see anything happening to that young generation, and we have an opportunity today with this kind of regulatory framework in place to do a better job of protecting children than we have been doing.
Ms. Cooper: We did a detailed case study with the Ontario College of Family Physicians two years ago about lead. The conclusion to be reached in looking at the story of the phase-out of lead from gasoline is a regulatory cautionary tale because under our risk assessment approach, we did not take action to take lead out of gasoline, and, as you know, lead seriously affects children's brains. We did not do that in North America until we had absolute proof of harm by literally poisoning millions of children. It was documented that there was a clear cause-and-effect relationship, and then we took regulatory action to take lead out of gasoline. On the one hand, it is a public health success story because we took the lead out of gasoline and blood lead levels dropped precipitously. On the other hand, as a regulatory approach, it was an absolute failure of a system that should prevent harm. We did not prevent harm. We waited because our regulatory system says, ``Prove it.'' Our industries say, ``Prove that there is an effect.'' They sounded reasonable. ``Give us the science. We will go along with the regulation if you have good science to back up why we should be doing this.''
As information has increased with respect to the neurological effects of pesticides, we are seeing concerns that we should not make that mistake again. Let us go on a preponderance of evidence and take action. Before we wait and let those kinds of effects happen again, we need to learn from the mistake of lead in gasoline.
I take the example of children's brains and relate it back to the example of lead because we made an enormous mistake, which we corrected, but only after we poisoned millions of children. We should not have the same kind of regulatory approach. We should build precaution into the equation, as this bill does to a certain extent, but we cannot let each individual standard be negotiated to death and weakened because it happens to be commercially important. We must have a regulatory approach that says we have enough evidence to say that there is enough harm that we will not let this go further. We must take precautionary action to prevent exposures of this kind from harming the developing brains of children.
Senator Fairbairn: What you are saying is encouraging, and it would be marvellous to have Dr. Mustard turn his attention to something like this because his other work in terms of learning and literacy from birth to age five has galvanized a difficult issue across the country. This is another aspect of it that, I agree, is hugely important. If nothing else, we certainly could make a commentary on it.
Senator Cordy: I do not know what the statistics are in terms of the increase in autism and ADHD, but I know, having been an elementary school teacher, that the numbers have gone up substantially from the time I first started teaching until I left to come to the Senate.
Senator Morin broached the subject of whether or not laws regarding what you have referred to as cosmetic pesticides should in fact be in municipal bylaws or in federal legislation. I am from the municipality of Halifax, and due to the efforts of the medical community and organizations like the Lung Association, there have been bylaws to deal with the use of pesticides on lawns in the community, which leads me to believe that cosmetic pesticides fall under municipal jurisdiction. How do we go about legislating similar laws through federal legislation, which is, I think, what you suggest?
Ms. Cooper: The Supreme Court in the Hudson decision confirmed the power of municipalities in seven out of ten provinces, because they had similar legislation to Quebec, in terms of empowering municipalities to act. They can set bylaws to protect the general welfare of the population. That is the power they used. Some municipalities are choosing to do that. We are actively encouraging municipalities to do that.
We have suggested in these amendments to focus in on those areas of federal jurisdiction. That Supreme Court decision clarifies what the roles are at the federal level, the provincial level and the municipal level, because that was part of what needed to be clarified in that decision. We are suggesting with respect to Bill C-8 that within the context of an overall thrust toward reduced risk, the registration process is one way of moving toward the phase-out of non- essential uses. We have suggested specific amendments through which the federal government can phase out the registration of non-essential uses. We have spelled those out in the amendments we have suggested. We have worked within the powers that exist at the federal level at the same time as we are actively encouraging municipalities to implement the powers they have under their statutes.
Senator Cordy: So both levels are working together?
Ms. Cooper: Yes. The Supreme Court described it is a tri-level, complementary regime.
Senator Cordy: Clause 8(5) requires the registrants of pest controls, as a condition of registration, to retain and report to the minister information on sales of the product in the form and manner directed by the minister. What information would that give to organizations?
Ms. Cooper: That clause deals with the sales database. Could you repeat the question?
Senator Cordy: What information would that give you in terms of looking at whether or not a pesticide would be acceptable? I want to know whether you are in favour of mandatory reporting requirements to the minister.
Ms. Cooper: Absolutely. The problem is that this information goes to the minister. We think it should be publicly available and provided on the register. Canada is one of the few countries in the world that does not collect this kind of information. In responding to questions from the public and in our research, we constantly want to know the volume of sales. It is so difficult to get that information in Canada. I think there is one other country in the world that does not collect this information. It is absurd that we do not collect it.
Mr. Khatter: We are one of two in the OECD.
Senator Cordy: Prior to this bill, there was no record on the sale of pesticides.
Ms. Cooper: We still do not have it.
Senator Morin: Senator Cordy is asking why we do not collect information on sales of pesticides, which is in the bill. She quoted the clause.
Senator Cordy: I assume you are happy with what is in the bill, Mr. Khatter.
Mr. Khatter: It is not my expertise, but what I do know about what is in there, as Ms. Cooper said, is that, first, it is not publicly available and, second, it will not necessarily be in a form that is useful. One thing I know the industry has said is that they sell pesticides in bulk and do not have geographical breakdowns. If the agency is not doing the job of collecting use on a geographical basis, the total volume of pesticide sold in Ontario is not a useful statistic for us. However, if we know what is sold in certain communities, then we can link that to health and environmental effects in terms of making connections.
When we do risk assessments and evaluations, it is not simply an evaluation of how strong a pesticide is; it is an evaluation of how strong the pesticide is compared to what we anticipate the exposure will be. If we are not measuring exposures, that is really a guess.
Senator Cordy: Do you agree that this bill will bring in the information so that it must be reported to the minister?
Mr. Khatter: I believe other people will testify on that particular matter. We see the beginnings of the process, but I do not feel it is strong or complete enough.
Ms. Cooper: We have a specific suggestion for a new clause to expand upon those requirements in terms of making that information available, but also provide it in a more useful form. Our new clause 44(2) would allow for monitoring, exposure and tracking on a geographic basis.
The Deputy Chairman: As a consumer, I would be interested in the adverse effects database. We read on the label all the things it will do. Yet, when I am reading the label, I would like to know about the adverse effects. I would like that information in order to make a choice. I do not think you are suggesting that the labels say that; you are just suggesting a database for adverse effects; is that right?
Ms. Cooper: We have recommendations for what should be on the label as well as the need for an adverse effects database. They are closely related. That is explained in the rationale for both of these clauses.
I am mindful of the time and refer you to the suggestion for a new clause 44(1), which is related to the new clause 44(3). You are right; it is absolutely related information.
Senator Cook: Would the concerns that we have been hearing around the table for the last while be covered off in clause 67 under ``Regulations''? Given you cannot get everything in the bill — and I know they cannot be developed outside the scope and the mandate of the bill — would you have a comfort level that some of our concerns would be covered in the regulations?
Ms. Cooper: Yes, I would. There are some important things that will be in the regulations. As came up at the Pest Management Advisory Council in the last couple of days, we will be fully engaged in the consultation of what those will look like over the next while.
The one area we suggested ought to be brought forward into the legislation is a requirement for labelling. That is more important than having to wait for regulations. It is important and fundamental enough to be part of the statute.
Senator Cook: I am preoccupied with the word ``threshold.'' That is a finite word and I do not see it used in that way here. Are you satisfied with the word ``threshold'' as it applies to these standards?
Ms. Cooper: Two words are being confused. When you say ``threshold,'' it is a threshold for an effect. You can see a neurological effect in a lab rat. Then you multiply by 10 to take account of uncertainty between a rat and a human. Then you multiply by another 10 because of differences between humans. The idea of an extra 10 is because children are that much more sensitive. You started with a threshold level where you know there is an effect in a rat and then you multiply by 10 and then 10 again. What we are suggesting is another 10. Does that clarify what we mean?
Senator Cook: I wonder at what point the threshold exists, because this is all about cause and effect.
Senator Morin: It is concentration of a toxic substance.
Senator Cook: I understand that, but would it be helpful in the bill if ``threshold'' were defined more clearly?
Senator Morin: It is defined in the definitions.
Senator Cook: It is not clear.
Ms. Cooper: I have two things to say in that regard. First, sometimes when there is no threshold — and this is really important because you can figure out a threshold based on the scientific information you have — that is as good as you have. As you get more information, you often find, as we did with lead, that the threshold moves lower and lower as you get more information. With lead, there is probably no safe level. That is what often happens. Again, you do as much as you can with the science you are given, which is another reason to add safety margins. To add another level of information may be a complication, but I hope not.
There are also non-threshold effects. For example, cancer will happen because something is carcinogenic. Those are different sets of calculations. Usually they are mathematical models, so you come up with a risk of 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 100,000, or whatever. The notion of a threshold is that you can come up with it on the basis of a review of the evidence and then add your safety margins. Does that answer your question?
Senator Cook: Yes. I am preoccupied with the word ``threshold'' as it applies to children at home, at school and children at play in other places. I see it is spelled out there, but there are other areas where it is not as clear. I was inviting your opinion on that matter.
Ms. Cooper: That is one of the suggestions we have made: Do not just focus on home and school, but broaden it. Dr. Khatter made that recommendation and Pollution Probe will be doing the same. Do not just focus on home and school as exposure places for children, but apply the definition for the sake of protecting children as a whole in the standard- setting process, as is done within the U.S. Food Quality Protection Act, which is what we are emulating in Bill C-8. We do not think there is any reason to restrict it here in Canada.
Senator Roche: Ms. Cooper, I understand that you or your group submitted a number of reservations to the House of Commons committee when it was examining this bill. The House of Commons committee accepted a number of recommendations for amendments and amended the bill. The bill before us contains some of the amendments that you favoured at that stage.
Ms. Cooper: There are also some amendments that industry recommended. I went through that process last week; I went through the whole bill to see the changes.
Senator Roche: In your testimony today, you make a number of recommendations; a rough count shows 28 recommendations for amendments
Ms. Cooper: Yes, that is correct.
Senator Roche: Were any of these suggested amendments submitted to the House of Commons?
Ms. Cooper: Yes, they were. They are not all here. We focused on the two areas that I mentioned: the way to further develop the notion of reduced risk, which was incorporated into Bill C-8, and to further the issues around access to information and the public's right to know. Yes, we have presented a submission to you that includes a number of things that we also put before the House of Commons committee.
Senator Roche: Thus, the House of Commons committee turned down some of your suggested amendments even though they accepted some; is that correct?
Ms. Cooper: Yes, that is correct.
Senator Roche: When they passed the bill at that stage, were you happy?
Ms. Cooper: Yes, and I said that in our submission. Overall, we are pleased with the bill.
Senator Roche: What you are trying to do now is to have added improvements; is that correct?
Ms. Cooper: Yes, that would strengthen the direction of the bill.
Senator Roche: You have 28 recommendations; is that correct?
Ms. Cooper: There are 28 recommendations because they are basically related to those two categories. The way they approached risk was to put a small thing in clause 7 that said to expedite the review of reduced-risk pesticides. We are asking to put that concept in the mandate of the bill. When it is in the mandate of the bill, there are other places throughout the bill where you would want to put it as well. There is an additional range of amendments that would do what clause 7 is doing, which is to expedite the review.
Senator Roche: I do not blame you or your colleagues for wanting to improve this bill. Everything can be improved. However, would there be deleterious consequences to the integrity of the bill if we were to not accept these amendments?
Ms. Cooper: No.
The Deputy Chairman: Can some of these suggested amendments be included in the regulations?
Ms. Cooper: The details around labelling will be included in the regulations. We are suggesting, as we did to the Commons committee, that it is important enough to be in the statute itself.
The Deputy Chairman: I would like to thank you all on behalf of the committee for your appearance.
Our next witnesses are Julia Langer from the WWF, and Sheila Clarke from the Canadian Federation of University Women.
Ms. Sheila Clarke, Canadian Federation of University Women: First, before Senator Roche asks the same question of me, the answer is yes, it will be deleterious to the bill if the amendment is not accepted.
Thank you for inviting the Canadian Federation of University Women to speak with you regarding Bill C-8. The Canadian Federation of University Women was founded in 1919 and represents a cross-section of approximately 10,000 women in Canada who are active in public affairs, monitor current legislation and emerging issues and take action on issues of national concern.
We are here today with regard to a resolution titled ``Non-essential (Cosmetic) Pesticides: Registration and Education'' that was passed overwhelmingly at our last AGM. It is my pleasure to bring three particular points from the resolution to this committee that are directly related to Bill C-8: science research independence, publication of formulants, and public education in ecosystem theory.
Bill C-8 is a vast improvement over the initial Pest Control Products Act of 1985. The pace of change in science, in consumer buying patterns, in environmental issues, and in our very presence on the earth, our footprint as it is called, clearly necessitates an improved Pest Control Act. We have arrived at new answers because in one sense we have learned new questions to ask.
Bill C-8 is commendable, but there are important and even newer questions that we need to ask — questions that should be recognized in this act. I will begin with the question of the level of independence required for research scientists to ensure the reliability of test results as released by the pesticide industry and, by extension, to protect the integrity of industry. There is an incredible amount of conflicting evidence in pesticide research resulting in a game of ``whom do you trust''?
This dilemma has been experienced in several fields involving public health in Canada. From an expert panel report on the future of food biotechnology prepared by the Royal Society Canada in January of 2001 came a recommendation for a review of the problems related to the increasing domination of the public research agenda by private commercial interests.
In a bolt from the blue, in September 2001, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, including the editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, released a landmark editorial entitled ``Sponsorship, Authorship and Accountability.'' The editors noted the extensive and growing conflicts of interest within the scientific community due to entrepreneurial interests in resulting technologies and the increasing domination of the research agenda by private corporate interests. This is a monumental statement about the state of research in the Western world and an extremely important initiative.
Pesticides are chemical additions to our environments and therefore to ourselves. We breathe them, we absorb them, and we ingest them. They are of no less concern to public health than chemicals reviewed in medical journals. We therefore recommend the following additions to Bill C-8, adopting recommendations directly from the medical journal publication guidelines. First, the applicant for registration of a pesticide must impose no impediment, direct or indirect, on the publication of the study's full results, including data perceived to be detrimental to the product. Second, research contracts should give the researchers a substantial say in trial design, access to the raw data, responsibility for data analysis and interpretation, and the right to publish. Third, all participants in the research process must declare potential conflict of interest — investigators, study sponsors, editors and those involved in peer review.
The second question I will raise refers to the publication of all ingredients of a pesticide product, both active and inert. To address this question, I need to call your attention to frogs and endocrine disruptors that disrupt body hormone functions, including immune system functions.
Just as we did not know what questions to ask when DDT was initially approved, so it is that we are not really sure what questions to ask about endocrine disruptors. Dr. Brian Dixon of Waterloo University notes that amphibians worldwide are disappearing. ``One possible cause,'' he writes, ``is that environmental toxins are suppressing their immune systems, causing them to succumb to diseases they would ordinarily survive.
A landmark amphibian study on which Dr. Dixon collaborated, which has passed peer review and is soon to be published, states that minute, infinitesimal amounts of pesticide absorption produced severely lowered immunity. This is a factor that may well be implicated in the rise of some cancers and autoimmune diseases in humans, who share similar immune systems to frogs.
One of the pesticides producing this effect was Malathion, the pesticide recently sprayed throughout the city of Winnipeg.
Many inert ingredients may be as toxic as the active ingredients or may themselves be endocrine disruptors. In June 2001, the federal government listed approximately 5,000 non-active ingredients found in Canadian pest and weed killers. There is an enormous amount of work to be done, both in the area of endocrine disruptors, per se, and in full investigation of all pesticide ingredients, including inerts, to laboratory testing of the myriad combinations possible. This work is proceeding, albeit slowly.
It is critical that we, the Canadian citizenry, have access to full listings of pesticide product ingredients so that we may make fully informed decisions about what we purchase and use.
I have given you a recommendation. The bill contains myriad references to confidential business information. Should there be a will to provide this information to the Canadian public, as there should be, the entire bill would have to have that vacuum-cleaned.
The final question we raise is: Does it matter? If we, as the planet's dominant species, do not soon learn that what happens to one part of an ecosystem affects other parts of the ecosystem and that, in fact, all ecosystems are interrelated, our very survival as a species is in question. All the programs in the world that recommend alternative methods and diminished use of pesticides will have limited to nil effect until the public genuinely understands how elements of our ecosystems interrelate and therefore how pesticides enter, affect and remain in our ecosystems.
It is a widely held and most crucial misunderstanding that what we do to one part of an ecosystem may affect some components but will not affect us. We are a market-driven economy. Our approach to the cosmetic pesticide market is our choice — or, more accurately, the choice is now yours.
To enable decisions regarding use of non-essential pesticides and, in fact, all pesticides to be made with knowledge and understanding, we most strongly recommend the following for inclusion in Bill C-8: The government will, in conjunction with provincial and municipal governments, initiate a vigorous and multidisciplinary public education program dealing with ecosystem theory and human ecology.
Thank you for the opportunity to share with you these very important recommendations from the Canadian Federation of University Women. As we ask new questions, we must find new answers for the current and future health of our ecosystems, which include all living things, including humans, current and future.
Ms. Julia Langer, Director, International Program, WWF Canada: Honourable senators, World Wildlife Fund is one of the world's largest conservation organizations, with offices in 30 countries and projects throughout the world in about 100 countries. Our fundamental mandate is to conserve and protect biodiversity. We started off very much as an organization dedicated to saving the so-called charismatic mega-fauna — lions, tigers, pandas — for which we are known, but it soon became clear that one cannot protect species independent of the spaces in which they live. Sometimes when those spaces are contaminated with chemicals, the very ability to reproduce is compromised. Thus, World Wildlife Fund is very much involved in activities to reduce contamination of the ecosystem for wildlife. Because people are biologically very similar, we are very much included in those activities.
I want to provide some context about the registration system in order to give the committee our concerns as to why a registered pesticide is not safe. Even the proposed legislation, which I will say right out front is very much an improvement over the current Pest Control Products Act, requires some improvement to bring more confidence in the safety of registered pesticides.
The Pest Control Products Act as currently stated in the amendments is a risk and value statute. If a pesticide is too risky, it is too risky. It does not matter whether a pest problem is terrible. It is a health- and environment-based statute, and that is good. However, the fact is that we have 600 or so active ingredients. Six thousand products have been registered, some of them many, many years ago. Very few of them have been re-evaluated. Most of them are used in agriculture, on our food; some are used indoors and outdoors. You have heard some of the relevant context from previous witnesses.
We also have new pesticides coming through the system that we know are getting a better evaluation, but still the risk assessments are based on very basic information. We are hearing about opportunities to improve the legislation because there are some very big unanswered questions. It is especially important to look at precaution and to avoid escalating testing. We must try to get in front of some of the concerns that have built up and crept up on us, about which we are starting to see evidence.
All of this is using industry data. The points made by my colleague are very apropos. The agency only reviews data provided by industry. Of course, industry should be providing that data, but that is how the system works. There must be safeguards to make sure that that data is looked at through a real precautionary lens.
In terms of public participation, we see some real improvements in the current legislation, but they are just a crack in a door. Some very important amendments are needed to ensure that the intent of public participation becomes the reality of public participation.
Clearly, we must have very strict and rigorous controls on pesticides. These chemicals are designed to be toxic. They are designed to kill something in terms of biological processes. We have many of the same activities in our bodies, as does a grasshopper that is targeted as a pest, in terms of brain function, endocrine function and immune function. We cannot stray too far from that fact.
Even the strictest law cannot address all the problems. If we do not have alternatives, they will not be implemented. That is why I would like to focus attention on embedding within the legislation a strong mandate to look at reduced risk and to bring forward some of the newer approaches to pest management.
The legislation cannot help but improve on its 33 year-old predecessor, but it does not adequately address significant information gaps, the new techniques and approaches that have been put forward in some other OECD countries. It certainly does not address what we see as a mounting demand for alternatives, in agriculture, in the urban sector and in forestry as well.
We would urge the committee to take the opportunity to embed some of these improvements in the legislation. I will briefly touch on several. One would be to expedite access to lower-risk pesticides. This approach has been endorsed by farmers, pesticide registrants and the medical community. It asks for a mandate within the legislation to move reduced- risk products forward more quickly.
Lower-risk products have been mentioned in the legislation, but the government generally seems content to leave the details of this important area to a regulatory directive — in other words, a guideline. That is not a substitute for a mandatory requirement. That is why we would suggest to the committee that the legislation should outline an explicit process for expedited review, including what constitutes lower risk. Shorter timelines could be used as an incentive to move these things forward. In addition, reduced fees and other incentives would make this a priority for the minister. Otherwise you give it a nod, but you do not actually make it happen.
One of the mechanisms could be an exemption for minimal-risk products, such as garlic, corn gluten or milk that have pesticidal properties, things that we eat every day that need not be registered in the same way but should be out there in active use. The person using it should not be considered to be committing an offence if they use something that has minimal risk.
I cannot emphasize enough the need for having this in the legislation, not just nodding toward it, not leaving it to some faraway date for implementation, not having it as a guideline, but having this as an explicit component of the legislation to reduce risk and to reduce our reliance on chemical pesticides.
My colleagues have mentioned areas where amendments are needed to bring greater clarity to access to information provisions vis-à-vis formulants and contaminants to ensure that test data and information submitted about a pesticide is not pre-screened and selectively put on the register, but that access is available to all the information because it pertains to our health and to environmental protection.
We would support a section of the legislation regarding collection of data and reporting. The question about sales data is only part of the equation. Sales information only tells us how much is sold in the country and, generally, by active ingredient. We need the agency to mandate collection of use information — where pesticides are used and for what purpose — because only then can you get a sense of the risks and what correlations there may be.
There should be a requirement, not only for the registrant but also for medical practitioners and academic researchers, to provide the minister with information about adverse effects whenever they occur. You must raise those alarm bells. The broad community that learns of the effects of pesticides must be mandated to put that information forward so that it can be publicly available.
I will not do anything further than endorse the recommendations regarding further protection of children's health and the application of safety factors regarding pesticides, wherever they may be used, not only in schools and areas where children are located. However, I would broaden that endorsement to include wildlife, given the mandate of the World Wildlife Fund. In terms of their environmental effect, pesticides are currently regulated purely on the kill-you- dead scenario. Acute toxicity is the only testing required for environmental impacts. We certainly need more subtle effects to be considered when registering pesticides. Frogs are only one example. To account for a strong lack of data, we need safety margins applied to protect wildlife and environmental health.
Speaking not toward the legislation in particular but toward the implementation of the legislation, it is important for this committee and, indeed, for all of us to emphasize — for instance, I sit on a committee that advises the minister on pesticides — that we would like to see full and rapid implementation of this legislation. We are very much in catch- up mode. Putting the legislation into place quickly and aggressively will go a long way to protecting our health and our environment.
Senator Keon: I wish to pursue a point of enormous importance that you have raised. You spoke to the independence of scientific publication and the integrity of information. In this country, Canadians have lost the capacity for credible in-house research as it relates to health and welfare, CIHR, NSERC and even NRC. I am partly responsible for that. As a matter of fact, back in my days of influence in the research community, I did much to foster industrial relationships. However, we must now come forward with some kind of major thrust to construct, in Atlantic Canada or somewhere, a body of credible scientists who have not sold their souls to the research chairs.
I am not questioning the integrity of these scientists. However, the direction of the research is driven by their applications. They cannot possibly come up with the information that is needed for the kinds of rules and regulations to accrue that will allow us to deal with this exponential body of knowledge that is unfolding in the environment. That goes right down the line from global warming to pesticides to all of the public health hazards.
I noticed you did not go quite far enough when you spoke. You did not say what I have just said, and I am wondering why you did not.
Ms. Clarke: I did. You only have a summary of our brief. Many of the statements you have made are supported in the full brief and in the resolution. Honourable senators also have a yellow handout entitled ``Benchmarks,'' in which I included a catch-all of salient or specific studies and information that supported what we were saying.
One of them, for example, is a reference to the NSERC grants. I have been told in discussions with academe that professors and graduate students need not apply for research grants unless they come up with 50 per cent funding to match the 50 per cent of the grant. Where do you think that 50 per cent of funding comes from? It comes from industry.
I would draw your attention to the Dr. Olivieri case at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. To my mind, it was the classic example. At the same time that she recognized there was a health hazard to the children who were in the study, she had signed a confidential agreement not to release the research data from the clinical tests with the company Apotex. At the same time, Apotex was under discussion with the University of Toronto for a $30-million donation to the university and to the associated teaching hospitals.
We have created a monster. In Pogo's words, ``We have met the enemy,'' and here we are. We need to do something about this. In a sense, it has been done for us. I salute those medical journal editors. To be honest, we were in the middle of our research, just hammering our heads against the wall because we knew something was wrong. You could smell a rat a mile away, but we had no idea why all of these studies saying pesticides were bad had all been suddenly refuted. This is not to say scientists do not have integrity. Of course they do. This is not to say business does not have integrity. I hope it does. However, the journal editors came out of left field in September 2001 and said, ``Wait a minute, let's put some guidelines in here for all parties involved,'' and the guidelines are good.
Right now, medical research is having to meet those guidelines, the very same ones, in order to sell their products and get their articles into the medical journals. Drug companies already have that lighthouse to aim for. It is already there. If we put it in for pesticides or for agricultural drugs, we are simply enabling the drug companies to harmonize their entire operation, both the agricultural and the medical. We were not aware of what had happened.
Senator Keon: Do you not think that we have to regroup as a Canadian scientific community and refurbish what we once had, for example, at the Medical Research Council?
Ms. Clarke: There is not enough of this around.
Senator Keon: Forget about that. We will price it later. We are talking about the principle. We should have independent scientists who are capable of looking at this stuff. We do not have them any more, partly because of people like myself who changed the direction of the then Medical Research Council, and now it is CIHR, and NSERC is a close sister. There was a time when we had a tremendous body of science at the National Research Council, and we do not have that any more. I do not see us ever getting a body of in-house scientists at the Department of Health and Welfare. I do not see CIHR ever going into in-house science, or NSERC. Surely we could come back to the NRC and provide the critical scientific mass that is necessary to address this stuff. I would like to see people like you starting to advocate that.
Ms. Langer: My sense is that we have to corral this issue. It is a positive development that the legislation states that the burden of proof is on the registrant. The registrant does have the responsibility to provide that information. We need the transparency and the guidelines to make sure it is appropriate.
On emerging issues, we do need some in-house capacity because it is not in the interests of companies to invent new studies or look for suspicious things. We need suspicious minds from the scientific community that are on our team to actually do that. It is an administrative aspect, but through the legislation, getting the transparency and having the burden of proof are the first steps. Backing it up with other research is another matter.
Senator Roche: I am at a bit of a disadvantage because I do not know enough about this subject. You know much more than I do.
Ms. Clarke, you prefaced your comment to me earlier by saying that failure to accept the amendments you were going to suggest, which are in three sets, would be deleterious to the interests of the bill and the interests of the people of Canada. That worries me.
Ordinarily, witnesses come before us and they want to see things amended. As I said to the earlier witness, everything can be improved. I was under the impression that there was sufficient testimony before us to indicate that the government had moved ahead in tightening pesticide laws for the protection of the environment and to protect people, and that when the bill came out of the Commons, having been amended to strengthen it even more, that it was in pretty good shape when it came here. Maybe it is not, but that was my impression. These amendments being put before us now are a little bit of added icing on the cake.
You are suggesting that what you have said strikes to the heart of the bill. You said it would be deleterious. You used my word. I would like you to expand on that and to explain why a failure to accept these amendments would have such bad consequences. Could you prioritize, in the three sets of amendments that you have given us, what you think is really important that you cannot live without?
Ms. Clarke: There are two amendments that take first place. The first is the independence of science research. If we were coming from Mars with this amendment and no one else was saying it, I think you would have every right to consider it frivolous. The fact is that the Royal Society of Canada and the Association of the Medical Journal Editors have both said the same thing. At the same time, we have the very clear case of Dr. Olivieri indicating to us the types of things that are happening. I think that it is incumbent on the Canadian government to provide some guidelines within pesticide research that echo these recommendations in medical research. Independence of research is critical.
A Globe and Mail series on ``growing ties between drug companies and the medical community refers to a proposed experimental cancer trial. What is not in Dr. X's proposal is that he is a shareholder in the firm. He has subjects in his study. He is administering a drug and collecting results. What is not published is the fact that he is a shareholder in the company.
There are situations where companies are funding the universities, such as building the Centre for Toxicology at Guelph. There are industry players on the board of directors.
Senator Roche: Are you suggesting that there is a quid pro quo such that they will give money and then they will get stuff through the legislative process, that there is corruption in this whole thing?
Ms. Clarke: We misinterpret. To use the word ``corruption'' is to be too accusatory. I am simply saying that in terms of the independence of science research, the Canadian Federation of University Women believes that it is important to safeguard that principle. If we are basing our environmental decisions on what we eat that is sprayed with what, what we grow, what drifts into our communities, what we spray, it is critical that we have unbiased information.
I cannot make a decision without clear facts. Can you? I need to be able to believe what I read. Academe used to do that for us. They find it difficult now because of their financial obligations. That is number one.
Number two, of equal importance, is education of the public with regard to ecosystem theory. Very simply, the vast majority of us just do not get it. We understand that there is something called an ecosystem. We understand that certain things affect us all, but then we go out and spray the dandelions. We do not really understand ecosystem theory.
In 1963, I took one of the first courses on human ecology by a Dr. Shimkin. At that point I realized there was something to watch here. He gave us the typical, ``Mark my words, in 50 years everything that you hear in this course will be on everyone's lips,'' and of course everything he said was true. It is now. He could see the potential for what is happening today.
I have been following this field for a long time. I feel that because of my background in science, I have some understanding of ecology, but this is something that needs to be presented to all Canadians.
Senator Roche: Did you go before the House of Commons committee with these recommendations?
Ms. Clarke: No, we did not.
Senator Roche: Why? Were you invited?
Ms. Clarke: Two years ago another university women member asked me if I would like to help prepare a paper on cosmetic pesticides. This is the result.
Senator Roche: What do you mean?
Ms. Clarke: We proceeded with our resolution; it went to the annual general meeting, which by protocol must be accepted by the entire organization. That occurred last summer; this followed and here I am.
The Deputy Chairman: We are the first benefactors of your work.
Ms. Clarke: If you consider yourself a benefactor, yes.
Senator Roche: Finally, is it your considered view that without these two recommendations you have pointed to, the two sets, this bill will have bad consequences?
Ms. Clarke: I believe that safeguards are needed.
Senator Keon: Senator Roche questioned whether indeed there was a problem with integrity, and I do not think there is a problem. There is a problem with direction. The carrot is leading the scientific community in a way that industrial complexes want it led, because that is where the money is coming from. What I am trying to tease out of you is this: Given the fact that this now does have to be countered with a body of pure science and not because of a lack of integrity in the scientific community, it is just that all the incentives have gone?
Ms. Clarke: It can equally be done, as you indicated, with guidelines in bills such as this very excellent bill.
I do not know all of the details because I was not that much a part of it. There are people here who I believe do. I would like to refer back to the BST episode with Senator Whelan. At that time, I do not know where all that research was being done, but was some of it not being done by government agencies?
Senator Keon: Some of it, yes.
Ms. Clarke: They, too, are subject to lobbies and to pressure. Guidelines are perhaps more proactive.
Senator Keon: We have a unique opportunity here and we should not miss out.
Senator Morin: I agree.
Senator Keon: Senator Morin and I served on the science council together and we watched the disintegration of in- house scientific research.
Senator Morin: Of course.
Senator Keon: I think Ms. Clarke's presentation has been brilliant and I commend her highly, but I still do not think we are getting at the underlying problem. We will not do it with rules and regulations and with writing it into another bill. We have to go beyond this bill, which is a good one and should be implemented soon. However, we must go beyond this bill and create an awareness that we have to get back to a stable body of in-house research under the federal government to provide the necessary knowledge to protect our ecology.
The Deputy Chairman: That is a very good point.
I have a closing comment. As a layperson in this area, I think there is a total lack of public awareness. Just on my own, I am now pulling dandelions and not spraying them for two years. I am probably in better shape for it. I am doing that because I started to worry about what the pesticides were doing to the river that runs by and to my own personal health.
You have both been excellent and compelling witnesses, and I would like to thank you on behalf of the committee for your appearance today. I hope your message is well heard.
The committee adjourned.