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Four things to know about pesticides and food

Originally seen on  Ag More Than Ever

Combating pests is an ongoing part of the job when it comes to crop production. It’s important that producers can make use of different tools, including pesticides, to protect our food supply from destructive weeds, insects, and diseases.

Pesticide regulations

Myth: There is limited safety oversight when it comes to pesticides, and pest control products are made available for sale without sufficient and thorough testing.

Fact: Pesticides are highly regulated in Canada.

Truth: Canada has one of the strictest pesticide evaluation processes in the world. Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) conducts a rigorous, science-based evaluation – including more than 200 separate studies for health and environmental impacts – before approving any pesticide for sale and use in Canada. On average, it takes more than 10 years of development and research  to get a new pesticide to market. Plus, products are continuously re-evaluated to make sure they meet the latest scientific standards.

Residue limits

Myth: There are high residue levels on many conventionally grown foods found in grocery stores.

Fact: Pesticide residue limits are set far below what would be a safety concern.

Truth: Health Canada sets levels for the acceptable amount of pesticide residue a person can consume at rates far below what would be a health concern – between 100 to 1,000 times lower than the safety limit. Modern technology also allows scientists to now find even the most minuscule amount of pesticide residue, meaning that just because residue is detected does not indicate a safety concern.

Organic and conventional foods

Myth: Organic farms do not make use of any pesticides and therefore the food they produce is healthier than their conventional counterparts.

Fact: Organic and conventional foods must meet the same safety standards. As Health Canada states, there is no evidence that organic foods are safer to eat than conventionally produced foods.

Truth: All farmers – regardless of the production method – battle pests that can cause devastating damage to crops. Organic farmers can use naturally sourced pesticides on crops. And like conventionally grown foods, organic foods are tested for pesticide residues. That means whether someone chooses to purchase organic or conventional foods, they can rest assured that the products are safe and healthy.

Pesticides and pollinators

Myth: Pesticide use is destroying bee populations

Fact: The agriculture industry is actively working to protect pollinators.

Truth: Farmers and bee keepers are interdependent – bee keepers depend on farmers to grow crops so their bees can collect nectar and farmers depend on bee keepers to provide bees to help pollinate their crops.

While statistics indicate honeybee populations in Canada are at a record high, it’s important to take measures to ensure this trend continues for the long-term, and Canadian farmers are certainly committed to doing their part. To protect pollinators, producers have adopted better on-farm practices, such as planting natural forage areas, and making use of variable rate technology and seed treatments to ensure pesticides are only used where they are the most needed. These practices reduce the risk of pesticide exposure and also support pollinator habitats.


For more information, check out this further reading list from Ag More Than Ever.