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Federal Bill Would Allow Access to Cheaper Canadian Pesticides
(Beyond Pesticides, November 3, 2003)
It is not just consumers looking for cheaper pharmaceuticals who are turning to Canada. So are farmers looking for cheaper pesticides. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide or Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), farmers cannot import pesticides from Canada and use them in the United States because the law requires an EPA registration and label. Federal legislators have moved to change this situation, by introducing legislation in the U.S. Senate and House, which would allow for use in the U.S. of a "comparable domestic pesticide" registered for use in Canada that is "identical or substantially similar in its composition." The legislation has been introduced as S. 1406 (July 15, 2003) and H.R. 3319 (October 16, 2003) by a bi-partisan group of farm state members of Congress, "To amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to permit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to register a Canadian pesticides."

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), a prime sponsor of the legislation in the House told the Great Falls Tribune (Montana), "It's time to level the playing field for U.S. producers forced to pay a premium while trying to compete with their Canadian counterparts, who get to use cheaper, often identical pesticides."

The Tribune put it this way when it discussed the economics of pesticide-intensive farming.

"Pesticides comprise one of the largest costs for many Montana farmers, who typically pay about $10 to $20 per acre each year, according to Herb Karst, president of the Montana Grain Growers Association. With an average farm about 2,000 acres, the total can add up to around $40,000. Jon Stoner, a farmer from Havre, said he spends $60,000 to $100,000 a year for pesticides, although some of his supplemental crops require heavier treatment. Using cheaper products from Canada could cut costs up to 25 percent, Karst said. That could mean up to $10 million in savings for Montana wheat farmers, according to Rehberg's office.

"This is a matter of economics for our farmers, who are currently being overcharged in the U.S. because of existing regulations," Rehberg said. "Canada already has its own stringent pesticide safety laws that are similar to ours. Their products should be available to our farmers who need the savings if they are to continue competing with Canadian producers."

Karst said prices should be set according to product performance and competition instead of a label. "Montana farmers have long been concerned about the differing input costs between the United States and Canada particularly brought upon by currency value fluctuations," Karst said. "This bill would help to equalize those differences."

Environmentalists have long believed that the price of pesticides do not reflect the real costs of using them because of the secondary adverse effects or costs associated with their use, including contamination of air, land, water and food, as well as human and animal poisoning. Environmentalists feel that this issue should be the center of any debate on the cost of pesticides in the marketplace. While neither current law, nor this legislation, takes these costs into account, there is a concern that language such as "substantially similar" could open the door to not only new active ingredients, but new inert ingredients, contaminants, and metabolites that are not fully evaluated.