EDITORIAL: Here’s what’s really killing Canada’s (ag) competitiveness
By: Pierre Petelle, President and CEO, CropLife Canada
A recent series in the Financial Post looks at challenges Canada’s economy faces due to unnecessary federal and provincial regulatory burdens. The agriculture industry feels these pains in spades.
A report from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Death by 130,000 Cuts: Improving Canada’s Regulatory Competitiveness, looks at the impact of Canada’s complex network of overlapping regulations and the impact they have on Canadian businesses, including agriculture. The report acknowledges the importance of well-designed and well-implemented regulations for protecting the well-being of Canadians and the environment but warns that inefficient and unpredictable regulatory processes reduce the competitiveness of Canadian businesses and serve as a deterrent to investment in this country.
These challenges stand directly in the path of an ambitious goal set by the federal government of growing our agri-food exports from $55 to $75 billion annually by 2025.
Given our country’s track record of agricultural innovation and our reputation as a supplier of high quality food around the world, we should be among the very first to adopt the latest technologies to support the continued growth of the sector.
And yet, rather than creating an environment that encourages investment in innovation around new plant breeding innovations like gene editing, which stand to benefit farmers, consumers and the environment, the regulatory system currently serves as a bottleneck to innovation.
RELATED ARTICLE: The case for regulatory modernization
There’s a clear opportunity here for Canada to position itself as a global leader in plant breeding innovation by creating a state-of-the-art regulatory system. The alternative will leave Canada in the dust as other countries embrace the latest in plant breeding technologies and drive investment away from Canada.
Similarly, uncertainty around the predictability and efficiency of the re-evaluation process for pesticides in Canada stands to be a major barrier to investment in new pest control tools thus hindering the competitiveness of Canadian farmers. Delays in post-approval evaluation processes are putting Canadian farmers at a disadvantage as compared to their U.S. counterparts.
Much of the work Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) undertakes has significant impacts on trade, despite the fact that the agency does not yet have any formal trade mandate. So, rather than proactively addressing global market access-related issues pertaining to pesticides and pesticide residue levels, the PMRA “is relegated to an ad hoc fire-fighting role and has become a bottleneck to economic growth for Canada’s agricultural companies,” according to the report from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
The need to streamline Canada’s regulatory approaches to agricultural technologies is further emphasized in the recent Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table report, which highlights the importance of Canada embracing new agricultural technologies and modernizing regulations to meet the ambitious growth targets set for the industry by 2025. That thought is echoed by the Protein Industry Supercluster, which has declared plant science innovations and delivering new varieties to farmers to be a top short-term goal.
When it comes to being a global leader in agriculture, Canada’s advantages are clear: an abundant land base and water resources, a favourable reputation for food quality and safety around the world, access to key markets and research capacity. The question is: will the regulatory systems be the enablers or inhibitors of Canada’s agriculture success?
President and CEO, CropLife Canada
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Source: CropLife Canada