Friday, February 6, 2009
Ontario pesticide ban scientifically based...
The Guelph Mercury
Ontario pesticide ban scientifically based
Dear Editor - Re: "Pesticide ban a slippery slope for Ontarioagriculture" (Guelph Mercury, Jan. 29).
In regards to the column by Richard Blyleven, a farmer and chair ofthe Guelph-based AGCare: Surely, there is a big difference betweenspraying pesticides in the congested city environment, solely forcosmetic purposes, and the still indispensable use of pesticides inthe country.
Surely, it is unconscionable to be exposing young urban children topesticides for the sake of reassuring farmers.
If indeed farmers are so well trained in pesticide use then they willensure that their own children -- and where applicable, foreignworkers -- are not unduly exposed to chemicals being applied on ruralfields.
On the other hand, it is not up to the farmers to tell city peoplewhat is, or is not, "sound" science. (Such a science is in fact a self-serving religion, rather than science.)
Farmers who speak with the same voice as do self-interested chemicalindustry spokespersons clearly indicate that their judgment is not tobe trusted.
In fact, the proposed provincial legislation is sufficiently science-based, as the legislators have consulted independent and unbiasedprofessionals.
It is noteworthy that pesticide residues in food are substantiallysafer than when such residues are inhaled, say by children walkingbeside a sprayed lawn.
This is because the inhaled residues go directly to the brain,bypassing the liver, which is the cleansing organ. Moreover, with ourdaily exposure to all kinds of toxic substances, it is unrealistic tobe talking about "direct" evidence of this or that pesticide harm.
Obviously, a regulatory system that by and large ignores humanevidence of pesticide harm is bound to be grossly inadequate. So totalk about an extensive pesticide review at the federal level iscompletely misleading.
Health Canada's pesticide review is limited to rat studies provided bythe industry. There is only one epidemiologist on staff. Human healthreports received from non-industry sources are examined individually,in isolation from other similar reports. There is no mechanism tosearch and review pesticide literature systematically and nobibliographies are compiled.
If a single report examined does not overturn Health Canada'sdecision, it is put on "disregard" file. How can one possibly callthis process "an extensive scientific review?"
Health Canada's pesticide evaluation is especially deficient in thefollowing vital areas: 1) neurotoxicity 2) vital developmentaltoxicity 3) endocrine information and 4) routine contamination bydioxin.
-- K. Jean Cottam, Nepean
February 5, 2009
The Globe and Mail
Auditor-General slams crop inspectionsInspectors spend more time certifying exports than ensuring domesticproducts are bug- and disease-free, Fraser says
by DANIEL LEBLANC
OTTAWA — Federal inspectors spend more time certifying Canadianexports of fruits and vegetables than making sure that the plants andproduce that come into Canada are bug- and disease-free, the Auditor-General has found.
In a report released Thursday, Sheila Fraser called for greaterprotection of Canada's crops and forests, given the associatedindustries are worth $100-billion a year.
Ms. Fraser pointed to the threats associated with invasive plants,seeds, pests and diseases, and was alarmed to report that “high-riskimported commodities … are sometimes released for distribution withoutbeing inspected.”
The Auditor-General found that inspection standards vary widely byregion, and that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is not up-to-datewhen it comes to identifying new risks.
The federal government hands billions of dollars to the provinces andterritories for various programs, but lacks any way to ensure themoney is actually spent on those programs, the Auditor-Generalreported Thursday
“We are concerned that the relative lack of attention to surveys fornew plants, pests, and diseases could limit the Agency's ability todeal effectively and economically with new invasive species, beforethey become established plant health emergencies,” the report said.
Federal inspectors cannot be expected to go through all of the 84,000shipments that come into Canada every year, but Ms. Fraser said theyneed a better system to find the ones that pose the greatest risk.
“There is a belief among Agency officials that certifying exports is ahigh priority and uses a greater proportion of resources [thaninspecting imports].”
As it stands, the entire inspection system is paper-based and largelyreliant on forms that are faxed from one office to the other.
“It's not surprising that things get lost,” Ms. Fraser said.
The Auditor-General's report also found that Public Works Canadasometimes calls on private-sector consultants to design a biddingprocess for a contract, and then allows them to bid on the samecontracts.
Ms. Fraser said the situation gives preferential treatment to theconsultants or companies involved in determining the criteria used toselect the winning bid.
In the case of a $16-million contract, a consultant working for CGIInformation Systems and Management Consultants Inc. was hired byPublic Works to develop the request for proposals. CGI went on to winthe contract, and its consultant continued to work on the project.
“In our opinion, such an arrangement constitutes a conflict ofinterest,” the report said.
In some cases at Public Works, contracts for professional services areamended or allowed to grow well beyond their original scope. Inothers, consultants are retained on a quasi-full-time basis year afteryear, creating the risk that they could eventually be consideredfederal employees, with a right to benefits and pensions.
Still, the audit of $1-billion in competitive and sole-sourcedcontracts at Public Works was positive, saying that rules wererespected in a large majority of cases. The report provided a welcomedchange for the department, which has been hit by the sponsorshipscandal and a number of other fiascos.
The Auditor-General also encouraged Correctional Services Canada touse its pan-Canadian presence and its large buying power to obtainbetter prices on food and cleaning products for its prisons.
The report said the agency's 58 institutions should imitate the hotelsand the hospitals that have banded together to increase theirpurchasing power. The average food cost for prisoners is $4.47 a day,but the preparation adds an extra $9 a day. In addition, meals forvegetarians or special religious needs cost almost $20 a day.
“The Agency is not taking advantage of potential savings from itspurchasing volume,” the report said. “CSC needs to analyse its needsfor food in terms of quantity, volume, and cost before identifyingpotential savings.”
In addition, CSC employees are doing more and more overtime work, evenas the prison population remains stable.
The Auditor-General also found that a group of 51 small federalagencies have an obligation to produce an average of two reports ayear that, in many cases, are of little value to the government. “Thedetail, complexity, and frequency of the required reporting wereonerous, and it was not always clear to (the agencies) how thatinformation improved accountability,” the Auditor-General's reportsaid.
The Auditor-General added that the agencies have long complained aboutthe problem, and that it is time to take action and streamline therequirements.
February 06, 2009
The Toronto Star
Pest control lax, auditor says
by Joanna SmithOttawa Bureau
OTTAWA–The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is not doing enough to makesure pests that destroy crops and trees stay out of the country, andit focuses too much effort on inspecting goods headed to other lands,Auditor General Sheila Fraser said yesterday.
"The impact that invasive species can have either on biodiversity oron the economy of the country are potentially very significant,"Fraser told reporters before presenting her audit in the House ofCommons.
Pests like the Asian long-horned beetle, which has been damaginghardwood trees such as maples and threatening the maple syrup industrysince it was detected in Vaughan in 2003, have caused seven planthealth emergencies across the country that have cost the federalgovernment more than $140 million to manage.
"It's obviously much better to try to stop this at the border beforethey come in and become established in the country," Fraser said.
The CFIA, with help from the Canada Border Services Agency at ports ofentry, is responsible for stopping these invaders before they causemajor damage to the $100 billion agriculture and forestry sectors.
However, the audit found inconsistent inspections and piles ofillegible faxes give little reassurance they are doing enough toreduce the risk.
"It's a paper-based manual system, so all of the paperwork on 84,000shipments gets faxed around the country," Fraser said, noting heroffice first noted the problems in 1996. "It's not surprising thatthings get lost or misplaced, that they don't have good informationabout what is coming into the country (and) the results of theirinspections."
This mess and the lack of a national tracking system means tracing thedestination of problem shipments that slipped through the border mustbe done manually.
In a 2001 case, it took five employees five days to search throughpaper records to trace a shipment of chrysanthemums, the audit found.
Poor communication between CFIA and the border services agencyaggravates the problem, the report found.
The CFIA needs a better system to focus inspections on shipments thatpose greater risk, especially since inspectors are often asked toinspect other commodities or even certify exports even as importvolumes continue to increase.
"There is a belief among agency officials that certifying exports is ahigh priority and uses a greater proportion of resources," the reportsaid, although inadequate information systems mean there is no easyway to track trends and demands for resources over the years.
The audit also found the food inspection agency spends too much timesurveying existing problems instead of detecting new pests before theybecome emergencies.
The report said the inspection agency has responded to allrecommendations and is exploring solutions such as working with theborder services agency to develop a plan for sharing information.
JIM WILKES/TORONTO STARHoward Stanley, of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, holds an Asianlonghorned beetle.Food inspection agency isn't doing enough to halt invasive species atborder, report warns
February 6, 2009
Watchdog bites into feds' enviro failuresAG's REPORT
By PETER ZIMONJIC, NATIONAL BUREAU
The federal government hasn't got a clue if the billions it spends ongreen initiatives are working or where it's even being spent accordingto a sweeping report by Canada's environmental watchdog.
"I have been surprised," said Scott Vaughan, the new commissioner ofenvironment and sustainable development.
"You need to know whether the problem you have identified is gettingworse, better or remaining the same and there are not systems in placeto give the government information," he said.
Vaughan's report graded the government's ability to track the resultsof its environmental projects, how it enforces rules and if thetaxpayer is getting value for money.
The report found several key failures in money management, including$635 million spent on the Public Transit Tax Credit. Announced in the2006 budget, it gives people a tax refund of 15% on a bus pass.
The government said the measure would encourage transit use, reducinggreenhouse gas emissions by 220,000 tonnes annually. But it's now onlyreducing them by 35,000 tonnes a year.
NDP environment critic Linda Duncan called the issue an "absoluteboondoggle," but Environment Minister Jim Prentice said: "It's animportant measure for citizens, for people who use the transitsystem ... It's a meritorious program on that basis."
Vaughan's report also said the $1.5-billion Clean Air and ClimateChange Trust Fund for provinces has little or no oversight. He said itdidn't require provinces to spend money on green projects. The federalgovernment didn't track spending and it didn't know if the fundproduced positive results for the environment.
Liberal environment critic David McGuinty called the fund an eco-fraud.
"They should have set out a series of criteria and a series ofobjectives including real greenhouse gas reductions," he said.
Vaughan also criticized the federal government for spending $370million to make farming more environmentally friendly but then failingto do any monitoring to see if the desired results had been achieved.
The report also said voluntary reports from industry detailing howrailways, chemical producers and the aviation industry reducedgreenhouse gas emissions had not been verified.
The report also slammed the government's efforts to run itsdepartments in environmentally sustainable ways, saying "littleprogress" had been made or the strategies employed simply haven'tworked.
"The government can make all sorts of claims about their environmentalrecord, but this report shows we have no way of knowing what the truthis," said Aaron Freeman of Environmental Defence.
Auditor General Sheila Fraser released her annual report yesterday,criticizing the federal government's record on pest control andweather watching. The environment commissioner also weighed in with ascathing report. (Fred Chartrand, The Canadian Press)
Serious problems increase vulnerability to damage by invasive plants,pests and diseases
(Chapter 4—Managing Risks to Canada’s Plant Resources—Canadian FoodInspection Agency - December 2008 Report of the Auditor General)
Ottawa, 5 February 2009—There are serious problems in the CanadianFood Inspection Agency’s approach to protecting Canada from invasivealien plants, plant pests, and diseases, says the Auditor General ofCanada, Sheila Fraser, in her Report tabled today in the House ofCommons.
“The sheer volume of imports makes it impossible to inspect allshipments,” said Ms. Fraser. “Given that the volume has more thandoubled in the last seven years, it is critical that the Agency focuson the greatest risks.”
The report notes that invasive alien plant and plant pests canthreaten the environment and the economy. In their new habitat, theirimpact on native ecosystems can be severe and often irreversible. Inaddition, they can threaten Canada’s agriculture and forestry sectors,which produce goods valued at about $100 billion a year.
The audit found that the Agency’s pest surveys focus almostexclusively on known invaders rather than identifying potential newthreats before they become established. In addition, the Agency hasdifficulty with timely delivery of its plant health risk assessments.At the time of the audit, the backlog of uncompleted assessmentsamounted to more than the Agency can normally complete in a year.
The Report notes that the Agency’s national inspection targets areinterpreted and applied inconsistently across the country. Forexample, “67 percent inspection” is interpreted by some staff to meanthat 67 percent of every shipment must be inspected and by others tomean that 67 percent of all shipments in a given year must beinspected. Furthermore, high-risk imported commodities that aresubject to 100-percent inspection are sometimes released fordistribution without being inspected.
“Our audit findings are serious. The Agency needs to conduct acomprehensive assessment of the way it handles imports under its planthealth program,” said Ms. Fraser.
- 30 -
The chapter “Managing Risks to Canada’s Plant Resources—Canadian FoodInspection Agency” is available on the Office of the Auditor Generalof Canada Web site.
For more information, please click here.
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