CFIA fertilizer efficacy testing optional, for now

Canada’s fertilizer regulator has officially lightened the burden of proof on companies aiming to register fertilizers or supplements for sale in Canada.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced in May that it will focus its regulatory efforts on the safety of fertilizers and supplements such as crop inoculants, rather than on enforcing such products’ level of effectiveness.

CFIA in May said it expects to have amendments in place to Canada’s Fertilizers Regulations sometime in April next year, doing away with the efficacy rules entirely.

In the meantime, though, CFIA said Tuesday, applicants for fertilizer registration can opt for either full efficacy testing or a “streamlined” interim registration process, effective immediately.

The interim process will accept foreign trial data or scientific literature as evidence of product efficacy — but only if the applicant agrees to “clearly identify” on the product’s label the “limited extent of the evidence” that was used to assess effectiveness.

This interim process will be available only until the Fertilizers Regulations are amended next year. Until then, “applicants who prefer not to have this disclaimer on their label can choose to go through the full efficacy assessment,” the agency said Tuesday.

Among its other requirements, a full efficacy assessment calls for analysis of field trial data from various regions across Canada where a product is to be sold.

Farmers of North America (FNA), a Saskatoon-based organization arranging imports of lower-cost inputs for Canadian farmers, hailed CFIA’s move in a separate release Thursday.

FNA’s ag think-tank arm, the Strategic Agriculture Institute (FNA-STAG), said CFIA has “clearly” made a move to help farmers and the ag input industry “to become more cost-competitive by eliminating redundant and costly regulation.”

“It will get more products in the market faster and at less cost… and helps to increase farmers’ options, helps to reduce input costs, helps to introduce more competition and levels the playing field in the integrated grain industry that we share with the U.S., where efficacy testing is not a requirement,” FNA-STAG CEO Bob Friesen said.

Furthermore, FNA said, “although there has been some rhetoric regarding the potential sale of products that don’t work, farmers are not naive… To be sure, this does increase responsibility on the industry to make sure that they do not let down their farmer-customers. We believe this is a responsibility the industry is ready for and from which everyone can benefit.”

CFIA emphasized that product safety requirements won’t be affected by these amendments; all regulated fertilizer and supplement products must continue to be safe for humans, plants, animals and the environment and must also be “properly labelled,” the agency said.

Safety assessments “will continue to examine all ingredients in a fertilizer or supplements, including the active components as well as the formulants, carriers, additives, potential contaminants and byproducts that might be released into the environment as a result of product’s use and application to soil.”

Related stories:
Fertilizer efficacy no longer CFIA’s lookout, May 29, 2012
Snake-oil versus innovation, June 5, 2012

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