Fertilizer efficacy no longer CFIA’s lookout

Citing its focus on protecting health and safety, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it will no longer regulate the effectiveness of fertilizers sold in Canada.

The agency confirmed Friday that from now on, its activities in the Canadian fertilizer and supplement sectors "will concentrate on verifying that products are safe for humans, plants, animals and the Canadian environment."

CFIA said it will also continue "to verify that products are properly labelled to avoid product misrepresentation in the marketplace and protect consumers."

Shedding the focus on efficacy is done with the goal of "allowing CFIA resources to focus on protecting the health and safety of Canadians," the agency said. It added that the change "also provides industry with greater flexibility, reduced costs and less red tape."

The agency said Monday it will work with "industry and other stakeholders" to develop an implementation plan for the tightened focus.

Fertilizers and supplements — that is, substances other than fertilizers that "improve the physical condition of soils, or plant growth" — that are imported into and/or sold in Canada are governed under the federal Fertilizers Act and Regulations.

Regulated products under the Act include farm fertilizers, micronutrients and various lawn and garden products as well as supplements such as water-holding polymers, microbial inoculants and composts.

CFIA’s safety assessments on those goods examine "all ingredients" in a fertilizer or supplement, including its active components but also its "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."

Until now, CFIA’s assessments have also been expected to ensure the efficacy claims on a product label are "supported by scientifically valid information" and a product’s benefits are "substantiated in a clear and definite way."

Factors that CFIA evaluators have until now considered when evaluating product performance include "product application rates, nutritional requirements of the target crop, usage pattern, frequency of application, current agricultural practises, appropriate statistical methods, research trial designs, and Canadian climate and soil conditions."

The CFIA, in late 2011 and early 2012, undertook a review toward a regulatory system that "fosters consumer choice and enables improved business opportunities by building flexible regulatory frameworks that are anticipatory and proactive in mitigating risks (and that) facilitate innovation and support competitiveness."

The review was also meant to put the agency’s "primary focus" on safeguarding Canada’s food supply and its animal and plant resource bases.

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