Monday, June 30, 2014

Hunter takes issue with Captan report

Craig Hunter, pesticides watchdog for the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, is taking issue with a Health Canada report on Captan.

He says the quality is highly suspect and the report appears to have been prepared to come to a predetermined decision to ban the continued use of Captan to control many fungal diseases.

He questions how Health Canada’s reviewers could reach conclusions completely at odds with their counterparts at the United States Environmental Protection Agency, European pesticide reviewers and the Canadian review completed in 1980.

He questions why there is no reference the 1980 study in the footnotes, yet the authors developed a number of computer models to come to imagined conclusions about potential harmful effects of using Captan.

Hunter says it would make more sense to use actual hard data instead of models which have in some cases been stacked one on top of another to develop a worst-case scenario.

For example, he says it’s possible to gather real data to compare the health of workers who make and package Captan with office workers who have no direct exposure to Captan. 

For another example, he says Captan has been so widely used for 60 years that it’s possible to track the health of farmers and farm employees and compare with the general Canadian population.

“Instead ‘models’ of worse case scenarios were used to reach conclusions that defy common sense,” writes Hunter in The Grower magazine for fruit and vegetable producers.

He says restricting the use of Captan would raise other risks, such as the emergence of diseases that would need to be controlled by narrower-spectrum pesticides, giving rise to an increase in resistant strains of the diseases.

Hunter also says the civil servants at the Pest Management Regulatory Agency who wrote the report ought to be identified. They are at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And certainly Hunter’s opinions are public. Why not these critics so their track record could be assessed?

Hunter notes that an anti-pesticide bias seems to have surfaced among the PMRA reviews over the last five years, so he’d like to know if it’s recent hires who are writing these reports or whether it’s veterans at the PMRA for whom he says he has a lot of respect.

“Are they afraid to stand behind the decisions over their names?” Hunter asks.

“In all conscience, this report should be shredded and a new start made. Anything less is unacceptable,” writes Hunter.