The federal government is going to make it more difficult for Canadians to order pesticides online and have them imported without much checking.
Right now, if someone buys the pesticides for use in controlling weeds or insects around their own home and doesn't exceed the amount that qualifies for an exemption, there is little that authorities can do to stop the shipment, say government officials.
The problems is that householders can import any pesticide, even ones not registered in the country of origin or by Canada’s Pest Review Management Agency, says Health Canada.
The loophole allows any pesticide to be imported if it’s going to be used on the importer’s property. Commercial uses remain under control.
The current rules allow imports of less than 500 g or 500 ml and under $100 in value.
"As a result, neither Health Canada nor the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has the authority to refuse entry of such products if they meet the exemption criteria," say officials in the Pest Management Review Agency, which is part of Health Canada.
"The possibility of Internet sales and the potential threats such sales could pose to human health and the environment were not envisaged when the exemption was created in 1972," the officials have written.
They admit they don’t know how much is being imported. They probably also don’t know what’s being purchased.
Health Canada says it has identified more than 3,000 pest-control products for sale on foreign online retail websites.
The notice says Health Canada believes purchases by Canadians of prohibited pesticides are on the rise.
"Health Canada has noticed that the number of potentially dangerous products being imported has been increasing along with the growth of imports via courier and post," it wrote.
"Products that have been referred to Health Canada by the CBSA from the courier/mail stream include restricted class fumigants as well as various commercial class products intended to be used by licensed applicators with the appropriate training and equipment."
A pilot project at one courier entry point in Ontario between May and September 2015 resulted in 108 packages referred by CBSA to Health Canada and 454 kg of unregistered pest-control products blocked from entering Canada.
The current rules also have no restriction on how many orders someone can place, as long as each order is within the size limit.
"Importers can circumvent the quantity limit set out in the exemption by placing many separate orders via the Internet," officials wrote.
"This allows individuals and businesses to import virtually unlimited quantities of unregistered products for possible commercial use or resale — both of which contradict the 'personal use' criterion and intent of the exemption."
Shipping potentially dangerous pest control products into the country can also be a safety risk for those who handle it along the way — from warehouse employees and postal workers to border services officers, the government says.
On a different front, the federal government has said it’s ready to tighten the regulations that allow for own-use importation of livestock and poultry medicines.
Under the changes the government is proposing, pesticides ordered online could be stopped at the border because new rules will require individuals to have the chemicals in their personal possession in order to bring them into the country.
A further restriction, the pesticide would also have to be equivalent to a domestic class product already authorized for sale in Canada.
The total quantity could not exceed 500 g or 500 ml per person and per package, preventing people from claiming they are combining their exemptions in order to bring a larger package into the country.
The pesticide would also have to be in its original packaging and the labels must include at least one of Canada's official languages to allow Canadian officials to read and understand them.
And they must be registered and approved in the country of origin.