Skip to main content

ENVI Committee Meeting

Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at

Previous day publication Next day publication




[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Thursday, November 18, 1999

• 0900


The Chair (Mr. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): Good morning. Let me thank the members for being in the room so we can start. We have a bare quorum, but we do. We will be interrupted today at 10.30 or so by a vote in the House, but by being able to start now, we should manage to get our work done with our witnesses.

On behalf of the committee, I would like to welcome Dr. Richard Van Loon and Dr. John Jarrell. Dr. Jarrell is—or was, if I understand correctly—with the Calgary Regional Health Authority, and as you all know, Dr. Van Loon is with Carleton University.

Gentlemen, welcome to the committee, and particularly you, Dr. Jarrell, who came from so far. The floor is yours, if you would like to make two presentations of about 10 minutes each so as to allow the members to ask you questions. I'm very glad to have you with us this morning.

Dr. Richard Van Loon (Chair, Pest Management Advisory Council): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As the chair has mentioned, I'm here today not in any role related at all to Carleton University, but rather as chair of the Pest Management Advisory Council, which we usually refer to as PMAC.

I'm really pleased that Dr. Jarrell is with me today. He is much more of a technical expert in this area than I am. He also has on-the-ground experience that I could never hope to duplicate, as a physician, as a researcher, as a professor, and as medical officer of health in Calgary. So it's a pleasure for me that he has come all the way from Calgary to be with us today.

The Pest Management Advisory Council is intended to be a multi-stakeholder body. It's established to provide advice to the Minister of Health on policies and issues that are related to the federal pest management regulatory system and, as well, to foster communication and dialogue among the stakeholders in this area.

In 1995 the government made a series of commitments with respect to pesticide management. Included in those commitments was the establishment of the Pest Management Advisory Council. It took a little while for it to get going. I don't know the history of it, because I wasn't involved until I actually became chair, but it first met a year ago—in fact, November 23, 1998. It's mandated to provide ongoing advice on broad strategic directions, management, and overall priorities for the PMRA.

At the first meeting, Minister Allan Rock challenged us to provide advice on how best to continue the reforms in the pest management regulatory system. He told us he would listen to our advice and discuss problems candidly and cooperatively.

The membership of the advisory council encompasses a wide variety of interests, and it is intended to do so. It has views and expertise concerning the management of pesticides, and members were chosen because of the expertise and their ability to represent their major stakeholder sectors.

Council members were appointed by the Minister of Health, and they represent a variety of health and environmental interests, as I've said. They represent professional bodies, academics, public interest groups, and pesticide users in agriculture and forestry. Agricultural researchers and pesticide manufacturers are also represented. There is also a member of the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Committee on Pest Management and Pesticides.

• 0905

Although the advisory council is quite new, there is a somewhat older pedigree to it. The government reforms that were announced in 1995 were based on the recommendations of the multi-stakeholder pesticide registration review, the PRR team—I presume you're familiar with that. That group also had representatives of health and environmental groups and pesticide manufacturers and users. Many of the same groups, in fact several of the same people, are on the new advisory council.

As you might expect, the advisory council is a dynamic and conscientious group, and there are a variety of views expressed at every meeting. As chair, I speak for the council as a whole, but individual members, many of whom I know have already appeared before you or will appear before you, speak to their own views.

I should add for the committee, although it's probably obvious or will be obvious when I speak later, that I'm not a technical expert in pesticide management. I suppose that has some disadvantages, but it also means that I come to the meetings without any personal position on the issues that are before the council.

I understand you have the terms of reference of the PMAC, as well as the terms of reference of another advisory committee, the Economic Management Advisory Committee, or EMAC.

The Economic Management Advisory Committee is separate from the Pest Management Advisory Council. It provides strategic advice to the PMRA on ways to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness without compromising the mandate of the agency. Its mandate specifies that its activities must not encroach on the PMAC. It doesn't report to the PMAC, but it does provide us with an update of its activities after each of its meetings.

In its first year, the advisory council has met three times. We've been provided with background information on the history and role of the PMRA. We've discussed a number of items, including submission review and decision-making in the PMRA, the U.S. FQPA, and pesticide re-evaluation. They have been interesting discussions, sometimes quite contentious. They reflect a process of a group of individuals with divergent views and interests, considering pesticides, starting to work together.

The meetings are open to observers, providing the observers signify their attendance in advance. The meeting reports, which are formally addressed to the minister, also become public documents once they are transmitted.

The committee doesn't try to find a consensus on all matters, and we report divergent views to the minister where there are divergent views at the end of the discussion.

Also of considerable interest to this committee is the council's discussion of proposed amendments to the PCPA. The Minister of Health specifically asked for the advice of the council on whether or not to proceed with amendments as one of its first orders of business. Discussions of this issue took place over two meetings—actually, to some extent, over all three—and I have indicated to the minister that although there was a diversity of views on the amendment, there was general agreement from the advisory council that the tabling of the legislation should proceed. On behalf of the advisory council, I have made that recommendation to the minister.

The discussions of the advisory council on the proposed amendments and on other issues continue to represent a wide variety of viewpoints and interests. The subject of pest management and of pesticides is like that; it's highly visible, potentially very controversial, and technically very difficult. It's a challenging task for the advisory council to weight these issues and provide their advice on the federal pest management regulatory system. We recognize that it's also a challenging task for the PMRA to implement the reforms, and I'm personally pleased to be able to help fill the vital role that has been given to the PMAC.

Mr. Chairman, that completes my introductory remarks.

The Chair: Thank you, Dr. Van Loon. That's very helpful.

Dr. Jarrell, would you like to proceed.

Dr. John Jarrell (Vice-Chair, Pest Management Advisory Council): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I would like to express my appreciation to the committee for the opportunity to discuss some relevant issues related to PMAC.

As Dr. Van Loon has indicated, I'm the current vice-chair, and he is chairing our group in a more official capacity. He has been required to state officially the role and functions of our group, while I have a little more luxury in taking a personal view of the nature of the work.

• 0910

Before discussing these observations, it might be appropriate to discuss some of the elements of personal experience related to pesticides.

First of all, my clinical practice is in reproductive medicine. I looked after infertility and in vitro fertilization programs at McMaster and the University of Calgary for many years, and I recently completed a position as chief medical officer for Calgary Regional Health Authority. The research interests are particular germane to this committee and reflect the following interests.

First, we began studying the chlorinated organic chemicals in ovarian follicular fluid among patients who had in vitro fertilization. Our first study, which was published in 1993, found PCBs, hexachlorobenzene, dieldrin, and DDE regularly in human ovarian tissues. This has been subsequently followed up with additional studies not referred to here.

Second, following the work on hexachlorobenzene, we began working with the environmental health directorate in administering this to primates. We found that hexachlorobenzene was an extraordinarily potent ovotoxin in monkeys. We followed this up with a retrospective review of women exposed to hexachlorobenzene in southeastern Turkey in the late 1950s. What we had predicted would happen from the study with the monkeys was that the women in this Turkey episode would be prematurely menopausal. In actual fact that was not the case. Although we were unable to demonstrate premature menopause, we were able to demonstrate a very close relationship to spontaneous abortion.

Third, we reported the declining human sex ratio, which means fewer males in Canada than in the United States, over the period of 1970 to 1990. This has been consistent with other investigations looking at secular changes in sex ratio. The United States and Canada have marked decreases, predominately involving eastern Canada, Quebec, and the Maritimes.

Fourth, we've been involved with the World Health Organization in investigating and studying whether or not this endocrine disrupter business is actually real. A number of scientists are beginning to study whether or not this idea actually contains scientific merit.

Fifth, we're pursuing the hexachlorobenzene study with regard to the changes in sex ratio in Turkey.

Finally, we've been funded through TSRI to look at the contamination of the fetoplacental unit with organic chlorines.

So there's a fair bit of interest in Canadian reproductive life.

Against that background, it was very much appreciated to be asked to sit on the PMAC. The first reason for sensing that this was a good process was that the agency is establishing its mandate primarily from Health Canada. Although clearly other government departments, particularly Environment, have significant relationships to pesticides, the primary driver of health is a determinant of future success. There's a greater appreciation of the need for integrating basic science with clinical outcomes of humans, and this will only occur with a principal focus on human health.

Secondly, it was apparent that the issues related to pesticides involve many different perspectives and considerations. Issues are very well represented by constituents on the committee. However, health and safety seem to remain paramount, at least from my perspective.

Gaining some degree of consensus on the committee by focusing on the clients, if you wish, is very helpful, just as it is very helpful to engage competing health professionals, such as obstetricians and midwives, by focusing on the patient rather than on the provider. Dr. Van Loon is very capable in that regard.

Thirdly, pesticide policy development is potentially very complex. There are many similarities with the management of pharmaceuticals, which are also complex. Just as pesticides can be very toxic, so can drugs. In the 16th century it was Paracelsus who indicated that basically all drugs are poisons; it just depends on the dose.

I was a little bit troubled to hear testimony yesterday that in the area of endocrine disruption, dose is not a factor, and it's only timing. I would encourage the committee to explore that fact a little but further.

• 0915

In the area of pesticide development, it is essential that the foundation for establishing safety or the therapeutic index is based on sound, rigorous analysis and research. The approach whereby the PMRA is linked to other key components of government is a very mature way of dealing with this complex area, because there is a vast and complex dependency on other departments for success. The attempt to harmonize with other governments on the use of the best approaches to manage risk is appreciated as well. The clearly stated need to have positions that are based on strong, robust science and analysis is essential to informed policy development. Recent investment in Canada in the investigation of human toxicology, the TSRI fund, has been greatly appreciated by researchers in this area. As in other areas of research and development, such investments will pay enormous dividends to Canadians in the future.

Finally, the activities of the committee to date have demonstrated a capacity to move toward generally accepted positions on complex matters. Although the committee cannot be expected to have uniform consensus on all issues, it can be expected to have full discussions with all constituencies on material matters. This has been possible, and one particular example of such broad discussion has been the suggestion to the minister to proceed on a variety of amendments to the Pest Control Products Act. These suggestions will ensure greater transparency; improved specific elements, such as mandatory reporting of adverse effects; and clarified risk management approaches to regulatory policy development.

Although, no doubt, there can be many areas of improvement to the current system of pesticide regulation, the fundamentals appear to have been addressed in a manner that's consistent with the health and safety of Canadians. The process has the full opportunity to be informed of new and emerging strategies and developments, which can be incorporated into new policy. Improved disclosure, engaging participation, and continued oversight can ensure that the system is robust and committed to its stated mandate.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Dr. Jarrell. I'm glad you made a reference to yesterday's discussion and the comment made about dose not being a factor. I hope we'll have a good exchange on that aspect.

We'll start with Mr. Herron, followed by Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Reed.

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have some questions in terms of the formation of the Pest Management Advisory Council. Dr. Van Loon pointed out that its original mandate was announced in 1995, but you didn't get it up and running until 1998.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: The idea was mentioned in 1995. The mandate wasn't actually established until early 1998.

Mr. John Herron: When did your first meeting take place in 1998?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: It took place on November 23.

Mr. John Herron: We heard before the committee that essentially the amendments for the revisions to the pesticides act had been available since 1997. Did you see the amendments at that first meeting on November 23, 1998?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Are you asking if we saw the amendments?

Mr. John Herron: Yes.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: No, we have never seen the amendments. What we have seen is an outline of the legislation, and we did not have that before us on November 23, 1998.

Mr. John Herron: Has that outline changed or evolved since your November 1998 meeting?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Not that we could track. We didn't get much detail on it until February. There was a meeting on, I think, either February 14 and 15 or 15 and 16. Certainly it hasn't changed since that time.

Mr. John Herron: One of the concerns—and both presenters touched on this—is that health and safety have to be paramount in terms of any kinds of amendments that are brought forward. One of the things I find most shocking is that under the current pesticides act documentation is not required to be produced with regard to any potential hazards to the environment or human health. -*-*-*-*DISK$HOC$DATA01:[FIN_EDIT]ENVI06009301.TSE Primarily I'm referring to the workplace safety program, WHMIS. Has the advisory council made it quite clear that material safety data sheets should be required when any new amendments are brought forward?

• 0920

Dr. Richard Van Loon: The council has said that mandatory reporting of adverse effects is an absolutely essential part of the new legislation. We haven't seen regulations; in fact I doubt that regulations have been drafted. I expect that specific reference to things like WHMIS would be in the regulations and not the legislation. But it's certainly in the spirit of what we discussed.

Mr. John Herron: In terms of what you've seen with respect to the framework for the legislation, you haven't had any objections and you're quite comfortable that we'll see mandatory reporting in any new legislation that's brought forward.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I think so, but I could refer that to Dr. Jarrell. He's paid attention to it as well.

Dr. John Jarrell: The discussion we had regarding the proposed amendments has clearly articulated the need for transparency and awareness of information. I think there has been a recognition of business issues that need to be protected through any information-sharing issue. The actual data regarding the chemicals would be available.

Mr. John Herron: My next quick question is on something I find a little difficult to fathom per se. I know if I try to develop a project, report, paper, or anything and work really hard to get it done, I don't want it to collect dust. I want it to be put forward and actually implemented.

Given that the amendments to the legislation have been drafted since 1997, can you give me any kind of rationale for why there has been a holdup in tabling the legislation for two and a half years? Can you help me with that?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: No, because the council certainly doesn't determine when legislation is tabled. I don't like to do this, but I think that question is properly referred to the minister, who controls the timing and presentation of these things.

Mr. John Herron: I may get a chance to do that later on today.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Okay. I will say that having come to our conclusion in PMAC, and having expressed our views to the minister, we are certainly anxious that the legislation should come forward. That's all I can say.

Mr. John Herron: Can I ask another one, Mr. Chair?

The Chair: You can ask one in the next round.

Mr. Lincoln, followed by Mr. Reed and Ms. Catterall.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): Dr. Van Loon, you were saying that the committee has recommended that the minister table the legislation. Was it on the basis of the draft legislation the committee has seen, or purely on the basis of the outline that has been produced by the ministry?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: As I indicated to Mr. Herron, it's on the basis of the outline. The committee has not seen the legislation.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Yesterday there was a long discussion, when Dr. Colborn appeared before us, about the definitions of acceptable risk and unacceptable risk. In the proposed outline, it says health and environmental risks and value will be defined in the act.

I wonder how you can be satisfied to recommend, when we don't know how that definition will appear, on what is acceptable and unacceptable. For example, is the committee of the opinion that acceptable and unacceptable risks will be geared to the most vulnerable individuals in society, in other words, the tiniest individuals?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Let me start with the example first. We're satisfied that the intention of the agency is to follow a risk assessment process that looks not just at adult males or adult females, but also at children of various ages, that relates the probable intake of a child at various ages to the product in question and carefully assesses what the acceptable risk dosage is.

• 0925

Based on the discussion we had with the agency—and I agree we did not look at the legislation per se, because we can't look at the legislation before it's tabled in Parliament—we were satisfied that the intention of the agency and the legislation was appropriate.

Dr. Jarrell may also wish to comment on that.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Does your recommendation specifically put the condition in there that acceptable and unacceptable risks are geared on the basis of the most vulnerable?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Our written report doesn't say that, because in the discussion itself that is the position the agency took. If the government were to come forward with legislation that didn't do that, then our position would change. But we have no reason whatsoever to believe that would be the case.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: In the outline I see nothing at all about multiple impacts, aggregate risks, and cumulative risks. How do we know how this legislation will treat those things?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I don't think we would expect to see in detail in the legislation how the agency would handle multiple risk, because multiple risk is defined by what products or chemicals are at issue. To try to cover all the potential chemical agents in legislation would not be appropriate, in my view at least, and I think in the view of the committee. These things change too rapidly. So those are matters for regulation.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Surely the definition of risk could also include the impact of possible aggregation and accumulation of risk.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: That will be part of the definition, we believe.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Finally, in the outline there are a huge number of exceptions regarding confidential business information. Most people who have appeared before us say that one of the keys to better protection of the public is public access to information. But in the outline we see that the confidential business information, the CBIs, would permit the manufacturers and the ministry to shield a tremendous number of key items of information, such as methods for determining the formulation of a pest control product, including the identity and concentration of its components, etc. Has the council made any specific recommendations for opening public access as wide as possible?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I'll say one thing and then invite Dr. Jarrell to speak a bit about this too.

In our view, what we've seen of the legislation is appropriate. It has to comply with the Privacy Act and other pieces of legislation. Confidential business information is protected by other pieces of legislation as well, so there needs to be consistency. There was also considerable discussion in the council about the need for poison control centres, for example, or physicians to have access to formulations or formulants.

Perhaps Dr. Jarrell could comment on that.

Dr. John Jarrell: As a physician involved in this fairly significantly, it's reassuring to me that the proposed concepts that were presented speak to the need to bring about better information about the product and better information about adverse health effects that occur. There's a reporting requirement on adverse health outcomes that doesn't exist now. So it seems that the information we were provided, that we voted on in a consensus manner, was very much a progressive step forward.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Finally, in reading the outline of the ministry, to lead to legislation, I find a huge number of gaps. It's done in such a generalized form that you don't know what's going to happen. When the legislation is tabled, what would the council do if, for instance, the definitions of risk, the restrictions on public access, for example, were nowhere as satisfactory as you were hoping they would be? Would the council then submit some sort of finding that it was unhappy with the tabled legislation so that it provoked a move in the committee for amendment?

• 0930

Dr. Richard Van Loon: It's never too wise to answer hypothetical questions. What I can say is that we were satisfied with the discussion we had in the council meeting. It was a long discussion. If you looked at the total number of hours spent on this, it was probably nine or ten hours, so there was quite close questioning of the agency. We were satisfied, on the basis of what they told us, that those matters would be satisfactorily dealt with in the legislation.

What would happen if they weren't? That's a hypothetical question that I don't think I could answer.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Reed. To follow are Madame Catterall, Mr. Jordan, and Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mr. Reed, please.

Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Dr. Jarrell, in a former incarnation I sat through a rather lengthy debate on the impact of levels of radiation. There were schools of thought presented that there was no safe level of radiation, even when we demonstrated that the rocks of the Precambrian Shield radiated and that, living in a stone house, you absorb radiation. On the other hand, there was another school of thought that said, yes, there is a safe level of radiation, whatever that is.

Are we dealing with a parallel situation here with pesticides? Is part of what you're doing trying to find out where that level of exposure becomes, in the opinion of experts, safe?

Dr. John Jarrell: I think we are challenged by the fact of what we don't know, as opposed to what we do know. What we don't know is huge. Consequently we have to make judgments with the best available information. As there is greater information made available on exposure levels of humans to a variety of chemicals, it's becoming apparent that we're all exposed to huge numbers of chemicals and we have them in our body compartments. Yet the bodies aren't piling up, so to speak.

There is an element that we need to exercise some degree of judgment as to what actually constitutes risk. The challenge of having one molecule in one living entity causing a 100% adverse effect is very challenging to many individuals. So the element of dose still comes back as something we have to pay particular attention to. That's the very hard work of difficult science, to find those levels, find the exposure levels, and find those that are actually meaningful.

So I agree, I think there's a tremendous tendency to be swept away by the fact that we have PCBs in our body, but we have to be cautious and not overreact to the fact that they're there, because they're in everyone. So I think it's a balance.

Mr. Julian Reed: Would it be a logical thing to say that maybe the focus on pesticides is too narrow a focus? Over the same period, we're exposed to lots of other chemicals too. We use gasoline in our cars every day, and it's a very toxic substance. We spill motor oil on ourselves and all sorts of things. Those are chemicals that we ingest as well. I'm wondering if we're in danger of setting pesticides up as the whipping boy, if you like, when there may be a whole cascade of things in our environment that are contributing to some of the findings.

• 0935

Dr. John Jarrell: I would agree. I'd like to make two points. One is that there are scientific principles that have to apply to all chemicals and all drugs that we are exposed to. To single out pesticides in isolation and set up a different strategy entirely, ignoring the scientific principles that apply to others, is one you would take at a certain amount of risk.

The second one is that clearly we exist in a very complex environment in which causality is an extraordinarily difficult concept. For example, the change in sex ratio that we reported in Canada looks very frightening. It looks as if the chemicals are piling up and Canada's male rate is going down, and it's very frightening. However, the Finnish group, Vartiainen, just reported their paper on changing sex ratios that go back to 250 years before these chemicals even appeared.

So we have to be cautious at leaping to conclusions. My request is that the committee require that due diligence be made on the scientific approaches that are being exercised here and not rush to conclusions.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Catterall, please.

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): I'm a great believer that if the process is reasonably good, the product will be reasonably good. So I want to congratulate you first on deciding to have open meetings. That's fairly unusual for a body like yours.

I was curious about a few things around that, about for instance how people know what's on your agenda. Who would know you're having a meeting that might be focusing on a topic that's of some interest to them?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: The agenda is posted on the PMRA website. The meeting dates are there as well. Also, if you look at the representation on the committee itself, it's very wide. And people talk, appropriately, so there's also word of mouth. Those are the three ways. We don't make an announcement in the Canada Gazette, but close.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: I'm struck by one thing. The advisory council is to advise on the PMRA. It seems to me inappropriate that the executive director of the PMRA is part of the body advising her own agency.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I see what you mean, but I don't find that troubling. It would be quite troubling if she chaired the committee, but it's very valuable.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: That would keep her neutral. That would be fine.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I don't know, chairs can be more or less active, as you know. It's very valuable to us to have her at the table.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: It's valuable to have her at the table as an adviser, but as a decision-maker?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Remember, this is not a decision-making body. It's an advisory body. You know that. Secondly, it doesn't vote, except on procedural matters where it might take a vote, but it never has yet. So votes aren't counted.

When we're discussing a consensus around the table, for example the most important one, the consensus about whether this legislation should go forward or not, she does not speak. I wouldn't invite her to speak.

There are ways to handle it. I think it's preferable to have her there rather than not.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Your comments referred to questioning the agency. Who were you questioning?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Generally not her, but she will speak sometimes. More often it is—-

Ms. Marlene Catterall: So she switches back and forth her roles, does she?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Not very often. It's generally a technical person from the agency who will be making a presentation. When they make the presentation, the questions are addressed to them. I think in the three meetings we've had there might have been three or four instances in total where Claire Franklin has answered a question.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: You have advised the minister to proceed with legislation. What do you consider the most important elements of that legislation?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I'm speaking both for the council and for myself, but first of all it's the openness. It's very difficult to have any openness under the current legislation. It's very difficult—impossible—for the public to have access to the experimental data that goes into the assessment process, and that's required under the new legislation. So increasing the openness and transparency of the process is I think number one for almost everybody at the table, although that would probably not be true for all of the manufacturing groups.

• 0940

Secondly, as Dr. Jarrell has already mentioned, the mandatory reporting of adverse effects, which is not now mandated under the legislation, is very important, as is an authority to make regulations regarding a national sales database. The agency has started on a sales database now, I understand, but it has no authority to require one, and its ability to gather information is quite limited under the current legislation. So that's very important.

There are enhanced enforcement provisions under the new legislation. The old legislation, as the chair has mentioned, is 30-year-old legislation, and as usual under 30-year-old legislation, the penalties and enforcement provisions aren't worth a heck of a lot. So that's also very important.

Finally, it's important to the council, and to me, that the new legislation and its regulations will clarify the risk management approach to regulatory decision-making.

I would say those are the major reasons the council has for supporting the legislation going forward.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Do I have time for one more, Mr. Chair?

The Chair: Yes.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Either practically or legislatively, what do you think is the most important element to make the agency and the whole pest management regulatory scheme more effective?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I personally think that the order I said those in was about right. Transparency is the most important, because the process has more credibility if it's transparent.

I don't know whether Dr. Jarrell would agree.

Dr. John Jarrell: I would agree with that.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Joe Jordan (Leeds—Grenville, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have two questions. The first one is for Dr. Van Loon.

I'm curious about the structure of the advisory committee and then the Economic Management Advisory Committee. Was it a conscious decision that somebody made to keep the economics out of the discussion?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I think so, but I wasn't there when the decision was made.

Mr. Joe Jordan: But if I understand it correctly then, the economic advisory group will simply, within the parameters set out, try to maximize efficiencies and effectiveness without compromising what they do.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: That's right. So it's looking at the internal evaluation and assessment processes, primarily, and trying to ensure that they're done in the most efficient and effective way possible.

The reason our council wanted to have a report from EMAC to PMAC, if we can forgive all the acronyms, is that we were concerned that EMAC shouldn't drive the agency into a situation where efficiency was compromising health. The first mandate of the agency, of the legislation and of our council, is to look at human health, and we want to make sure that remains paramount.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Actually, PMAC to EMAC—I think there's a Dr. Seuss novel there.

Mr. Chair, can I make a suggestion? We don't have EMAC on the witness list. If they're the group...? Is it fair to say they're the group that deals with the industry, in terms of their complaints on how things are going?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: We get them too. But you get more internal management issues out of EMAC.

Mr. Joe Jordan: So I would suggest we could look at perhaps getting them.

My second question is to Dr. Jarrell.

I was struck by the reference to the endocrine disrupter hypothesis. You referenced a World Health Organization study—

A witness: In progress.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Yes. What are the timelines on that? Could you talk generally about the state of the debate in terms of the scientific community? We've heard quite a bit of cumulative testimony here, and I was a little taken aback by your statement that this may simply be a hypothesis. I wonder if you'd like to expand on that a little bit.

Dr. John Jarrell: The task I've had with WHO has been to review the reproductive effects on women regarding the endocrine disrupter hypothesis. It's very important to understand that the theory out there is that chemicals can be acting even in very low concentrations by disrupting the endocrine system in a manner that creates alterations in our reproductive capacity. It's a very compelling area. It draws us into a whole bunch of things that have been going on for many, many years, such as congenital malformations, sex ratio changes, a whole variety of human disorders. And there are some concerns that there are secular trends of these disorders, such as testicular cancer, endometriosis, a variety of things, that are increasing.

• 0945

The nature of the area is such that the endocrine system is extraordinarily complex and the issue of being able to demonstrate causality, as I referred to earlier, is the difficult bridge to cross. As we heard yesterday, there can be very clear associations of one element of exposure to an effect, which may not have anything to do with the mechanism. For example, the DDT story on soft eggshells was thought to be an endocrine disruption and is not. It's another form of toxicology, another toxic event than endocrine.

The actual science is very complex. I went into this, as I was invited to participate by WHO, thinking we'd be able to show this as pretty much a slam dunk. The more we review the available information, the more my sense is that this is a very complex area and we have to be very cautious about jumping to conclusions.

The story on endometriosis in primates is one area where there's very limited information. The fact that small concentrations of chemicals can influence an endocrine receptor really challenges our understanding of the physiology of endocrine receptors.

So this is an area that requires very careful consideration. Our report will be coming out. The deadline for my section was several weeks ago and I believe there's a meeting in Switzerland to bring it all together later this year. I think it's anticipated that in the new year a final report will be out.

The Chair: All right. We have Madame Kraft Sloan, Ms. Carroll, Madame Torsney, and the chair.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.): Thank you very much. I listened with interest to your discussion with Mr. Jordan, when you were talking about EMAC and PMAC and how one dealt with economics and one didn't. I find it a little strange that with so many industry representatives you're not dealing with some economic aspects of pesticide management. I would think those biases are pretty strongly held, so I would doubt that economic interests are totally filtered out of the PMAC.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Perhaps I didn't say it loudly enough or clearly enough, but PMAC does deal with economic interests as well, and I mentioned that in my response to Mr. Jordan.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: All right.

I just wanted to go back to some of the things you were talking about when you were having the discussion with Mr. Lincoln, when you were talking about the recommendations to go ahead with the legislation. You said you had had a fairly lengthy discussion with the agency and you felt it was important to go ahead. Was there a written recommendation from the council?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Yes, there is.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Can we have a copy of that?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Yes. You could go to the website of the agency and get it right now.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Okay, that's great.

Was this satisfaction shared by all of the members of the council?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: By and large, yes. Some have some reservations, but for the most part.... Well, I would say the way the discussion went was that there was a lot of questioning about the nature of the legislation, the intent of the legislation, what would be in regulations, what would be in the legislation, how the agency would actually administer—a lot of quite close questioning. There were some concerns expressed by practically everybody around the table, another round or two of discussion in which a lot of the concerns were dealt with, and, in the end, consensus on the part of those around the table, to which I would say there was only one significant exception, and that was the PCPI. The consensus was that the legislation should go ahead.

• 0950

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Dr. Jarrell, you were talking about adverse health effects. When we're talking about risk management, is this one of the criteria you'd be looking at, the idea of adverse health effects?

I'm sorry, we need a response for the record.

Dr. John Jarrell: I'm sorry, could you rephrase the question? Is that in relation to the committee's activity?

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: It's in relationship to the proposed legislation. Is this something you would see as an important definition when you're looking at risk management?

Dr. John Jarrell: Absolutely. I think this is one of the reasons I'm quite interested in the committee's existence, because as clinicians we don't have that information. This will be very valuable information for researchers as well as for people who are exposed to pesticides.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Right. I guess my concern would be the use of “adverse”. I'm not sure how you would take into consideration some of the more subtle effects, such as intergenerational effects.

Dr. John Jarrell: If the intergenerational effects were of a negative quality, I assume they would be considered adverse. I'm not sure which ones you'd be referring to.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: When this committee has received any advice on issues around management of toxic substances and things like that, there has been some concern raised about having “adverse” included in the definitions, simply because you're raising a bar that would be too high or it would also disallow other kinds of health effects such as intergenerational health effects.

Dr. John Jarrell: Well, I don't have any difficulty with measuring an effect as long as it's clear, with good specificity, sensitivity, positive predictive value, and you know what you're measuring. The worry is that if you're measuring fuzz you'll get fuzz.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Right.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Could I add just a bit more, in response?

First of all, intergenerational effects are extremely difficult to track, as Dr. Jarrell has said. The discussion in the council recognized that. It also recognized, however, that when you're dealing with something like that the precautionary principle really does come into play. It's very difficult to apply the precautionary principle under the current legislation, whereas it's much easier under the proposed legislation.

So we felt that intergenerational effects would be more easily taken into account through new legislation than through the old.

Secondly, although we didn't get a long way into the science of this, and although I don't claim to be a technical expert in this area, a lot of this really comes down to the same way in which initial risk is assessed. That's animal experimentation, where fortunately at least the generations turn over more quickly and we can get an assessment more quickly.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Right.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Carroll, please.

Ms. Aileen Carroll (Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Actually, Dr. Jarrell, Mr. Jordan has pretty much covered my question, which related to the World Health Organization's study on endocrine disrupters. I was interested in hearing what findings you've had to date, and you certainly shared that. But mainly I think the focus your remarks lends is on the complexity of the issues.

Where it is such an incredibly complex area, at what point would the so-called precautionary principle kick in, where you would acknowledge the intricacies ahead of you, but the ongoing dilemma, if it can be referred to as that, is running at a parallel course? Where would the precautionary principle enter your research?

Dr. John Jarrell: This is a very good question. My sense is that the processes and the strategies that have been implemented, in large measure, are a reaction to the precautionary concept. In other words, the whole area of exploring human exposure levels is part of a precautionary response. I don't see the precautionary principle as a binary thing, that it doesn't exist or it exists; it's a part of our reaction to a very complex series of events.

• 0955

The whole endocrine disrupter hypothesis is that very low concentrations of chemicals are actually having an affect on our reproductive capacity. These are in nanogram quantities; parts per billion quantities are doing that.

In order to have a mature and robust way of delineating that theory, we need information. So part of that precautionary response is the collection of information, the collection of data on adverse or other effects, what we can measure with some degree of validity.

My personal take on the precautionary principle is that it's not an axe that falls suddenly, until we have new information. It is part of a complex array of responses from many agencies within the government body.

The Chair: Thank you. Madame Torsney, please.

Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.): Thank you.

Dr. Jarrell, I was just meeting with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International and I gather we have some hot spots in North America. Is that part of the whole process of endocrine disruption? Is there any work being done? It's Chicago-based, my area of Hamilton-Burlington, and here in Ottawa apparently that there are a couple of hot spots.

Dr. John Jarrell: Certainly in Alberta, in our aboriginal community diabetes is a tremendously serious situation. To be able to tease out what is a consequence of a low level of an environmental chemical compared to genetics, genetic predisposition, dietary intake, and activity is extraordinarily complex. I know of no information that confirms that relationship.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: Okay, thank you.

The Chair: All right, we have time for a second round. I'm sure Madame Girard-Bujold would like to ask a question, and the chair too, and then we will go around the table again.


Ms. Girard-Bujold, please.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Gentlemen, some pesticides manufacturers are members of your council. You are the ones who are going to suggest to the Minister which amendments should be included in the legislation he is going to table. You know everyone says that pesticides which have not been assessed are in fact being used. There should be some reassessments made. Are these manufacturers willing to cooperate with the government to have these pesticides reassessed?

Dr. Jarrell, you were saying earlier that some research should be undertaken to establish the definition of risk as well as the level of exposure which should be considered harmful. Did members of your committee who represent all segments of society take any steps to ensure that such research is being undertaken, so that we can improve our knowledge of human health?

Several government levels are involved. There is the federal, the provincial and the municipal. Did your committee take into account what other levels of government do before making any recommendation to the Minister? Thank you.


Dr. Richard Van Loon: Yes. First of all, with respect to all government levels, there is a representative on our committee of the federal-provincial pesticides council, so that the provincial levels of government have been part of these discussions and are, I'd say, among the very strongest supporters of new legislation.

Secondly, certainly we haven't had reports in the council of pesticides being used that have had no assessment. I guess that's a question that would have to be referred to the agency, not to the council, but I don't think the council knows of any.

Third, I would say it's a strength, but an interesting challenge, that the council has representatives on it of environmental groups, health groups, and pesticide manufacturers and users. It's a typical stakeholder group.

• 1000

I would say that in the discussions of the new legislation, the manufacturing groups and maybe secondarily the user groups have been less supportive, I would say, about new legislation than the environmental groups and the health groups, because they feel the old legislation is somewhat more advantageous to them. But they recognize that the openness and transparency created by the new legislation and the higher legitimacy of the pesticide review process will be to their benefit in the end, so they are willing to agree to the legislation. But it's been an interesting discussion.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: It means that they support your suggestions.

I didn't know you. It's the first time I hear about the council. You say that you make suggestions to the Minister. Here, it says:

    The Council may set up working groups to examine specific issues and develop proposed solutions for the Council's consideration. Issues to be examined may be raised by the Minister, by the PMRA or by Council members.

Does this mean that you can strike working groups to study specific subjects, but that you have first to consult the Minister to see if he agrees or, rather, that you can do so without his approval and that you report to him later what you have done?


Dr. Richard Van Loon: We have the power to go ahead and strike the groups without ministerial approval and tell him later what we've done. We don't have to ask his permission.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Thank you.


The Chair: Very briefly, I have a few questions.

Dr. Van Loon, regarding the report your council made to the minister that was referred to earlier, could you make a copy available to the clerk of the committee?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Sure.

The Chair: Thank you. The discussion earlier also was on the question of establishing a national database. I'm told by our researchers that according to section 26 of the regulations, that section could be used for the creation of a national database. Would you agree with that?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I'm not sufficiently expert in the legislation to know whether it could be used or not. Our advice is that the new legislation will give them more authority to do it.

The Chair: But in the absence of the new legislation, would you have a look at section 26 of the regulations when the discussion on the national database arose?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: We could certainly do that. We're aware that the agency is collecting sales data now. We're just not certain of the quality of that sales data. Our advice is that there is some question about the authority of that section.

The Chair: Can you outline what they are?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Which are?

The Chair: The shortcomings of this section.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: No, just that there would be a stronger authority under the new legislation.

The Chair: So the section is not strong enough?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: That's our advice.

The Chair: Judging from the mandate of your council, perhaps you have enough experience to indicate to us what are the advantages and disadvantages of a mixed mandate.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Of a mixed mandate for the council or the agency?

The Chair: For the council first and then for the agency.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: What do you mean by a mixed mandate?

The Chair: What is written here in the second bullet and the third bullet of your mandate.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: You have it directly in front of you and I don't. Could you cite those for me?

The Chair: The second bullet says “the programs of PMRA be consistent with the needs of Canadians”. The third says “provide advice and a forum for the exchange of views of all key stakeholders”.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I must be dense this morning, but I don't see a conflict in those two bullets.

The Chair: I didn't mention conflict; I just said that is a very broad area for a mixed mandate, which may lead to different goals on the part of participants and stakeholders.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Thank you. No, in my view, that's quite appropriate.

• 1005

The Chair: I'm not asking whether it's appropriate; I'm asking what the advantages and disadvantages are within each mandate of the council.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: In my view, it's quite appropriate because there are advantages. One advantage is that a stakeholder group is intended to represent all of the stakes. This council does it very well, so if you want to have a discussion of all of the interests surrounding pesticide management, this membership and that mandate seem to fit very nicely.

The Chair: Thank you.

Earlier, Dr. Jarrell, you seemed to agree when it was said that our pesticides are being set up as a whipping boy. Would you elaborate on that?

Dr. John Jarrell: I don't think I used that term.

Mr. Julian Reed: I did.

The Chair: You did not use that term; one of the members of the committee used that term, and you agreed with him.

Dr. John Jarrell: My sense of agreement was that there are scientific principles that relate to any chemical that should not be forgotten or excluded in the debate about pesticides. These are the full characteristics of drug physiology, or chemical physiology. They have many different properties that need to be realized. They operate through receptors. There are texts involved, but they involve the texts of chemicals and drugs; pesticides are a part of that, but they're not the bigger picture.

I guess my plea is that pesticides are extraordinarily important to Canadians, but let's not lose sight of the bigger picture.

The Chair: That's very helpful.

You also said something interesting earlier. You took objection to a statement made yesterday that dose is not a factor. Would you elaborate on your objection, please?

Dr. John Jarrell: My concern was in hearing that dose wasn't a factor, that it was timing. But they're both important. I guess the progression of that logic would mean that exposure to one molecule by one individual would result in a 100% effect rate. If that's not the case, then we're dealing with dose, and there are no examples that I'm familiar with where exposure of an individual organism to one molecule results in a 100% effect rate. So dose is important. Dose is the basis of pharmacology, and to exclude that is quite troubling.

The Chair: Thank you.

Finally, I have a question that either of you may want to answer. What are your thoughts on the shift of onus? We have heard on several occasions a recommendation to the effect that the onus should be shifted to the producer to prove that a substance is not harmful. Do you have any thoughts about a shift of onus?

Dr. John Jarrell: What we're speaking about here is an accountability framework. In the layers of accountability that exist, there is clearly an increasing requirement for manufacturers to be accountable. But that does not in any way expiate the accountabilities of other agencies.

The Chair: Thank you.

On the second round, We will start with Mr. Herron, followed by Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. John Herron: One of the questions I've had—and I think I've received some mixed responses in the past—is that if the legislation is brought forward and has proper documentation in terms of describing the hazards to human health and the environment, there's a fair amount of concern that information would be related to the active ingredient of the pesticide, versus all ingredients. Could you elaborate on where you think those amendments will go in that regard?

• 1010

Dr. Richard Van Loon: In our discussions, that certainly came up frequently. The formulation counts as well as the active ingredients. Our understanding is that the agency will take both into account. So they are looking at specific products, with specific instructions, in specific types of containers for specific uses. That means looking at the formulation as well as the active ingredients. But there's a prior stage in the assessment, and that is to ensure that the active ingredients themselves are subject to evaluation under the risk management framework.

Mr. John Herron: So you believe the complete formulation of a pesticide will be looked at under whatever regulatory framework they choose to use—WHMIS, MSDS program or whatever.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I think so.

Mr. John Herron: Okay. A few of the questions that were prepared by—

The Chair: Would you mind, Mr. Herron...? We have limited time.

Mr. John Herron: Yes. I'm done. Thank you.

The Chair: Let's see whether others would like to ask one question.

Mr. Lincoln, followed by Mr. Reed.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: I have a question for Dr. Van Loon and one for Dr. Jarrell.

Dr. Van Loon, in the outline for the legislation there is no mention of the precautionary principle, no wording of it. Would you confirm to us that you have specifically recommended the precautionary principle be inscribed in the legislation?

Dr. Jarrell, if I've understood you well, you're saying the whole discussion about endocrine disruption is premature, or has not been established and founded in fact. There's a lot of information that still must be gathered.

Yesterday we heard Dr. Colborn. Her book contains a slew of recommendations. She says that although we can't pinpoint exactly what's happening in regard to the human body, there's enough evidence from rats and other animals to lead us to be extremely careful. She recommends the highest caution. She says there's enough evidence out there, but you say we should wait until we get more information.

First, do you agree or disagree with Dr. Colborn's thesis and recommendations? Second, isn't that a bit similar to the argument about lead? We had to have more and more information, and meanwhile people were being poisoned for years until we were sure it was bad.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: With respect to the precautionary principle, you will recall that we've not seen the legislation, and our express view to the agency was that the precautionary principle must be part of the management protocols of the agency. Whether or not it needs to appear in regulations or in the legislation is not something I could speak about, because I'm not a legislative drafter.

Dr. John Jarrell: My concern about the presentation yesterday was that dose was not important. I feel dose is critical.

I'm in agreement. I've been investigating reproductive effects from an endocrine perspective for years, and this is an area I'm tremendously interested in. We went to Turkey to find out whether or not hexachlorobenzene was causing ovarian failure in women. What we found out was that it had a strong relationship to abortion instead. Despite everything we predicted from monkeys, the ovarian toxicity in monkeys was not seen in humans.

My position is that in the endocrine disrupter field, you can demonstrate where poisoning occurs. Vinclozolin causes male genital anomalies in high concentrations. In high concentrations in Florida swamps, you will see disorders of the penis in alligators. In very high concentrations you will find disruption.

The endocrine disrupter hypothesis, however, is that it is a matter of dose. The low-level concentrations we are now currently exposed to, in picogram, nanogram and femtogram quantities, are influencing our current reproductive capacity. That's a dose discussion. There is clearly evidence that we can poison the system in very high concentrations—absolutely, without question.

• 1015

That's not the question with regard to the endocrine disrupter hypothesis. That question is, are the chemicals we are exposed to in this room influencing our reproduction and causing disruption to our health? That's where I'm saying, please be cautious and don't jump to conclusions. What seems to be an absolutely blindingly clear position can be disrupted by the next scientific article. We have to base this on science and not conjecture.

The Chair: Thank you.

Next is Mr. Reed, followed by Madame Catterall, Mr. Jordan, and Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mr. Julian Reed: Mr. Chairman, I don't know what time we have left.

Ms. Aileen Carroll: We have 40 minutes.

Mr. Julian Reed: That was just a warning, was it?

The Chair: One question, Mr. Reed.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you.

I have one quick question for Dr. Jarrell. You've done extensive work on hexachlorobenzene, as one example. Has similar work been done on other chemical bases that are used in pesticides, such as organophosphates or heavy metals? Has there been adequate work done?

Dr. John Jarrell: There are huge areas of research out there. But as I mentioned at the very beginning, it's what we don't know that's critical. The areas are just so staggering that our need to know is incredible.

I just came back from a dioxin conference in Venice, where the entire meeting was committed to dioxin organochlorines. The fascinating thing is that this is the most carcinogenic chemical ever known in rats and mice, and yet they can't demonstrate any effect on humans. It causes acne.

We can't make absolute transformations of animal data into human, so we need to begin to concentrate more on human health effects. That's why I find this process we're involved in to be very appealing. The legislation is moving in the right direction, with a concentration on human health.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Catterall.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: That's a good point for my question to start with, because this is the environment committee, and we won't be dealing with the ultimate legislation. So far we've been concentrating mostly on the health impact. Is it possible that your committee would be looking at the effects on the environment that may or may not also affect human health in the short term? I'm just interested to know if the committee has addressed itself to that or would be doing so.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Yes. If you look at the membership of the committee, it has a number of environmental interests represented there, and they bring to the table what you would expect them to bring to the table, which is environmental concerns. For example, the World Wildlife Federation is there, and it expresses the kinds of concerns I think you've heard in this committee. So they are at the table, and they are part of the discussion.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: In addition to the impact on animals and so on, what about other long-term, pervasive impacts on soil, water, and atmosphere? Is that part of what your committee would be looking at?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: They could be. They haven't been much discussed at the table, but there's certainly no reason they couldn't be.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: So the main focus of your council is human health.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: It doesn't have to be—

Ms. Marlene Catterall: From the point of view of our committee, I'm not sure how we distinguish between the two or whether there is in fact a distinct environmental element to be looked at. For instance, a few years ago some long-buried coal tar was unearthed in Ottawa. Now, whoever buried that didn't know it was cancer-causing, and I suppose you might look at that as being an environmental impact waiting to cause problems.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: That intertwining of environmental and health issues is in front of us all the time. I think it would be the view of most of the members of the committee that when we're talking about health, we're talking about environment, and vice versa, for just the reasons you put forward.

• 1020

Ms. Marlene Catterall: But there's no way of saying these things are having an environmental impact now, and we're not seeing a health impact, but in and of itself it's not a good idea that these things be allowed to have this impact on any element of the ecology.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: That certainly could come up, and at times it has, but it hasn't been the main focus of our discussion. If you look at the interests represented around the table, there are health interests, environmental interests, manufacturer interests, and user interests. Of those, the environmental interests have tended more often than not to talk about health aspects rather than environmental aspects, but there's no reason they couldn't. They're certainly not constrained.

The Chair: This will be your last question.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: I appreciated the reminder that pesticides are only one element of risk and that we shouldn't focus only on that or not be aware of the others.

One thing that struck me during the few hearings on this I've participated in is the fact that in the requirements for information related to workers' health in the use of these chemicals, pesticides are specifically exempt. Would it be a major step forward if in fact that exemption were lifted?

Dr. John Jarrell: I believe there's some very clear information about having the formulations and the drugs available to physicians who are treating patients. That has to be available. It simply has to be available.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you.

Next is Mr. Jordan, followed by Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Dr. Jarrell, I just want to go back to the endocrine disrupter hypothesis. You talked about the fact that effects found in animals aren't necessarily duplicated in humans. Is part of the hurdle here that there are certain ethical constraints on what you can do to humans? I just looked at the footnotes. Turkey was chosen because there was mass exposure to that chemical. You have to kind of find the conditions for experimental research in a random way, so it adds time. If you could do whatever you needed to do to humans, could this be proven definitively, or is it still going to be an extremely complex thing?

Dr. John Jarrell: I don't think we need to go to that extreme.

Mr. Joe Jordan: I have no idea what that means.

Dr. John Jarrell: There are levels of burden of evidence, if you wish, in the area of causality that are applied to a clinical investigation when you're looking to prove that an adverse effect is due to a drug. There are levels at which this has been done. Dr. Sacket from McMaster, who's now at Oxford, published several very seminal works on how to make sure with some degree of probability that an adverse effect is due to the drug. That's what we're dealing with. We're dealing with the burden of evidence. That can begin to be applied to the whole area of chemicals and human outcomes. It's new. It's emerging. This whole area is just beginning to explode. So I think there are ways we can get some of that information, but we'd probably never be 100% certain.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Is that a money issue?

Dr. John Jarrell: There are always money issues. There's never enough money, as you know. But as I mentioned in our document, it is tremendously positive that the government has identified TSRI funding for the first time. Toxic substances funding is an incredibly positive step forward for Canada.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Thank you.

The Chair: Madame Kraft Sloan, please.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Thank you very much.

I get a little concerned when we talk about what is science and what is not science. When Rachel Carson came out with her book, she was persecuted, and it was suggested her work was not science.

I think one of the points Dr. Colborn was making yesterday in a very eloquent and impassioned way was that we need a new way of looking at toxicology. She wasn't suggesting we abandon the scientific method or scientific principles. She was saying that the kinds of tests we have, toxicology tests—you'll have to forgive me, I'm a lay person in this area—were not adequate to measure some of the concerns she had; she was very concerned about the effects of chemicals on thyroid. And there is quite a body of literature out there.

• 1025

Anyway, I wanted to ask a question with regard to the precautionary principle. I'm taking a look at the outline provided for the proposed new legislation, and it says:

    Diverse and conflicting interests in relation to pest management must be balanced within the regulatory system in a way that is consistent with the overall public well being.

I've been in my position long enough to know that when you start talking about the word “balance”, you're not talking about the precautionary principle. So I have a great deal of concern, when I see recommendations for the preamble and I don't see a definition of “precautionary principle” articulated in here, that this legislation is really going to do much to protect human health.

I'm wondering about your comments on that.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I would go back to the word “balance”, because I think it's the right word. I sit in a chair of a stakeholder committee where we are seeking balance. I take it as our remit in that committee to give the minister advice that is founded on all of the interests around the table, and the interests around the table include food producers, farmers, manufacturers, and so on. You know the list.

So when the agency is looking at the assessment of new products or formulations, we think its first responsibility is to ensure that it can assess the risk. Its second responsibility is to ensure, if the product is a useful product and should be used, that the risk is minimized. But it's not the view of the committee in general, although it might be the view of some members on the committee, that a product like a pesticide, which is in many cases validly a poison, can be absolutely risk free. So the balance the agency has to seek, which the legislation has to seek, and certainly what we seek in the council, is a balance between the necessity of the product and the risk that's entailed in the use of what is inherently sometimes quite a dangerous product.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: But it seems to me that human health has to be paramount. It has to be higher than economic interest. A lot of people make the argument that sustainable development is a balance between environmental and economic interests, and certainly we were subjected to an industry barrage on the whole CEPA legislation that said some of the recommendations or the amendments that the committee was trying to put forward did not find the balance, that it did not give fair play to the economic side. I think perhaps sustainable development is not a balance between environment and economy, but it is an integration of economy, environment and equity or social consideration.

So I always am troubled, very troubled, when I see “balance” here, because this committee, when we did the CEPA legislative review in the past year, looked at things like the Treasury Board guidelines, which clearly indicated that any new regulation had to meet a business impact test, had to meet some of the economic considerations. So there's a triple whammy. When you see legislation being proposed that wants to have a balance with these sorts of things, it really worries me, because it's very difficult in this system to move ahead and do something progressive on environment and health.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Yes. Certainly the point that human health should be the first criterion is one that I think all members of the committee, certainly the great majority of them, would accept. Secondly, the call for sustainable development is one that members of the committee also would accept. Most members of the committee I think are not troubled by the word “balance”, because they are participants in a multi-stakeholder committee that is mandated with trying to seek some balance.

• 1030

The consensus in the committee after the discussion of the legislation is better is better. What I mean by this is that the legislation, or the outline that's before us, appeared to us to be a significant improvement on what was already in place. It appeared to be an adequate balance—I'm sorry for the word, but we use it and favour it—among all the interests that were at the table. If we sought legislation that was perfect from an environmentalist's point of view, it would be highly imperfect from a farmer's or a manufacturer's point of view and we would wind up in a stalemate. That would mean being stuck with the current legislation, which we do not think is superior to the proposed legislation.

The Chair: Thank you very much. We have to move on. This is a fascinating subject, balance versus integration, but I want to make sure we can complete the list in the second round.

I have now Madame Carroll.

Ms. Aileen Carroll: No.

The Chair: No. Madame Girard-Bujold. No? Then I have a chance for a second round. Then we'll go for a third round and we'll start with you, Mr. Herron.

Conceptually speaking, a balance means an outlook that separates the economy from health. This is why it is a troublesome term. We appreciate the fact, Dr. Van Loon, that you are comfortable with balance, but you should also know that this is not universally shared.

The alternative to the balancing act, so to speak, would be to integrate health and economic considerations, not to see them as separates ones. Of course, by integrating them, then you would certainly give a greater emphasis to health considerations than through the balancing approach.

It's this conceptual integration of objectives that makes sustainable development so interesting and so difficult to implement, one has to admit. But I would caution against this idea of balancing, because when you do that, conceptually you see health as a separate item from economic factors.

Evidently you do not agree, and I would like to hear why.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I think in some ways we agree that it should be possible to have economic development that is consistent with good and best health for the population. If I understand correctly, though, you said that the term “balance” separates the economy from health.

The Chair: The act alone of balancing separates.

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I don't know, we may be getting too far into semantics for my comfort. But our view would be that the two are not inconsistent and that they're not wildly separate. It has been mentioned more than once at the table that there is actually a far more powerful correlation between morbidity and mortality and economic underdevelopment or unemployment, or economic disadvantage, than the correlation with any chemical agent at all.

So the committee does recognize that economic well-being is fundamentally associated with good health. But that's not the main part of our discussions. The main part of our discussion is to try to recommend to the agency and the minister, not just legislation—we've been focusing on the legislation, and that's very understandable—but legislation and procedures within the agency that put health first and that also allow for economic growth, economic development, and the interests of farmers and manufacturers.

The Chair: But in reading your mandate, the word “health” doesn't even appear.

• 1035

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I'm untroubled by that because it is the starting point of our discussions.

The Chair: So are you willing to re-examine your mandate in light of what you said?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: I don't think it's necessary, because I'm satisfied that the discussion.... I'm willing to if the council wants to, but our discussions have started from the starting point of health and I'm satisfied that they would continue to do so.

The Chair: Thank you.

Dr. Jarrell, briefly, could we revisit the issue of the shift of onus and could you give us again your views?

Dr. John Jarrell: I'm not sure I understand all of the complexities of shift of onus, but as I tried to indicate earlier, I certainly recognize that manufacturers have responsibilities that are becoming increasingly apparent to everyone. And I support that.

My sense is that why this is such a vibrant committee is that the members from the manufacturing industry are aware of their responsibilities broadening. But I don't think that with the shifting of onus one can shift accountability, and the government has the requirement to provide a system that regulates pesticides in a manner that looks to the safety of Canadians.

So although there is an onus on manufacturers to provide good data, accurate data, accurate information, and that onus is increasing, I don't think we can look to them to provide the regulatory framework or the framework of safety. I think that still resides in the government's hands.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Herron, would you like to proceed with your question, and then we'll break up.

Mr. John Herron: To pick up on the astute questioning from my friend and colleague, the member for York North, her comments were with respect to the precautionary principle, and the word that was used, on “necessity”. I was intrigued by that.

I would assume that when we're assessing a pesticide per se, we want to have legislation that would study its intended use as a pesticide. That's a given, right? So when I look at this, I think there can be clearly a consensus among most persons that pesticides will be a component of perhaps our agrarian regime. But on the “necessity” word, when it comes in particular to the use in terms of home lawn care, the excessive use of pesticides on a community-based regime, shouldn't the precautionary principle, or the weighing of risks versus benefits, be far more aggressive for domestic use versus agrarian use?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Dr. Jarrell may want to comment on that. I will only comment that we have had discussions of that in the council. We have not come to a conclusion on it. Certainly there are many in the council who would express your point of view, but we have not made a recommendation. I don't have any personal position on that, so I really can't say any more.

Mr. John Herron: No recommendation on that at all?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: Not yet, no. That's not to say we wouldn't. To come to a recommendation, we would need to focus on it for a couple of hours, and it's not at all to say we wouldn't do that in the future. We just haven't done it yet.

Mr. John Herron: And I have a comment. Something I was confused about was that you believe the amendments that were brought forward to November 23, 1998, and the amendments that will be potentially tabled this century, in this millennium or this decade, have not been altered, that it's essentially the same document in terms of what you're seeing. So when you've made your recommendations, how comfortable are you that any changes would be reflected in the legislation if you haven't seen anything to the contrary so far?

Dr. Richard Van Loon: That's an important question, and we're comfortable in that we did not recommend any significant changes to what we saw. Remember that what we saw has a very long history. It goes back to the pesticide review in 1990. It's picked up again in the government's commitment in 1995 and in draft legislation that was prepared in 1994 and 1995 and was consulted on widely across the country. If you look at the PRR, the draft legislation, and the material we saw, it hasn't really changed significantly.

• 1040

I think there's a reason for that, and that is, ours is not the first multi-stakeholder type of discussion of this legislation, and the balance that was found in 1990 is not significantly different from the balance that would be found in 2000, because I think the balance that was found in 1990 was a pretty good one. So we were comfortable. That's why we're not worried.

The Chair: Thank you.

The last question is from to Mr. Lincoln, and then we will have to go to vote.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Dr. Jarrell, when we come back to our discussion about endocrine disruption and various chemicals and the question of dosage, you say you agree in principle with Dr. Colborn. Where you disagree is on the question of dosage, where she is saying we shouldn't worry even about small doses.

But isn't the counter-argument to what you say the fact of the cumulative effect of small doses over the years, of small doses of different chemicals that mix together and form a soup, their impacts on water, on much smaller elements of the food chain, such as fish, that get in or are ingested by people over the years? So isn't her argument the fact that a small dose once might be okay, but the cumulative effect of small doses on ecosystems and the food chain will have very serious effects?

Dr. John Jarrell: I have no difficulty with that. That's the whole concept of bioaccumulation, biomagnification. It's well known. The issue is, are those concentrations having an effect, having been created by low levels of environmental contamination?

I agreed with much of what was said yesterday. My concern was in regard to the element of dose. Everything you've mentioned is based on dose. Dose is important; it's critical to pharmacology. When I heard that dose wasn't important, I wanted to highlight to the committee that there are a lot of people who would take exception to that. Dose is critical.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: But regardless of whether you disagree with what she said over this particular question, isn't it better to be safe than sorry and not just wait until we have proven whether she is right on this or she's not?

Dr. John Jarrell: My question would be that it would be very interesting to see an example of where a system exists where dose is not important in the creation of an abnormal human health effect. I would like to see that published.

In terms of caution and worry, I spend my time looking after people who have had problems with their reproductive system. I am concerned. I don't disagree with much of what was said yesterday; my point is simply that you can't exclude dose from a discussion. That's all.

The Chair: All right, on that note we will adjourn, because we have 20 minutes until the vote.

It was a terrific meeting. We want to thank you, Dr. Van Loon and Dr. Jarrell. That was extremely helpful.

The meeting is adjourned.