Phosphites Now Under PMRA Jurisdiction
By WCTA staff
In late October 2020, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency posted trade memoranda ‘T-4-121-Regulation of phosphite/phosphorus acid materials represented for use as fertilizers’.
The notice starts by stating, “The CFIA has conducted an extensive review of the available scientific literature and has determined that phosphite materials, when sold on their own, do not meet the definition of a plant nutrient and thus are not “fertilizers”".
The next paragraph continues, “In addition, phosphites do not meet the definition of a "supplement" as they do not improve the physical condition of the soil nor do they aid plant growth or crop yield. Based on the documented fungicidal mode of action of these products they fall under the purview of the Pest Control Products Act which is administered by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA).”
If you didn’t know it, the CFIA regulates fertilizers in Canada while the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), a branch of Health Canada, is responsible for pesticide regulation. In comparison, pesticides are much more stringently regulated to ensure they pose minimal risk to human health and the environment. For one thing, you need a pesticide applicator certificate to apply pesticides.
Twitter was not happy about the news, posted by Dr. Jesse Benelli on Jan 23:
“That decision will result in the loss of at least a dozen low environmental impact and low cost strategies for handling plant stress. A huge loss for turf managers that want to be more sustainable. Huge win for big chem.”
“What does this mean for plant nutrition products that have Phosphites for the Canadian scene? Do these products get pulled ASAP until a company steps up to go through the Canadian Registration process?”
"Does this include phosphates that don't list disease control or suppression? What if it's sold as a nutrient alone?"
"Could you tell me what the toxicity levels are for phosphites? I realize they may all have differences but in general what acute and chronic toxicity levels could we expect?"
"Are we sure this won’t become just a labeling and claims issue? As in don’t make the claim of phosphite on the label and move on? Many foliar products already follow those rules"
While phosphite turf fertilizers have become fairly popular in recent years, according to the PMRA pesticide label search engine, there are just two phosphite fungicides registered for turf in Canada:
• Turf-Phite Pro Fungicide, Winfield Solutions, LLC.
• Phostrol-Pro, Belchim Crop Protection Canada
What does this decision mean for turf managers?
It’s going to take some further investigation to answer questions about this decision, look for another article from us on the subject in a few weeks. We do know some things presently:
Q. “What does this mean for plant nutrition products that have Phosphites for the Canadian scene? Do these products get pulled ASAP until a company steps up to go through the Canadian Registration process?”
A. The regulations take full effect Oct 26, 2023 so no, nothing will be pulled by the regulator(s) at this time.
Q. Does this include phosphates that don't list disease control or suppression? What if it's sold as a nutrient alone?
A. According to the bulletin, the decision applies to phosphites only and will apply to all phosphites no matter how they are marketed or combined, ie. nutrient, supplement, plant defence activator, soil conditioner, etc.
Q. Could you tell me what the toxicity levels are for phosphites? I realize they may all have differences but in general what acute and chronic toxicity levels could we expect?
A. Here’s an excerpt from one phosphite/potassium liquid fertilizer MSDS sheet we found:
11.1 ORAL: May cause stomach cramps and/or nausea.
11.2 DERMAL: May cause slight irritation, especially from prolonged exposure.
May cause redness.
11.3 INHALATION: None expected but inhalation may cause mild irritation of
nasal mucous membranes
11.4 CHORNIC/CARCINOGENICTY: Data not available
11.5 TERATOLOGY: Data not available
11.6 REPRODUCTION: Data not available
11.7 MUTAGENICITY: Data not available
11.8 EYES: May cause temporary eye irritation.
A2. Here’s an excerpt from a US MSDS sheet for an agricultural phoshpite fungicide we found:
Oral: Rat LD50: >5000mg/kg
Dermal: Rabbit LD50: >5000mg/kg
Inhalation: Rat 4-hr LC50: >2.06 mg/l
Eye Irritation: Rabbit: slightly irritating
Skin Irrigation: Rabbit: slightly irritating
Skin Sensitization: Not a contact sensitizer in guinea pigs following repeated skin exposure.
Q. Are we sure this won’t become just a labeling and claims issue? As in don’t make the claim of phosphite on the label and move on? Many foliar products already follow those rules.
A. Unlikely as this appears to be a specific, across-the-board decision between both agencies. We’ll keep you posted either way. As for foliar products already following those rules, they are regulated by the CFIA under very different rules than the PMRA. We could find just two phospite products registered in Canada as a fungicide as mentioned above.