TORONTO, March 24, 2015 — Draft regulations announced yesterday by the Government of Ontario are expected to dramatically reduce the use of neonicotinoid, or neonic, pesticides in the province. Specifically, the regulations will reduce neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80 per cent over the next two years.

“Ontario’s draft regulations will set a new standard for protecting agricultural pollinators and the rural landscapes they inhabit,” said Faisal Moola, David Suzuki Foundation director general for Ontario and Northern Canada. “The government is moving quickly, and this is entirely appropriate given the scale of the problem.”

Scientific studies have linked neonics to high death rates in honeybees, as well as a range of harmful effects on birds, butterflies, bumblebees and earthworms, and other pollinating species. In 2014, the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides a comprehensive meta-analysis of hundreds of scientific studies examining the ecological effects of neonics. It concluded that current widespread and indiscriminate use of these chemicals threatens ecosystem functioning and is not sustainable. Nearly 100 per cent of corn and 60 per cent of soybean seeds planted in Ontario are treated with neonics.

In November 2014, the Ontario government published a discussion paper outlining a proposal for new restrictions on neonic-treated seeds. Public response to the proposal was overwhelmingly supportive, with 97 per cent of comments submitted during the formal consultation period in favour. The draft regulations are generally in keeping with the November proposal and were posted yesterday on Ontario’s Environmental Registry for a 45-day comment period and will be finalized by July.

Initial measures would be implemented for the 2016 planting season, with the main requirements of the new regulation taking effect for the 2017 planting season. The province will also offer a training program for affected farmers to support the transition away from neonics.

Last year, the European Commission placed a moratorium on certain uses of neonics to protect pollinators. North American regulators have been slower to act, and Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North America to propose regulatory restrictions on the agricultural use of neonics.

“We hope other provinces and the federal government will take note of Ontario’s leadership and put in place measures that match — or even improve upon — its draft regulations,” said Lisa Gue, senior researcher and analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation. “We need to start planning for a phase-out of neonics across the country to protect our shared environment.”

The David Suzuki Foundation will submit formal comments on the draft regulations. To improve environmental outcomes, DSF advocates extending restrictions to all neonicotinoids and protect against use of similar chemicals in the future. Also, DSF recommends that the requirement for independent evaluation of pest threats as a condition for the use of neonic-treated seeds should be phased in sooner and that government should be required to report publicly on annual sales of neonic-treated seeds to ensure accountability and track progress toward the 80 per cent reduction target.

For more information, please contact: Jode Roberts, David Suzuki Foundation 647-456-9752