Evidence is clear: neonics cause grave harm, must be restricted

TORONTO, May 28, 2015 — There is clear evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides harm a large number of non-target organisms including bees and other pollinators, according to a comprehensive review of more than 1,000 peer-reviewed reports conducted by the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. Jean-Marc Bonmatin, researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Task Force vice-chair, is in Toronto to share key findings as Ontario prepares regulations to restrict certain uses of neonics.

“As a scientist, I can now say conclusively that the evidence of harm is clear and points to the urgent need for action to reduce the quantities of these pesticides entering the environment,” said Bonmatin.

The Task Force assessment of more than 1,000 studies published on the subject — including those sponsored by industry — is the most comprehensive review of the ecological effects of neonicotinoid pesticides undertaken to date. It was published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research in January 2015.

“Ontario beekeepers continue to suffer the lethal effects of neonics on bees,” said Dennis Edell, board member of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association. “Once again this planting season we have had multiple reports of bee kills.”

Last year, Ontario beekeepers lost 58 per cent of their bees. Beekeeping is not sustainable when losses exceed 15 per cent.

“Pollinators play a vital role in food production,” said Carolyn Young, director at Sustain Ontario. “Ontario should be a leader on this issue by protecting pollinators while supporting farmers.”

Ontario has proposed North America’s first regulatory restrictions on neonics, aiming to reduce the use of neonic-treated soybean and corn seeds by 80 per cent by 2017. Draft regulations were published for comment in March but have yet to be finalized.

“Ontario is on the right track with its plan to regulate an 80 percent reduction in the use of neonic seed treatments,” said Lisa Gue, David Suzuki Foundation senior researcher and analyst. “The new regulations must be tight to ensure this target is met. Ultimately, we need to be working towards a global phase-out of these harmful chemicals.”

A leaked report from Canada’s federal pesticide regulator, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, indicates that neonicotinoid seed treatments are of little value to Canadian agricultural production, despite their current widespread use.

Europe introduced a moratorium on neonics in 2013. Last year’s corn crop yields reached record levels.

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Jode Roberts, David Suzuki Foundation: 647-456-9752; jroberts@davidsuzuki.org