New regulation backed by clear science showing neonics are harmful to pollinators and provide negligible benefits to crop yields

TORONTO, June 9, 2015 — The government of Ontario published a new regulation today to reduce the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides (“neonics”). The controversial family of nicotine-based pesticides has been implicated in the global decline of bees. Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North America to regulate restrictions on the agricultural use of neonics.

“Reducing use of neonics in Ontario is a welcome and necessary first step towards banning these harsh, bee-killing chemicals across Canada,” said Lisa Gue, David Suzuki Foundation senior researcher and analyst. “Based on European countries’ experience with neonic restrictions, we look forward to healthier pollinator populations and sustained crop yields in years to come.”

The regulations follow a landmark study from the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, a group of independent scientists that reviewed more than 1,000 published studies about the effects of neonics. The Task Force found clear evidence that neonics are lethal to honeybees and cause a range of harmful effects on other important species such as wild bees, birds, butterflies and earthworms. The authors conclude that current widespread and indiscriminate use of neonics threatens ecosystem functioning and is not sustainable.

Italy banned the use of neonic-treated corn seed in 2008.The following spring, the number of cases of sudden bee die-offs in corn-planting regions dropped to near zero, and the Italian Beekeepers’ Association reported that hives were flourishing again. In response to growing concern about pollinator health, a moratorium has been in place in the European Union for the use of three neonics on bee-attracting crops since 2013.

Ontario’s new regulation aims to reduce use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80 per cent by 2017. Currently, virtually all corn and 60 per cent of soy crops planted in Ontario are treated with neonics despite government estimates that as much as 90 per cent of these fields do not have relevant pest threats. A leaked report from Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency indicates that neonic seed treatments are of little to no value in Canadian corn and soy production.

“The current practice of routinely applying neonics to seeds is like taking a powerful antibiotic each morning when you aren’t sick to guard against a possible bacterial infection — it’s clearly overkill with dangerous consequences,” continued Gue. “Ontario’s determined effort to wean the province from neonics demonstrates that, despite fierce pushback from multibillion dollar companies profiting from pesticide sales, strong science bolstered by public support for protecting pollinators is prevailing.”

Amendments to Ontario Regulation 63/09 were published today and will take effect July 1, 2015, with some requirements being phased in over three years.


Contact: Jode Roberts, David Suzuki Foundation 647-456-9752