TORONTO — The Ontario government announced a plan today to protect bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects from the harmful effects of neonicotinoid, or neonic, pesticides. In a discussion paper posted to the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) registry, the government outlined a strategy to reduce the use of neonic-coated seeds in the province by 80 per cent by 2017.

“Studies have confirmed that neonic pesticides are killing bees, harming a host of insects and wildlife and are accumulating in our fields and waterways,” said David Suzuki Foundation researcher and analyst Lisa Gue. “Ontario is the first government in North America to take the tough and timely action necessary to protect pollinators and safeguard our soils, water and food.”

Neonics disrupt the central nervous systems of insects and are most often applied to seeds so the chemical becomes incorporated into the plants’ leaves, pollen, nectar, fruit and flowers.

In June, an international task force of 29 independent scientists released a four-year assessment of 800 peer-reviewed studies into neonics and systemic pesticides. Their Worldwide Integrated Assessment highlighted harmful effects of neonics on bees and serious risks to many other beneficial species, including butterflies, earthworms and birds.

Close to five-million acres of corn and soy were planted in Ontario last year. Virtually all corn seed and 60 per cent of soy are treated with neonics. The U.S.Environmental Protection Agency also recently found that these seed treatments provide “little or no overall benefits to soybean production.”

“Despite the clear and present danger neonics present and the questionable benefits, Canada has been inexplicably slow to react — until now,” Gue added. “We hope other provinces and the federal government take notice of today’s announcement and move toward banning neonics in Canada.”

Health Canada is responsible for pesticide regulation in Canada. Provincial governments also have the power to regulate use and sales of pesticides within their boundaries. The proposal has been posted on the EBR for a 61-day public review and comment period, which will include public consultations in London, Toronto and Kingston.

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For more information, please contact:

Lisa Gue, David Suzuki Foundation, (613) 914-0747,
Jode Roberts, David Suzuki Foundation (647) 456-9752,