New restrictions announced today fall short of protecting pollinators and ecosystems
OTTAWA — Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) announced today a proposal to restrict or end certain uses of two neonics, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, while still allowing the continued use of the controversial insecticides as seed treatment. Seed treatments represent the most widespread use of neonics in Canada and have been identified as a major ecological threat.
Italy banned neonic seed treatments on corn in 2008; France will phase out all neonics to protect pollinators starting next year. Parallel comprehensive action is needed in Canada to protect pollinators, ecosystems and food security, according to a coalition of environmental and health groups including Équiterre, the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) and the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
In September, an independent group of international scientists known as the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides (TFSP) released its updated Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems. This scientific review synthesizes more than 1,100 peer-reviewed studies along with data from pesticide manufacturers, and demonstrates that neonics pose a serious threat to pollinators, biodiversity, ecosystems and food security worldwide. The TFSP identified an urgent need to stop the widespread use of neonics as seed treatments because it is a major source of environmental contamination.
In June 2016, Ecojustice lawyers filed a lawsuit in federal court against the PMRA on behalf of a number of environmental and health groups, arguing that the PMRA has unlawfully maintained the registrations of clothianidin and thiamethoxam for years despite persistent data gaps and a lack of public consultation.
Class action legal proceedings were also launched in Québec and Ontario in 2014 against neonics manufacturers Bayer and Syngenta on behalf of beekeepers whose businesses have suffered from the pesticides’ effects on their honey bees.
The PMRA began its assessment of the risks to pollinators of three neonics in 2012 following an unusually high number of reports of bee mortality in Canada during the planting periods of neonic-treated corn and soybean seeds.
In November 2016, the PMRA proposed to phase out another neonic, imidacloprid, after its environmental assessment identified unacceptable risks to beneficial aquatic invertebrates. The assessment concluded that the current high-volume use of imidacloprid in agricultural areas in Canada is not sustainable. The PMRA is still evaluating aquatic risks from clothianidin and thiamethoxam, with proposed decisions expected in June 2018.
To date, more than 100,000 Canadians have mobilized alongside environmental and health groups in support of a ban on neonics in Canada.
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