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Public comment period on neonicotinoid pesticide ban closes February 17

Photo by Adrian Arbib/Alamy.

The Council of Canadians supports the call for an immediate ban on neonicotinoid pesticides.

CBC reports, “Health Canada is proposing a ban on almost all uses of a controversial neonicotinoid pesticide called imidacloprid, saying it is seeping into Canadian waterways at levels that can harm insects and the ecosystem. Neonicotinoid pesticides, the most widely used class of insecticides in the world, have faced increasing restrictions because of the risk they pose to bees, but have been allowed in Canada for agricultural and cosmetic purposes. It proposes phasing out all agricultural uses and a majority of other uses, over the next three to five years.”

The article adds, “Health Canada’s review found imidacloprid is getting into the environment, through run-off and drifting spray, and is ‘being detected frequently in Canadian surface and groundwater’. In areas of ‘intense agricultural activity’ in Ontario and Quebec, the agency found the chemical ‘frequently in surface water at levels well above concentrations that may result in toxic effects to insects’.”

In January 2014, CBC reported, “[Neonicotinoids are] used on a wide variety of crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, barley, potatoes and fruit. In Western Canada, neonics are most commonly found on canola. Virtually all of the 8.5 million hectares of canola planted in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta are now treated with them.” That article highlighted that University of Saskatchewan biologist Christy Morrissey says many wetlands across the Prairies are being contaminated by the pesticide and that her research shows that it persists in the water for months and in some cases years.

The Globe and Mail adds, “Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency is also conducting a separate assessment of what role those three neonicotinoids are playing in the decline of bees. Earlier this year, Health Canada published a preliminary assessment of imidacloprid that found the pesticide did not pose a significant risk to pollinators. The final assessment of the three pesticides is expected to be published next year.”

Imidacloprid is manufactured by the Germany chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer AG. The transnational said it was “extremely disappointed” in Health Canada’s announcement and that, “Canadian growers value imidacloprid due to its efficacy, safety to applicators and favourable environmental profile, when used according to label instructions.”

But George Monbiot writes, “It is only now, when neonicotinoids are already the world’s most widely deployed insecticides, that we are beginning to understand how extensive their impacts are. Just as the manufacturers did for DDT, the corporations which make these toxins claimed that they were harmless to species other than the pests they targeted. Just as they did for DDT, they have threatened people who have raised concerns, published misleading claims and done all they can to bamboozle the public.”

Health Canada is receiving public comments on the ban until February 17, 2017. Bayer AG has already indicated it will be presenting against a ban. Council of Canadians supporters are encouraged to participate in the consultation and demand an immediate ban rather than a ban phased in over the next 3-5 years.

In Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse, and Canada’s Water Crisis, Barlow writes, “In January 2016, the federal Commissioner of the Environment Julie Gelfand released her 2015 report. She strongly took Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency for taking between four and eleven years to remove some pesticides from the market. She singled out as pesticides of concern the 36 types of neonicotinoids in use in Canada for over two decades. Overall, she said, the agency is failing to properly re-evaluate many of the 7,000 pest control products used in Canada, many of which leach into adjacent waterways.”

For more on how to engage in the review process, please click here.

The Council of Canadians first called for the ban of neonicotinoid pesticides in December 2013. In May 2014, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, “Neonicotinoid insecticide is used on corn seed in Canada. It is killing bees and must be banned!!!” That same month we criticized Health Canada – then under the Harper government – for showing no signs of pursuing a ban, but instead working with industry to quell public concerns. The Council of Canadians London and Quill Plains (Wynyard) chapters have also supported events calling for a ban on neonicotinoids.