Thursday, 6 July 2017

Will New Research From Europe Nudge Canada Toward a "Neonic" Ban?

by Larry Powell
Most Canadian fields  of canola ("oilseed rape" 
in Europe) grow from seed treated with neonics. PinP photo.
Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), which tests and registers pesticides in this country, says it will take recent European research into account in deciding the future of neonicotinoids. They're the world's most widely used, and controversial family of insecticides. A major field study, published in the journal Nature last week,  found that neonics did not seem to harm honey bees and two wild bee species scientists studied in Germany. However, it was a different story in Hungary and the U.K. There, the same species located near oil rapeseed (canola) crops treated with the neonic, clothianidin, produced 24% fewer workers the following spring! 

While the European Union clamped a moratorium on neonics in 2013, Canada chose a different path. The PMRA has continued to approve their use, even tho it acknowledges that they were linked to the deaths of millions of  honeybees in corn and soybean fields in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba in 2012 and '13.  The agency further notes, the neonics appear to have had no impact on bees which forage on canola, a crop grown widely, notably on the western Canadian prairies. 

But it admits that "over 89%"of the thousands of Canadians who responded in a consultation process, "supported taking further action, including a ban or moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides generally."

It adds, however, that such action has not been necessary, since other measures like closer monitoring and better warning labels have since resulted in a reduction of "70 to 80% in incidents relating to honey bees.”


The Agency goes on, “A preliminary pollinator risk assessment for imidacloprid, did not point to unacceptable risks to managed honeybees (or to humans), provided strict precautions to limit exposure were followed.” 

But, in an e-mail to Planet in Peril,  the PMRA hints, it hasn't slammed the door on some kind of possible restrictions in future. “Relevant scientific studies, such as the one recently published in Science, will be considered as part of (an ongoing) Health Canada’s review. Studies conducted in other countries will also be considered if they are found to be relevant to Canadian conditions. 

Surprisingly enough, it may not be pollinators that seal the fate of neonics, after all. No less than three kinds of neonics are frequently being found in Canadian waterways!
 
The orange wheat blossom midge. Gilles San Martin                        The mayfly. Ryan Hodnett

The PMRA reports, Imadacloprid is being detected “at levels that are harmful to aquatic insects such as midges and mayflies, important food sources for fish, birds and other animals.”

Some time ago it hinted that, because of this, it might actually "phase out the use of imadacloprid in farming and most other outdoor uses over three to five years." But, for some reason which is not immediately clear, it has now postponed that decision.

This has enraged environmental groups like Friends of the Earth. They believe there's already enough evidence of adverse impacts on pollinators to have pulled the plug on neonics long ago. A year ago, they launched a lawsuit, alleging the PMRA was unlawfully abandoning its duties as a regulator and calling it "an arrogant government agency more dedicated to helping pesticide manufacturers to profit than doing its job to protect human health and the environment."

Due to opposition from both the industry and government, the suit is still tied up in legal proceedings.


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RELATED: "New Studies Show Farm Chemicals Are Affecting More Than Bees. Bird Populations are Declining, Too. Is modern agriculture's hold on nature becoming a death grip?"


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