Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency has released an update on its neonicotinoid seed treatment policies.
The PMRA reminded growers they must use seed flow lubricant when planting corn and soybeans this year as a way to reduce the risk that neonicotinoid-contaminated dust will kill bees this spring.
Growers must adhere to safer seed planting practices, and the PMRA has instituted new pesticide and seed labels with enhanced warnings.
The PMRA also said it received a “very high number” of public comments on its neonicotinoid policies as Canadians worry about “the environment and the status of pollinators in Canada.”
An overwhelming majority of respondents said the PMRA’s actions to protect bees were insufficient. Eighty-nine percent want the regulator to take further action, such as banning neonicotinoids.
Sean Upton, senior media relations officer with Health Canada, said the 89 percent figure is misleading.
The percentage of respondents hostile to neonics may have been skewed by environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, which encouraged its followers to submit electronic form letters to the PMRA.
Crop Life Canada has said a neonics ban would be reckless because it wouldn’t solve bee health issues and would remove an important pest management tool for farmers.
“International researchers widely agree that bee health is impacted by a combination of factors, the primary one being the varroa mite,” former president Lorne Hepworth said last fall.
Upton said PMRA scientists are participating in the public debate over neonicotinoid seed treatments. They say neonics can be dangerous for bees but that the PMRA is taking action to minimize the exposure from insecticide contaminated dust at planting time.
Mary Mitchell, director general of the environmental assessment directorate at the PMRA, told CBC radio that other routes of exposure, such as neonic polluted water, are unlikely.
“The farmers had expressed concern that they thought levels (of neonics) in the water, in their bee yards, was hurting the bees. But over 30 water samples we analyzed, most of them were below the limit where you quantify the level of pesticide. Only a couple had pesticides… to the degree where you could quantify.”
Mitchell added bees are “in trouble” for a long list of reasons, including habitat loss and increased disease risk.