Health Canada proposes banning neonic

UPDATED – November 23, 2016 – 1535 CST – Health Canada is proposing to ban a Bayer neonicotinoid because the insecticide is a threat to aquatic insects in wetlands and other water bodies.

In a teleconference with media early this afternoon, Health Canada said levels of imidacloprid in water bodies near agricultural land are unacceptably high, which is putting insects and animals that feed on those insects at risk.

Consequently, the department is proposing a three year phase out of agricultural uses of imidacloprid or a five year phase out in cases where producers have no alternatives for pest control.

The proposed ban is not final because there will be a 90 day comment period, and Health Canada is planning a forum with industry stakeholders.

In addition to the proposed ban, Health Canada announced a special review of two other neonicotinoid insecticides: thiamethoxam, a Syngenta product, and clothianidin, a Bayer product.

Neonicotinoids are applied as seed treatment to almost all of the corn and canola planted in North America and a portion of soybean acres. Imidacloprid is also used as a foliar insecticide on many crops in Canada.

Related story: Horticultural producers reject proposed neonic ban

The class of insecticides has been highly controversial over the last four years because they are linked to bee deaths and bee colony losses in North America and Europe.

The Europeans banned the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments in 2013 in an effort to protect bees and other pollinators.

However, a Health Canada review released in 2016 concluded that imidacloprid is not a substantial risk to bees.

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The proposed ban on imidacloprid came out of a Health Canada re-evaluation of the insecticide, looking at human health and environmental risk.

“It’s through that process where we identified risks to aquatic organisms,” said Scott Kirby, director general for the environmental assessment with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

Kirby, during the teleconference with media, said repeatedly that today’s decision is not about bees but the risk to aquatic invertebrates.

The Health Canada decision validates research done by Christy Morrissey, a University of Saskatchewan biologist. Morrissey has published studies on neonicotinoids and how the insecticides are contaminating water bodies in Western Canada.

Morrissey’s research found that many wetlands within or near agricultural land in Saskatchewan have troubling concentrations of neonics.

“It’s staying in the soil and then as soon as the snow melts or it rains … it’s just running off the fields and into these ponds,” Morrissey said in 2014.

As a result, neonics are killing aquatic insects, and reducing the food supply for birds and other animals, Morrissey said.

Health Canada considered Morrissey’s work and other research to reach its decision.

“(It) is based on a weight of evidence,” Kirby said. “It’s a volume information including information from academics.”

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Kirby said Health Canada relied on “pivotal” data from provincial and federal agencies, which monitored wetlands and other water bodies throughout Canada.

“Those studies have measured levels of imidacloprid in aquatic systems adjacent to agricultural areas that are well above the benchmarks that we consider protective to aquatic life.”

John Gavloski, Manitoba Agriculture entomologist, wasn’t surprised by the Health Canada announcement.

For more than a year Gavloski has been warning producers about overusing neonicotinoids.

Last January, at Ag Days in Brandon, Gavloski said neonicotinoids are flowing into ponds and larger water bodies adjacent to agricultural land. Gavloski predicted that the government could crack down with regulations.

“They (neonics) are being overused. They are being used to the point where we’ve got these levels showing up in surface water that we don’t want to be seeing,” he said last January.

“I personally see the surface water residue as probably the issue … that’s probably the thing that’s going to push it (regulations).”

Kirby said Health Canada would listen to comments about the proposed ban and consult with the ag industry, meaning it will consider other methods to mitigate the risk to aquatic insects.

“(But) any proposals for continued registration would need to clearly demonstrate concrete action that would ensure that imidacloprid levels in water would be reduced below the (threshold) levels.”

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Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

  • EPA report concluded neonics do not work.
    So much poison for so few profiteers.

    • hyperzombie

      what? If they did not work no one would use them.

      • Harold

        Anyone can see that the product toxicity’s help the plants grow. Anyone can see that the toxin has reached unintended areas contradicting the original promise. Everyone should know that the duty of the EPA is to protect us from industry- not to promote it.
        The duty of Health Canada is to protect us from industry – not to promote it. Are they doing their job.

  • Denise

    Thank you Health Canada. Please don’t let industry stakeholders try to water down your plans to ban neonics. There is so much of this poison in the soil and waterways (sloughs) now it will take many, many years to be rid of it.
    I am very excited about the prospects of a future when we see the return of our beneficial insects and aquatic life.
    We need the diversity of beneficial insects, nutrient-rich living soil, and safe water sources FAR more than anything neonics were advertised to deliver.

  • hyperzombie

    They will not ban it.

    • StopGMO

      Wishful thinking hyperzombie. Prove it!

    • Harold

      When an industry relies upon a toxic environment to sustain it, it then becomes disastrous to remove the toxin. This likely explains the EPA dance.
      The question is, where were they when the music was being written?

      • hyperzombie

        What industry? Toxic, hardly, get out of the city more often.

        • Harold

          The answers to your questions are written within the Article. Your direction “get out of the city more often” does not add any weight to your argument. From my location, it means to me, to not visit a city at all, and of course you would have no knowledge of this.
          That being said, the scope of the Article was focused upon agricultural land and the negative effects upon the environment.
          Those who do get into, or near cities, will often find university’s and collages there.

      • Nick

        They were busy getting wined and dined.

  • Rob Bright

    *sigh* A promising step, I suppose. But “too much, too little, too late.” It shouldn’t take this long to remove toxic poisons from out food supply system.

    • Denise

      Let’s hope it doesn’t take as long as they have suggested they need to get rid of these poisonous neonics. There isn’t a lot of time to spare, Rob. I am afraid of that, too or they might make a fatal compromise..
      I fear they will take too long. And,on top of that, we still have to deal with all the other pesticides the EPA approved recently ( Monsanto’s glyphosate and dicamba concoction) which will create additonal havoc with nature.
      EPA gives with one hand and takes with the other.
      I hope we have not passed the point of no return where nature cannot repair the damage that has been done to it.

  • richard

    One wonders what kind of corporate wheedling is required to get this stuff licensed in the first place. What did we really expect?….Neonix are systemic, they are persistent, they are neurotoxins…..and humans are just large insects……”Health Canada found measurements in surface water as high as 11.9 ppb, when levels above .041ppb are considered to be of scientific concern.” (Victoria Times Herald Nov. 24……) Thats a ration of two hundred times levels of scientific concern! Are we living on the planet of the apes……?

  • Nick

    Imagine that! A water soluble poison used on millions and millions of haters is finding its way into rivers and streams and killing beneficial insects, what a surprise.

    • Nick

      That is hectares not haters