Proposed neonic ban finds farmer acceptance

Grain Farmers of Ontario has bitterly sparred with the provincial government for more than two years over regulations restricting the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.

The GFO called the Ontario government “anti-science” and “anti-agriculture” and even took the province to court.

However, when the federal government proposed in late November to ban one neonicotinoid and investigate two other products, the GFO response was more restrained.

Mark Brock, GFO chair and a grower from Staffa, Ont., said the organization accepts Health Canada’s decision.

“As an organization, we looked to the federal government as our agency, Health Canada and the PMRA (Pest Management Regulatory Agency), to provide a science based approach to the regulatory process of these chemicals,” he said.

“I would be deemed a hypocrite, I think, if I were to throw Health Canada (and) PMRA under the bus.”

On Nov. 23, Health Canada released a proposal to phase out the use of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid insecticide used around the globe.

The department said the ban is necessary because water bodies near agricultural land have unacceptably high concentrations of the insecticide.

The levels of imidacloprid are considered a risk to aquatic insects, such as midges and mayflies, and animals that rely on those insects for food.

Health Canada is proposing a three-year phase-out of imidacloprid, or a five-year phase-out in cases where farmers have no alternatives for pest control.


The department also announced a special review of two other neonicotinoid insecticides: thiamethoxam, a Syngenta product, and clothianidin, a Bayer product.

Department scientists want to know if those neonics are a threat to aquatic insects.

Bayer said in a statement that it is disappointed in the decision.

Brock said he has faith in Health Canada.

“From our standpoint, we want to be engaged and supportive of this process of review and phasing out of that one product and the review of the other two,” he said.

“It does hinge on safety of people and the environment, and they’ve identified a risk here.”

The tenor of Brock’s comments are distinct from the GFO’s crusade against the Ontario government, which introduced regulations in 2015 to cut the use of neonic seed treatments in corn and soybeans by 80 percent.

The province said the measure was needed to protect bees, but the GFO said the regulations were unscientific because there wasn’t sufficient evidence linking neonics to bee colony losses.

In the case of imidacloprid, the PMRA eventually agreed with the GFO. In January, it reported that the insecticide does not put bees at risk.


In a teleconference with media, Health Canada officials made it clear, many times, that the proposed ban is because of aquatic invertebrates, not bees.

The science may eventually show that neonics are not a threat to bees, but with insecticides collecting in water and posing a potential threat to birds and wildlife that feed on aquatic insects, all this may change the broader conversation about neonics and could force producers to change their practices.

Integrated pest management specialists and environmental groups have criticized farmers for using neonic seed treatments as insurance or as a prophylactic, without evaluating if there actually is a risk from crop pests.

John Gavloski, a Manitoba Agriculture entomologist, said the agricultural industry is overusing neonics. He told growers almost a year ago, at Manitoba Ag Days, that neonics accumulating in surface water could provoke a regulatory crackdown.

He is also frustrated that neonic seed treatments are sometimes being used for the wrong reason — research suggests that certain neonics improve seedling vigour.

“This is an insecticide,” Gavloski said.

“If you’re overusing the product, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.”

The proposed phase-out of imidacloprid is not final. There will be a 90-day comment period, and Health Canada is planning a forum with industry stakeholders to discuss other potential solutions.


  • richard

    In its need for greed, industry has made certain every GM seed that went into the ground was coated with a neonic and fungicide……with zero consideration for insect or disease pressure, or the ancillary environmental degradation….. and leaving growers no option but to “overuse the products”….. While growers were “shooting themselves in the foot”, industry was shooting itself in the head…… Yet again corporate hubris provides a Common Sense 101 lecture in how NOT to win friends and influence people….. So much for the “science based” platitudes of science. Do you guys really wonder why you get zero traction with the public?

    • richard

      …..furthermore as growers continue to detach themselves from twenty years of corporate feudalism, they will reassert their autonomy with IPM (integrated pest management), beneficial insects, botanicals, biologicals……and extended crop rotations including forage legumes……all of which work have been proven effective and all of which provide the only sustainable, self directed and ecological solutions… based on threshold pressure and grower acumen versus boardroom venality and academic compliance…….

  • Denise

    The proposed phasing out of imidacloprid shall be done. Health Canada knows it has been dragging its feet on this issue for far TOO long. We can’t live without the bees and other beneficial insects. Toxic levels of neonics are in our waterways. Do people’s health and quality of life matter in deciding these issues?
    Nine fact sheets about neonics are available to read and download at the bottom of this article under ‘here’.

    • ed


  • Harold

    You’re saying that a bee is not an insect and is therefore free from insecticide because somebody said so. I didn’t see all of the names of these people, did you? I wonder how an insecticide receives a brain and knows what to attack? Nothing of “industrial science” ever get’s recalled right?

  • Denise

    If neonicotinoids are so safe and not a threat to bees then why is the EPA being sued by beekeepers,farmers and public interest groups in the USA?

    • Happy Farmer

      Because they want to sue, thats why. I sure don’t see any really good evidence, and I checked out the link. Seems like your links are more or less just some organizations personal opinion articles.

      • Denise

        Oh yeah, people want to spend their time and money suing the government. Actually ,as you well know, the people resort to that action when they realize all else has failed and the government is no longer acting on behalf of the public’s best interests.

        • Happy Farmer

          I like your last statement about governments no longer acting on behalf of the public’s best interest. I don’t think any government ever has truly looked out for the public.

          So how do we find a common way of determining what is in our best interest? How will we ever agree as to what organization can be trusted. Especially in todays world where everyone basically trusts only themselves.

      • Harold

        What happen’s when you go to court without holding undeniable evidence? Do you want to sue? Be my guest. See how far you get.

  • Denise

    Don’t you find it rather odd that Health Canada’s – Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) was taken to court,in July, 2016, over its inaction to protect pollinators if neonics are NOT a threat to bees? Perhaps this is what finally got Health Canada to do the responsible thing and phase out imidacloprid for a good start.

  • John

    When did Bees turn in to Mammals?

  • ed

    Like the fly swatter. Very dangerous!