NFU urges ban on imidacloprid insecticide

The farm group says there are safer chemical alternatives and wants it phased out, rather than imposing regulations on use

The National Farmers Union says imidacloprid should be banned.


In a release, the NFU said it backs Health Canada’s proposed phase out of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid insecticide used on many Canadian crops.


“We believe this proposed decision is a positive step and we fully support it,” the NFU said in a submission to Health Canada. “We urge (government departments) to promote alternative, less toxic insecticides and non-chemical agriculture techniques for the management of insect pests in general.”


In November, Health Canada surprised farmers and a few scientists when it proposed phasing out imidacloprid over three or five years.


Scientists with Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency determined that levels of imidacloprid in water bodies near agricultural land are unacceptably high, which is putting aquatic insects at risk and poses a threat to animals that depend on those insects for food.


The insecticide is used on wheat and other crops, but it is applied primarily to greenhouse crops, fruit, vegetables and potatoes in Canada. 


Imidacloprid, once the most popular insecticide in the world, is a neonicotinoid, a class of insecticides applied as a seed treatment to almost all corn and canola planted in North America and a portion of soybean acres. 


Neonics, as they’re commonly known, have become controversial. They’ve been linked to bee deaths and bee colony losses. In 2013, the European Commission banned the use of neonics in an effort to protect bees. 


The NFU shared its thoughts on imidacloprid as part of Health Canada’s consultation for its proposed phase out.


The NFU’s stance isn’t a surprise. In 2013 the farm group called for a ban of all neonicotinoid seed treatments, citing a risk to bees and ecosystems.


In its submission on imidacloprid, the NFU said a ban is the only option because cutting its use won’t protect aquatic insects or the broader ecosystem.


“Imidacloprid moves with water in the soil and only a small amount of the chemical is absorbed into target plants,” the NFU wrote. 


“The grower cannot control the movement of the chemical following application. PRMA must phase out imidacloprid for agriculture use rather than attempt to regulate its use by amount, timing, location and crop.” 


Health Canada is accepting comments on its proposed ban of imidacloprid until Feb. 21.


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