Neonic ban must wait for more data: canola council

After going through the neonicotinoid-banning decision, the canola industry has discovered a number of disturbing elements:

  • The Pest Management Regulatory Agency doesn’t appear to be using direct evidence;
  • The comment period ends before 2018 water monitoring data can be collected and analyzed;
  • The PMRA is applying an aggressive risk avoidance approach that is not shared by some other major regulatory counterparts, such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

“It appears this decision is very conservative and it appears it is based on modelling as opposed to real-world evidence,” said Brian Innes, Canola Council of Canada vice-president of public affairs.

Innes worked with an array of canola industry interests to assess the PMRA’s proposed ban on two neonics: clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

“That therefore brings to the fore the importance of the water-monitoring data.”

The canola council has been collecting water data from canola-growing areas of Western Canada to provide PMRA with an understanding of how much neonic residue is washing out of prairie fields and into streams, rivers and lakes. That effort has been ongoing for more than a year, including this growing season.

Innes said the canola industry has not finished analyzing the PMRA’s decision and how it was made. However, initial concerns that the federal agency was basing its recommended bans on theoretical models rather than hard evidence of harm appear to be well grounded. The PMRA is extrapolating various potential environmental impacts from a relative dearth of evidence.

The canola industry wants the PMRA to incorporate the water monitoring data from 2018 in its final assessment, which raises the problem of the public comment period ending before that data can be collated and analyzed.

“The PMRA needs to accept information that is relevant for this decision whether that occurs within the 90-day period of outside of it,” said Innes. “What we have come to understand is that the time period for consultation makes it very difficult to incorporate water monitoring that is currently being done in 2018.”

Neonics are more important for canola than most other crops because of canola’s vulnerability to flea beetles. The chemical family has allowed farmers to move away from insecticide spraying because seed treatments can be used instead, which restricts their impact to bugs that attack canola plants.

Farmers warn that banning neonics will lead to more spraying, significant crop damage.

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