Neonics no threat to bees, feds rule; aquatic insect decision still to come

Neonicotinoid seed treatments are not a threat to bees, Health Canada says.

On Thursday, Health Canada released its final decision on neonic insecticides and their potential impact on bees and other pollinators. The department will take several steps to reduce the risk to bees, but neonic seed treatments will not be affected.

“Health Canada has announced that it will be cancelling some uses of these pesticides, and changing other conditions of use such as restricting the timing of application,” said a department press release.

“Remaining uses (e.g., treatment on canola seeds and greenhouse vegetables) are not expected to pose unacceptable risks to bees and other pollinators.”

Spraying of neonics won’t be permitted on fruit trees, flowers and certain crops before or during bloom.

Through those restrictions, Health Canada hopes to reduce the amount of neonic residues in the nectar and pollen that bees depend upon for food.

On broad acreage crops, like canola, corn and soybeans, neonicotinoids are mainly used as a seed treatment to ward off insects early in the growing season.

The Health Canada decision means that practice can continue, for now.

Federal government scientists are still looking at all uses of neonics and if the insecticides pose a serious threat to aquatic insects.

Last summer, Health Canada proposed a phase out of clothianidin and thiamethoxam because the two neonics were accumulating in ponds, creeks and other water bodies near agricultural land.

In 2016, it made a similar decision regarding imidacloprid, another neonic.

Health Canada has argued the neonics are reducing the population of midges and mayflies in water bodies, potentially harming birds and other animals who depend on those insects for food.

“The department continues to evaluate the potential risks to aquatic insects from the use of neonicotinoids,” Health Canada said today.

“Current research shows that these pesticides are detected frequently in water bodies at levels that could be harmful to certain aquatic organisms. The department expects to report on its findings at the end of 2019.”


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