Wetland data may point to lower neonic risk

Canola growers group says no significant risk was found when products are used on canola

As the Pest Management Regulatory Agency ponders the future of two key canola chemical treatments, it has real-world data to look at.

That’s a big improvement on the model-based assumptions that led PMRA in 2018 to recommend banning the neonicotinoids, says the Canadian Canola Growers Association.

“We found that these chemistries show up in wetlands in much lower levels than they would have thought (if the models were accurate),” said Mark Walker of CCGA at the Canola Discovery Forum.

The CCGA was involved in gathering wetlands data from Western Canada that would reveal how much clothianidin or thiamethoxam can end up in water near canola fields.

The two neonics are used in seed coatings that provide protection against insects. They came under great scrutiny after bees in Ontario farmland were believed to have suffered when exposed to treated corn crops.

“A few studies from Eastern Canada were plugged into the model and then applied to Western Canada,” said Walker.

However, corn farming in Ontario is much different from canola growing on the Prairies and environmental conditions are different. That meant, to the canola industry and groups like the CCGA, that false assumptions might be accepted and allow for the elimination of seed treatments that are of enormous benefit to canola growers and the environment.

The CCGA surveyed 17 wetlands surrounded by canola fields, following them for about three months to see overall chronic levels of the neonics, plus the impact of heavy rainfall.

Neither long-term levels nor sudden responses to rain brought the neonics to dangerous levels, and were below what the Ontario-based model was suggesting.

Walker said the data shows that there is no significant risk to the products when used on canola in Western Canada, and is not something that needs to be banned or restricted for today’s uses.

The PMRA doesn’t conduct its own testing, so this data was gathered by farmer-funded CCGA and passed on to the agency.

Canola Council of Canada vice-president Curtis Rempel asked Walker if it would be a good idea for this sort of testing to be continued after the neonics study, to have water data for any future challenge to pesticides.

“Growers funding this work for the next 10 years is not OK,” responded Walker.

Farmers shouldn’t have to bear the cost for data collection, he added.

“Government needs to come to the table and find a way to collect this data. Farmers can’t fund this forever.”

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