Canada not ready to ban pesticides believed responsible for honey bee deaths

Jeff Lee
Vancouver Sun
Date published: 
Thu, 2013-05-02

Canada has no plans right now to follow the European Union's decision to ban a class of pesticides it believes is responsible for the deaths of many honey bees.

Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency said it already started a comprehensive review of three pesticides in the neonicotinoid class following last year's accidental poisonings of more than 200 apiaries in Ontario and Quebec by farmers applying the pesticides during plantings.

But it said that review is continuing and more investigation is needed to determine if the pesticides pose a significant environmental risk to domestic and wild pollinators. In the meantime, it has issued new rules to farmers on how to avoid killing bees with the pesticides.

PMRA "is closely monitoring all new information on neonicotinoid insecticides and if warranted regulatory action can be taken at any time to further protect pollinators," the government said in a statement. "At the same time, we are currently re-evaluating neonicotinoid insecticides, focusing on issues related to environmental risk and, in particular, potential risks to bees and other pollinators."

The government's position comes as Sierra Club Canada said Canada should follow the EU's proactive decision of banning three neonicotinoid pesticides, clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid, unless science can show they don't hurt bees.

The pesticides are widely used in corn, soy, canola and tree fruit production, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia They are usually delivered in the form of treatments on seeds farmers plant in the spring, or in foliar applications in orchards.

The industry says seed treatments, which specifically target pests that eat the plants, is less invasive than a topical pesticide sprayed over the entire orchard or field.

But beekeepers and some environmentalists, believe residues from those pesticides are making their way into pollen the bees collect and then take back to their hives for consumption. As a result, there are concerns the hives are being exposed to acute and sub-lethal levels of pesticides that then affect hive health.

John Bennett, the executive director of Sierra Club Canada, said PMRA's job should be first to protect Canadians rather than "the profits of chemical companies and big agri-business."

"These dangerous chemicals must be removed from the market now and remain so until proven safe," Bennett said in a statement. "The federal government's response to this global crisis is grossly insufficient."

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