Save the bees: Canada rejigs pesticide restrictions in effort to protect pollinators

WATCH ABOVE: The impact of Vancouver's ban of neonicotinoid on bee populations (July 2016)

Health Canada announced Thursday that it would be implementing additional restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in an effort to protect the health of bees and other pollinators.


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According to Health Canada, the decision to impose additional restrictions was done following extensive research and re-evaluations of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam as well as their impact on pollinators.

Pollinators are organisms that help transfer pollen from one flowering plant to another, fertilizing plants so they can produce seeds and fruit.

Health Canada says scientific assessment showed exposure to each of the pesticides had varying effects on bees and other pollinators.

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To protect bees and other pollinators, Health Canada announced it will be cancelling some uses of the pesticides and will be changing other conditions of use such as restricting the timing of application.

Officials say the restrictions pertain to soil uses of the pesticides on crops that are attractive to pollinators.

Even ‘very low doses’ can be harmful, researchers say

A new study released Wednesday from the University of Saskatchewan found that even tiny traces of neonicotinoid pesticides can impair a flying insect’s ability to spot predators and avoid collisions with objects in its path.

“Our findings suggest that very low doses of the pesticide or its metabolic products can profoundly and negatively affect motion-detection systems that flying insects, such as locusts, grasshoppers and bees, need for survival,” Jack Gray, vice-dean of research, scholarly and artistic work at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Arts and Science, said in a news release.

“Although they are found in the environment and insects can be exposed to them, metabolites are not typically tested for toxicity,” he said. “Our results suggest they should be.”

Health Canada states that remaining uses of the pesticides, such as treatment on canola seeds and greenhouse vegetables, are not expected to pose unacceptable risks to bees and other pollinators.

WATCH: Calls for international ban on neonicotinoid pesticides (2014)

New restrictions will be implemented over a two-year period for the majority of uses in which alternative pesticides are available.

For the small subset of uses in which an alternative pesticide is not available, Health Canada says the cancellations and restrictions will be implemented over a three-year period.

The recommendations could be moot in less than a year, however, if the same agency upholds an existing decision to ban most uses of the same products to protect other types of insects.


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Additionally, Health Canada is currently evaluating the potential risk neonicotinoids pose to aquatic insects.

Health Canada says research shows that these pesticides are detected frequently in bodies of water at levels that could be harmful to aquatic organisms.

A report of the department’s findings is scheduled to be released at the end of 2019.

Health Canada says the restrictions and cancellations of the pesticide use announced Thursday were based on findings related to the effects on pollinators, however, if additional restrictions regarding sea treatments are found to be necessary, they may be added at a later date.

WATCH: More urban gardens encouraged to help save bees

However, many are not satisfied with the new restrictions.

In a joint press release issued Thursday, several of the country’s beekeeping and environmental groups disagreed with the pesticide regulatory agency’s final decision, and called for the government to proceed with the proposed ban without further delay.

“The PMRA (Pest Management Regulatory Agency) took seven years to complete its assessments of risks to pollinators from neonics,” the release reads. “Yet despite the experience of beekeepers and overwhelming scientific evidence, the final assessments gloss over risks from seed treatments, which represent the most widespread use of neonics in Canada and a major source of environmental contamination.”

The group is also critical of what they say was a ‘fragmented approach’ undertaken by Canada to evaluate the risks of neonicotinoid pesticides.


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According to Ontario Beekeepers’ Association president, André Flys, the new restrictions don’t go far enough.

“They’ve already decided it’s a risk but they’re going to take two years to phase it out?” Flys told Global News.

Flys said he is also concerned that the decision was made without considering all available information.

“There are gaps in knowledge,” Flys said. “It’s concerning that they’re not using all of the scientific data available to them.”

Beatrice Olivastri, executive director of Friends of the Earth Canada, echoed Flys’ remarks

“It is nonsensical that the PMRA would approve continued use of many neonics today, while simultaneously proposing to phase them out due to unacceptable risks,” Olivastri said in the release. “It’s simple: the federal government must end this runaround and confirm without further delay the proposals to cancel all major uses of these harmful insecticides, as Europe has done.”

—With a file from the Canadian Press

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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