Environmentalists scored a victory in Canada on Wednesday, securing restrictions on two pesticides that have been posing threats to bees and aquatic insects. The Canadian government’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), branched under the division ‘Health Canada,’ has agreed to impose constraints on the crop chemicals, slowly phasing out their use over the next three to five years.
Thiamethoxam, produced by Syngenta AG, and Bayer AG’s clothianidin are common farming applicants to protect crops such as corn, soybeans and canola from damage caused by insects. Thiamethoxam and clothianidin fall under a category of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics. Reports examining the link between honey bees and neonics in North America have been emerging over the past years in an attempt to explain declining bee populations.
A recent review also found bodies of water contaminated with these pesticides can harm aquatic insects. Food chains within the environments are being affected by the infected insects, which are food sources for fish and birds.
“I’m thankful we’re going to see a phase-out,” said Jim Coneybeare, president of the Ontario Beekeepers Association. “I’d like it to happen sooner.” According to the association, the overwhelming use of neonics has been disastrous for bee colonies in Ontario. The survival of bee habitats is already precarious; only a little more than half were able to survive the most recent winter season alone.
Farmers, on the other hand, are given few alternatives to sustain consumer demands and not have their stocks fall to pestilence. Barry Senft, CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario, said neonics are an “important tool” in farming. Many farmers, and some beekeepers, also worry that the regulation will prompt the use of even harsher chemicals, because the development of successful eco-friendly alternatives has been slow.
A third compound, imidacloprid, also produced by Bayer, will come under scrutiny in Canada by the end of the year. The EU banned the outdoor use of neonics in April, and the pesticides are undergoing scientific review in the U.S. before proposed action opens to public commentary next spring. Ultimately, the pesticide ban in Canada will face a 90-day consultation period, and the verdict will not be finalized until late 2019.
Image via Aleksandar Cocek