Big Step Forward on Agricultural Pesticides in Quebec

Prepared by Randall McQuaker, Pesticides Director, & Kim Perrotta, Executive Director CAPE

On February 19th, the Quebec Minister for Sustainable Development announced a new law for pesticides which represents a huge leap forward for provincial laws in Canada. It includes a ban on five pesticides that are commonly used in the agricultural sector – three neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics), atrazine and chlorpyrifos. Neonics are harmful to bees and many other living organisms in the ecosystem, chlorpyrifos was recently named a “toxicant” to children’s development by the State of California, and atrazine has been banned in Europe for more than a decade.

In July 2015, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in North America to restrict the use of neonics when it passed a regulation that aims to reduce the acreage upon which neonic-treated seeds were used, by 80%, by 2017. That regulation allows farmers to use neonics where an independent pest specialist demonstrates that they are needed to treat an existing pest infestation.

To date, however, the Ontario regulation has fallen far short of achieving the intended goal. New figures from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs show that the number of acres planted with treated seed in 2017 was down by just 22 per cent for corn and 27 per cent for soybeans, compared to 2014. Last year, some 61,500 tonnes of treated seed were sold in Ontario and about 3-million acres were planted with neonic-treated seeds. A new target date for achieving the 80 per cent reduction goal has not been announced.

The new Quebec legislation will also allow farmers to use the banned pesticides with a “prescription” from a certified agricultural specialist. While the regulations take a major step in the right direction, much more is needed. The new regulations do not set clear targets and timelines for the complete elimination of the highest-risk pesticides. And we have concerns that the exceptions allowed with “prescriptions” from agronomists could become the rule, and undermine the intent of the bans. The good news is that a committee, which will include representation by Equiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation, is being established to monitor the implementation of the law.

In the meantime, the case for the complete banning of neonics has gotten stronger. The independent international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, which has declared that neonics are threatening the ecosystems on which humans depend for food, clothing and shelter, released a new report in February 2018. After analyzing some 200 peer-reviewed scientific studies, the Task Force has found that insect pests quickly develop resistance to neonic pesticides, calling their long-term use into question. The study also notes that alternative practices such as field rotation and planting resistant crop varieties are more effective at reducing pests, less expensive, and less harmful to the environment than application of neonic pesticides.

References:

· Quebec Ministry of Sustainable Development, February 19, 2018. Press Release: “Mise en œuvre de la Stratégie québécoise sur les pesticides – Meilleure protection pour la santé, l’environnement et les abeilles.” http://www.mddelcc.gouv.qc.ca/infuseur/communique.asp?no=3921

· Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, February 2018. “Neonicotinoid Regulations for Seed Vendors: End of year reporting (2017).” Access at https://www.ontario.ca/page/neonicotinoid-regulations-seed-vendors#section-5

· Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, 2015. “Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impacts of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems.” Access at http://www.tfsp.info/assets/WIA_2015.pdf

· Furlan, Lorenzo et al. “An Update on the worldwide integrated assessment (WIA) on systemic insecticides. Part 3: alternatives to systemic insecticides.” Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 2018. Access at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11356-017-1052-5

Quebec Moves to Ban Neonics and other Agricultural Pesticides

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Prepared by Kim Perrotta, Executive Director, CAPE, January 2016

CAPE is moving its campaign on neonics – the pesticides linked to bee deaths – to the province of Quebec!

On November 22, 2015, the Quebec Minister of the Environment, David Heurtel, announced a bold new strategy for the regulation of pesticides in Quebec.  He is proposing to update Quebec’s pesticide regulations which banned 20 chemical pesticides for use on lawns and gardens back in 2003.  He is proposing to extend the list of banned pesticides to include 60 active ingredients. 

Neonicotinoid pesticides or “neonics” are included in the list of pesticides to be banned.  Neonics are pesticides that have been clearly linked to the death of bee colonies in Ontario and Quebec (1).  These pesticides are harmful to birds, fish, and invertebrates such as worms, as well as bees.  When the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides examined over 800 scientific articles on neonics, it concluded that they are threatening “ecosystem services such as pollination that are vital to food security and sustainable development” (2). 

Building on the regulatory action taken by Ontario on neonics in 2015, the Quebec Pesticides Strategy 2015-2018 proposes to ban the use of neonics for agricultural purposes except when it has been demonstrated as necessary by an agronomist.  While the Ontario Regulations seek to reduce the number of acres of corn and soya that use neonic-treated seeds, the Quebec Strategy proposes to reduce the “risk to public health, pollinators and the environment by reducing the use of the most dangerous pesticides on all crops” (3). This means that Quebec plans to ban the use of neonic-treated corn and soya seeds, and higher risk pesticides such as atrazine and chlorpyrifos, on all crops, except when an agronomist determines that the pesticides are needed.

Neonics-Ad-Nov 2015

Atrazine has been identified by some as an endocrine disruptor that can adversely affect sexual differentiation, produce mammary and prostate cancer, and adversely affect the neural and immune systems (4).  If Quebec successfully bans atrazine, which is used extensively on corn crops, it would be the first jurisdiction in North America to do so (5).  

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has found chlorpyrifos to be acutely toxic to a wide range of organisms including mammals, birds, fish, aquatic invertebrates and honeybees, but has been in the process of re-evaluating it since 1999 (6). Chlorpyrifos has also been identified as a developmental neurotoxicant that can cause brain damage to children with exposure to very low doses during critical windows during pregnancy and early postnatal life (7).

So, in 2016, CAPE will be working with Équiterre in Quebec and other partners to: educate the public about the health and environmental impacts associated with neonics, atrazine and chlorpyrifos; support the banning of these high risk agricultural pesticides in Quebec; and advocate for regulations that create healthy crops, healthy bees, and healthy people.  

References:

  1. Health Canada.  2014.  Update on Neonicotinoid Pesticides and Bee Health.
  2. Van Lexmond MB et al.  Worldwide intregrated assessment of systemic pesticides – Global collapse of the entomofauna: exploring the role of systemic insecticides.  Journal of Environmental Science and Pollution Research 22:1-4 & http://www.tfsp.info/worldwide-integrated-assessment/
  3. Province of Quebec. 2015. Quebec Pesticide Strategy 2015-2018.
  4. Louise Henault-Ethier. 2013.  Defining Ecotoxicity of Pesticides: Key Concepts, Hot Topics and Current Controversies over Atrazine and Glyphosate.  
  5. Équiterre, Nadine Bachand, Chargée de projet – Choix collectifs, agriculture et pesticides.
  6. Federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. 2015. Pesticide Safety.
  7. Jennifer Sass, Ph.D. & Robin M. Whyatt. 2016. Comments to EPA from Environmental Health Scientists and Healthcare Professionals In support of EPA’s Proposal to Revoke Chlorpyrifos Food Residue Tolerances Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0653.