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

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Clear Evidence: Neonics are undermining Essential Ecosystems

 Prepared by Kim Perrotta, MHSc, Executive Director, CAPE

Governments around the world must ban neonic pesticides without delay.  This is the message of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides (TFSP) which released the second edition of the report, Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Effects of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems in mid-September.

The new report, which captures more than 500 scientific studies published since the first TFSP report was published in 2014, finds deeper and broader evidence of harm to ecoystems around the world due to neonic pesticides  It reinforces the conclusions of the earlier report: neonics, and the closely related pesticide fipronil, represent a major threat to biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Neonic pesticides are systemic pesticides that become absorbed into all of the tissues of a plant; the stem, leaves, flowers, and pollen.  Introduced in the early 1990s, neonics are the most widely used insecticides in the world today.  The new TFSP report confirms that chronic exposure to very low levels of neonic pesticides increases the death rates of living organisms.

The report documents a broad array of harmful impacts on bees including reduced rates of reproduction and bee colony growth.  It provides greater evidence that systemic pesticides harm a number of beneficial animals including worms that help recycle nutrients in the soil, aquatic insects that recycle nutrients in water systems, insects that prey on crop pests, insects that pollinate plants, common birds, and bats.  In other words, these pesticides are undermining the ecosystems upon which all life is dependent.

Eight different neonic products are registered for use in Canada.  In November 2016, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) proposed phasing out the use of one of the eight – imacloprid – over a three to five year period.  It has also initiated special reviews on two of the other neonics that are widely used in agriculture – clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

The European Union imposed a moratorium on several neonic pesticides in 2013. In July 2015, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in North America to limit the use of neonics for agricultural purposes.   This year, France passed a new law to ban all agricultural uses of neonic pesticides starting in September 2018.  Let the Federal Minister of Health know that she should accelerate the phase-out of imacloprid and all other neonic pesticides that are registered for use in Canada at: Ginette.PetitpasTaylor@parl.gc.ca.

Other Blogs on this topic:

https://physiciansfortheenvironment.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/neonics-its-bigger-than-the-bees/

https://physiciansfortheenvironment.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/quebec-moves-to-ban-neonics-and-other-agricultural-pesticides/

 

Federal Agency Failing to Protect Canadians from Pesticides

Photo: Dan Tobias, Myer’s Farm, Dundas, Ontario

Prepared by Kim Perrotta, MHSc, Executive Director, January 28, 2016

Federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand, released a new report on pesticide safety this week.  It audits the processes applied by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) to the regulation of pesticides in this county.  It identifies a number of significant failings, which suggests that the PMRA is currently failing to protect Canadians and the environment from chemical pesticides.   

The Commissioner reports that the PMRA continues to make heavy use of ‘conditional registrations’ that allow companies to put their pesticides on the market before they have submitted all of the data and studies to the PMRA.   The PMRA is supposed to be reviewing the evidence submitted by companies to ensure that their products do not present “an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment”. Some of these conditional registrations have been in place for up to 20 years.    

Photo: Daniel Tobias, Weir's Lane Apiary, Dundas, Ontario
Photo: Daniel Tobias, Weir’s Lane Apiary, Dundas, Ontario

The Commissioner found that 80 of the 7,000 pest control products on the market today have been conditionally registered; 29 for more than 5 years and nine for more than 10 years.  Thirty-six of these 80 pesticides are neonicotinoid pesticides (or neonics). This is the class of pesticides that been strongly linked to the death of bees and the collapse of bee colonies in Canada.  They have also been strongly associated with harmful impacts on a wide variety of animals.  After reviewing more than 1000 peer reviewed scientific articles, the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides concluded that neonics are likely to produce major adverse effects on ecosystem services, such as pollination, that are vital to food security.

The Commissioner’s report also found that the PMRA:

  • Has been moving too slowly when re-evaluating pesticides that have been on the market for more than 15 years; 
  • Has not been assessing the cumulative health effects of pesticides in all of the situations where it should;
  • Has not applied the 10-fold safety factor required to protect children and infants from pesticides in most situations where it should;
  • Has not been conducting special reviews promptly for pesticides banned by countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as it should; and
  • Has not moved quickly to cancel registrations for some pesticides when reviews demonstrate that they do pose “unacceptable risks” to human health or the environment.

The Federal Commissioner’s report can be accessed at: Commissioner’s Report on Pesticides 2015

 

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.