Neonicotinoid insecticides

Neonicotinoids are a group of pesticides used in agriculture to protect crops from various insects. They are also used for other purposes, including killing insects in homes and controlling fleas on pets. There are three main neonicotinoids currently approved for agricultural use in Canada: imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam.

Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency's (PMRA) has conducted a number of complex and multi-faceted post-market reviews of these neonicotinoids. Components considered include:

Health Canada neonicotinoid pesticides updates

Find information on the progress of Health Canada’s ongoing assessments of the neonicotinoid insecticides.

Pollinator incident reports

Declines in honeybee and other pollinator populations have generated considerable scientific and public interest both in Canada and internationally. The available science suggests that multiple factors acting in combination may be at play, including loss of habitat and food sources, diseases, viruses and pests, and pesticide exposure.

In 2012, Health Canada began receiving large numbers of bee incident reports. Health Canada, in collaboration with many stakeholders, implemented risk reduction measures to minimize exposure to pollinators.  In 2014, Health Canada implemented additional restrictions when planting corn and soybean seeds treated with neonicotinoids in order to protect pollinators from dust generated during planting of treated seed. With these risk mitigation measures in place, Health Canada saw a significant decrease in the number of incidents reported. The number of bee incidents in 2014, 2015 and 2016 was 70–80% lower than in 2013 and the number of incident reports remained low in 2017–2019. Health Canada continues to monitor the bee incident reports.

Health Canada pollinator incident reports

Pollinator assessments (re-evaluations of imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam)

In 2012, in response to new research and the establishment of a new North American pollinator risk assessment framework, Health Canada initiated pollinator-focused re-evaluations of imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam. These assessments included the review of an unprecedented number of studies that were conducted by researchers and registrants. Information on the pollinator risk assessment framework used in the assessments, as well as on pollinator protection can be found on the Pollinator protection page on Canada.ca.

Health Canada completed three pollinator re-evaluations and published its decisions in April 2019. In order to protect pollinators, Health Canada cancelled many uses of neonicotinoids on crops that bees find attractive, such as orchard trees, and prohibited spraying of some crops, such as berries and fruiting vegetables, before or during bloom. Seed treatment uses were found to be acceptable. However, Health Canada required the addition of label statements for all cereal and legume crops to minimize exposure of pollinators to dust during sowing of treated seeds.

Pollinator re-evaluation decisions for clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid have been implemented as of 11 April 2021, and current product labels can be found at Pesticide Label Search.

Health Canada pollinator assessments reports

Pollinator assessments – Squash bee (special reviews of imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam)

In 2014, Health Canada initiated special reviews of registered imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam products for use on cucurbit crops such as pumpkin, squash and watermelon. The aspect of concern for these special reviews was the potential environmental risk related to a specific species of ground-dwelling bee, squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa).

In 2019, the pollinator re-evaluation decisions resulted in changes to the registrations of cucurbit crop uses of neonicotinoids. These decisions have been implemented, and current product labels can be found at Pesticide Label Search.

Health Canada published the proposed special review decisions in June 2021. These assessments are undergoing a 45-day public consultation.

Next steps: All comments received during the 45-day public consultation period will be considered in the preparation of the final special review decision documents, which could result in revised risk mitigation measures. The special review decision documents will include the final special review decisions, the reasons for them, and a summary of comments received on the proposed special review decisions with Health Canada’s responses.

Health Canada squash bee reports

Aquatic invertebrate assessments (special reviews of clothianidin and thiamethoxam)

In November 2016, Health Canada initiated special reviews to assess potential risks to aquatic invertebrates exposed to clothianidin or thiamethoxam applied as a seed, foliar or soil treatment.

In addition to environmental data relevant to the review submitted by registrants, Health Canada received a large amount of additional neonicotinoid water monitoring data from agricultural use areas across Canada in October 2017.

In August 2018, Health Canada published two proposed special review decisions, for clothianidin and thiamethoxam. These special review decisions examined the risks to aquatic invertebrates, which underwent public consultation. Based on the information at the time, Health Canada proposed cancellation of all agricultural uses.

Following publication of the proposed decisions, Health Canada received large amounts of neonicotinoid water monitoring data from agricultural use areas across Canada. Most of the data was the result of cooperative efforts between provincial governments, grower groups, non-governmental organizations, registrants, and independent researchers. In addition, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada facilitated a Multi-Stakeholder Forum to examine the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture.

Health Canada considered the extensive comments and additional information received (including the water monitoring information), and completed the two special reviews and published its decisions in March 2021. To protect aquatic invertebrates, some uses of clothianidin and thiamethoxam were cancelled. Additional mitigation measures and restrictions were introduced for some of the uses that remain registered. The clothianidin and thiamethoxam aquatic invertebrate special review decisions must be implemented by March 2023.

Health Canada aquatic invertebrate assessment reports

Health, environmental and value assessments (re-evaluations of imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam)

Imidacloprid

In November 2016, Health Canada published a proposed re-evaluation decision based on its health, environmental and value assessments for public consultation. The environmental assessment did not include pollinators as that aspect was conducted under a separate re-evaluation, which was completed in April 2019. 

The health assessment did not identify human health concerns from any exposure route when used according to current label standards. An extensive body of information was considered for any potential toxicity and exposure, including to sensitive populations such as children. An environmental risk assessment showed that, in aquatic environments in Canada, imidacloprid was measured at levels harmful to aquatic invertebrates. These insects are an important part of the ecosystem, including as a food source for fish, birds and other animals. For the protection of the environment, Health Canada proposed to phase out all the agricultural and a majority of other outdoor uses of imidacloprid over three to five years.

During the public consultation for imidacloprid, approximately 46 000 comments were received. Health Canada reviewed these comments. In addition, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada facilitated a Multi-Stakeholder Forum to examine the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture. Federal and provincial government agencies, grower groups, independent researchers, non-government organizations and registrants undertook several initiatives including: examination of alternative risk management strategies, the generation of supplemental water monitoring data, and identification of potential alternative pest control products to replace imidacloprid.

Health Canada published the final re-evaluation decision on the risk to human health and the environment from the neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid in May 2021. Health Canada's assessment indicated that, with additional risk mitigation measures, many uses of imidacloprid products meet current standards for protection of human health and the environment. However, certain uses of imidacloprid were cancelled to address potential risks of concern to the environment. The imidacloprid re-evaluation decision must be implemented by 19 May 2023.

Health Canada imidacloprid re-evaluation reports

Clothianidin and thiamethoxam

Re-evaluations of the health, environmental and value assessments of clothianidin and thiamethoxam are currently underway.

The environmental assessments will not include a review of risks to pollinators, as these reviews were completed in 2019. The environmental assessment will also not include a review of risks to aquatic invertebrates as these reviews were completed in 2021. Risk mitigation measures and restrictions have already been put in place to protect pollinators and aquatic invertebrates.

Next steps: Health Canada will publish the proposed re-evaluation decisions in 2023 for public consultation. All comments received during the 90-day public consultation period will be considered in the preparation of the final re-evaluation decision documents, which could result in revised risk mitigation measures. The re-evaluation decision documents will include the final re-evaluation review decisions, the reasons for them, and a summary of comments received on the proposed re-evaluation decisions with Health Canada’s responses.

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