Neonicotinoids in Canada
Organization: Health Canada
Neonicotinoids (neonics) are a group of pesticides used in agriculture to protect crops from various insects. There are three main neonics currently approved for use in Canada: imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam.
Neonics are used across Canada on a variety of crops, from corn and soybeans, to many different vegetables such as potatoes and herbs. They can be applied to seeds, soil or plants, and can also be used to control insects in homes and fleas on pets, as well as to protect trees from invasive insects.
Health Canada’s role:
Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is responsible for pesticide regulation in Canada. To be approved for sale in Canada, all pesticides must undergo a rigorous science-based review. Health Canada periodically reviews all registered pesticides to ensure they meet modern health and safety standards for protecting human health and the environment, and also reviews registered pesticides to respond to emerging concerns.
An example of this would be the series of scientific reviews for neonics that began in 2012, addressing the potential risks to bees and other native pollinators. Over the past years, Health Canada has identified, and immediately addressed, human health and environmental issues that have come up during science-based reviews for neonics, and in doing so, has created the following changes to registration:
- 2014: Canada and the United States establish a framework to assess risks to bees (and other pollinators)
- 2014–2017: Studies are conducted in Canada and United States to determine risks to pollinators from exposure to neonicotinoids
- 2017–2019: Extensive neonicotinoid water monitoring campaign across Canada
- 2019: Health Canada publishes decisions on risks to pollinators from exposure to neonicotinoids
- 2021: Health Canada publishes decisions on risks to aquatic invertebrates from exposure to clothianidin and thiamethoxam
- 2021: Health Canada publishes decision on health and environmental reviews of imidacloprid
- 2021: Health Canada publishes proposed decisions on potential risks to squash bees from exposure to neonicotinoids
What happened to the bees?
- 2012–2013: For 2 seasons, a high incidence of bee deaths was reported when neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds were planted. It turned out that the bees were exposed to neonicotinoids in the dust generated during planting.
- 2014: Leading into the planting season, Health Canada introduced new requirements to limit the release of dust during planting of treated corn and soybean seeds.
- 2014–2016: Number of bee incidents decreased by 70 – 80%
Visit Canada.ca/pollinator for information on Best Management Practices to protect pollinators when applying pesticides.
(as of June 2021)
- 10 public consultations to date
- Over 100 000 comments received
- Over 500 studies on bees/pollinators reviewed
- Over 8500 water samples from more than 750 sites across Canada assessed
Working towards a better future
Over the past 8 years, these ambitious and rigorous scientific reviews of neonicotinoid pesticides have led to the following changes for Canada:
- Increased protection to the environment to protect pollinators and aquatic invertebrates;
- Cancelled uses and application methods;
- Reduced application rates;
- Restrictions on application timing before and during bloom to protect pollinators;
- Increased spray buffer zones;
- New requirements for greenhouse uses;
- Increased Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements.
These changes will continue to create a more sustainable future for Canadian agriculture and the environment by:
- Improving pesticide applicator safety;
- Benefitting pollinators that are needed for improved biodiversity and crop production;
- Benefitting aquatic invertebrates that are needed for improved water quality;
- Protecting ground and surface water from pesticide contamination.
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