Health Canada to phase out pesticides linked to bee losses

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      Canada will phase out the use of two controversial pesticides that have been blamed for killing bees and other pollinating insects, Health Canada confirmed Wednesday.

      In an August 15 news release, the federal government department announced that clothianidin and thiamethoxam—both so-called neonicotinoid pesticides, or "neonics"—will be banned for outdoor agricultural, ornamental/landscape, and turf uses.

      Numerous studies worldwide have linked the widespread use of neonicotinoid insecticides to serious harm to unintended targets such as bees and other important pollinators and insect-pest predators due to their persistence in the environment.

      Health Canada proposed phasing out the use of the insecticides during the next three to five years.

      The proposed phase-out, though—which will not be officially announced until the end of 2019, after consideration of "comments or new information" received subsequent to a 90-day stakeholder "consultation period" scheduled for next year—has been based on studies that showed the pesticide was harmful to aquatic insects, not bees.

      The department's pesticide-regulating branch, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), reevaluated a third neonic, imidacloprid, in 2016. At that time, the PMRA proposed phasing out all agricultural and most other uses of that insecticide within three to five years because "in aquatic environments in Canada, imidacloprid is being measured at levels that are harmful to aquatic insects. These insects are an important part of the ecosystem, including as a food source for fish, birds and other animals."

      The Vancouver park board ceased using neonicotinoids in 2014, and city council voted two years later to ban their use in the city. Montreal banned them in late 2015.

      In April of this year, the European Parliament banned almost all outdoor uses of the three pesticides.

      The August 15 Health Canada announcement came after it published special-review decisions by the PMRA on clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Both decisions used language almost identical to that used in the 2016 imidacloprid review regarding harm to aquatic insects that are food sources for birds, fish, and other animals.

      A June 1 open letter this year to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from 16 prominent environmental NGOs—including the Wilderness Committee, the David Suzuki Foundation, and Greenpeace—and signed by 232 scientists demanded immediate action to "greatly restrict" the use of all three of the insecticides.