Ontario Nature Action Alert – Nix the Neonics
Ontario is poised to take a significant step forward to protect bees and other pollinators by restricting the use and sale of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics). The draft regulation is now open for public comment (Environmental Registry #012-3733). Please join Ontario Nature in supporting restrictions on neonics and asking for even tighter measures to control their use and sale in the province. The deadline for comments is May 7, 2015. Click here to submit your comments through the government of Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights.
There is no doubt that restrictions on neonics are needed. This was confirmed last year by the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides in its Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems, Science continues to emerge confirming the widespread, negative impacts of these pesticides. Significantly, this month the European Academies Science Advisory Council released a report outlining the severe negative effects of neonics on beneficial organisms that play a fundamental role in pollination, pest control and soil formation. Globally, these “ecosystem services” are worth billions of dollars every year to agricultural production.
Simply put: bees, birds, butterflies and other organisms that benefit food production end up the unintended victims of neonics. Sometimes these pesticides kill them outright. In other cases, the pesticides weaken their ability to resist disease, to reproduce, to feed, to navigate, to learn, and so on – a slower but sure path to the same sad end result.
The most widely used insecticide in the world, neonics are water soluble and persistent (i.e., lasting months and even years in the environment). In short, they are a sure recipe for trouble in farm fields and beyond.
Ontario’s proposed regulation confirms the province’s intent to reduce the number of acres planted with neonic-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80 percent by 2017. Ontario Nature supports this target as a reasonable and precedent-setting first step.
Particular strengths of the regulatory proposal include requirements for vendors to make untreated seeds available for sale, and to submit annual reports on sales and pest assessments to the government. Farmers must complete training programs on alternative pest management and ensure that independent, third-party assessors identify pest problems to authorize the use of neonics. Together, these measures will help ensure a transparent, accountable approach to neonic reductions.
Nevertheless, there is room for improvement. The draft regulation restricts only three of the five neonic active ingredients currently registered for use in Canada. While the other two ingredients are not currently used as seed treatments, such products may be registered in future. The government should take a more inclusive, precautionary approach so that restrictions automatically apply to new types of treated seeds, as they may pose equal or even greater risks to pollinators and the environment.
Further, the regulation sets out a slow five-year phase-in of the requirement for independent, third-party pest assessments. We are concerned that this will mean the 80 percent reduction target is not met by 2017.
Finally, there is no public reporting requirement on progress made towards reducing the sale and use of neonics. Given the public interest in achieving reductions, this information – which the government will be gathering – should be made readily available to the citizens of Ontario on an annual basis.
Together we can ensure that Ontario is a North American leader in addressing pollinator decline. The first critical step is to reduce the use and sale of neonics. Please send in comments by the May 7 deadline. Be sure to reference Environmental Registry #012-3733.
For a copy of Ontario Nature’s full submission, please email me at .
Dr. Anne Bell
Director of Conservation and Education