Health Canada reverses ban but chemical companies and farmers have moved on
ONTARIO — Canada’s federal pesticide regulator last month completed a 180 degree reversal of its earlier announced intention to ban neonicotinoids. Health Canada’s Pest Management Review Agency instead issued a ruling allowing Imidacloprid — one of three primary ne0onic insecticides used on corn, soybean and canola seeds — to remain licensed with a handful of tweaked restrictions. That decision followed the Agency’s March finding that neonics clothiandin and thiamethoxam were not harming aquatic insects.
But almost simultaneously, the University of Guelph released a study last month suggesting neonics do pose a threat to monarch butterflies.
It all adds up to a lingering news buzz within the Ontario and Canadian agricultural scene for the one-time alleged bee killer.
“It’s kind of a zombie issue, it always comes back to life,” observed crop consultant Gilles Quesnel of neonics’ propensity for always finding another headline. Neonics have been “boxed in” with controversy in a way similar to the herbicide glyphosate, Quesnel said, adding, “There will always be a new story out on glyphosate, and it’s the same with neonics…. Who am I to say it’s not warranted?”
In response to the beekeepers’ lobby, in 2016 Ontario’s Liberal government imposed such heavy restrictions on neonic-treated seed that it made the chemicals such a hassle to use that critics argued that the restrictions amounted to a neonic ban. More recently, the Ford government allowed farmers to more easily meet the requirements of the regulation by taking a course. But farmers and chemical companies have moved on.“Nobody’s really talking about it anymore. It just kind of faded away,” said Ralph Nash, who farms south of Chesterville. “Until you brought up the subject, I had forgotten about it.”
Pioneer Seeds dealer Greg Millard confirmed that Ontario’s corn and soybean growers had largely switched over to seed treated with another chemical, though neonic-treated seed is still available. But it’s not in great demand. “It’s basically dead, it’s gone. It’s basically out,” Millard said.