By Connor Lynch
GUELPH — Health Canada is throwing the baby out with the bathwater with its proposed neonicotinoid ban, said University of Guelph environmental scientist Paul Sibley. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency has proposed phasing out agricultural use of imidacloprid, the least used neonic in Canada, over three to five years.
Sibley took some heat for his comments in the Western Producer that the decision had more to do with politics than science. But he stands by that position, he told Farmers Forum. “I can’t not draw the conclusion that it’s at least in part politically motivated.”
Neonicotinoids kill insects, he said. “They’re designed to be toxic to insects,” and Sibley doesn’t disagree with the federal agency up to that point.
Sibley examined the same data that Health Canada used and concluded that management practices would probably be sufficient to control pesticide leakage and a ban is unnecessary. The heavy restriction on neonic use in Ontario and reassessing in three to five years is better than a ban and more research is necessary. The restriction is “at least an intermediate step.”
Environmentalists will tell you that neonics will wipe out the life in the streams in three to five years, he said. “I disagree.” From his own research, Sibley has concluded that an absence of mayflies and bloodworms (two insects that prompted Health Canada’s ban) in areas heavily saturated with agriculture probably had more to do with habitat erosion than leaky chemicals.
Shortly after a European neonic ban was instituted, Sibley said there were farmers facing yield losses from pests as high as 20 per cent. After various countries instituted various solutions, the result is that neonic use is nearly as high as it was before the ban, he said.
“Maybe our regulations and enforcement here is a bit stricter, I don’t know. But I can tell you right now the farming community will not accept that reduction in yield.”
The PMRA has two other neonicotinoids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, slated for review. What their fate will be depends on how the government treats the 90-day comment period for the imidicloprid ban, said Sibley. If it backs off and softens its position, then there’s hope that the other two neonics will be spared the chopping block, he said.