By Tom Collins
OTTAWA — The Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) says it would be hypocritical for it to fight a Health Canada decision to potentially ban one of three neonicotinoids.
Health Canada announced Nov. 23 that the neonic, imidacloprid, might be phased out over the next three to five years but not because of any harm to honeybees.
The honey bees are just fine. Health Canada found that imidacloprid is harmful to aquatic insects such as mayflies and midges. The insecticide is similar but not the same as the neonic treatment that is used on almost all corn planted in Ontario and 60 per cent of Ontario soybeans.
A 90-day comment period on Health Canada’s web site runs until Feb. 21. Health Canada plans to meet with industry stakeholders. A final decision is expected in 2017.
Health Canada found concentrations of imidacloprid in surface water can range from non-detectable to levels as high as 11.9 parts per billion in rare cases.
Concentration levels above 0.041 parts per billion are a concern, Health Canada said.
Health Canada is launching special reviews of the impact of two other widely-used neonicotinoids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, on aquatic insects. Imidacloprid is the most-widely used insecticide in the world, but is the least-used neonic in Ontario. Imidacloprid is used more in Western Canada, especially on canola fields.
GFO chair Mark Brock said his organization has always fought in favour of neonicotinoids as science proved the pesticide doesn’t harm bees. But if the science shows neonics are having a negative effect on aquatic insects, it would be hypocritical for the organization to change its tune now, he said.
“I know our membership is going to read comments from me that it’s the science and we have to accept the results. Well, that’s what we always argued,” said Brock. “We always argued a science-based approach to this and we’ve always held these scientific agencies in high regard to provide us safe food. So when they identify areas of risk, I do think it’s prudent of us to take heed.”
All three of the most common neonics — imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin — are being re-evaluated by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency.
A joint study between Health Canada, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California’s environmental agency released earlier this year said imidacloprid has no potential risk on honeybees. Reports on the other two neonics and its impact on bees could be released this month.
Ontario provincial regulations require farmers to get pest assessments on all fields that use neonics starting in 2017. Some farmers have reported it took one hour of paperwork for assessments for every 100 acres.
CropLife Canada said in an email that it won’t comment on the Health Canada announcement as imidacloprid is a Bayer AG product.