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Environment, Ontario Politics

Unreleased government report shows no benefits to neonic use

A honey bee collects pollin.

A honey bee collecting pollin.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth Canada are calling on the Ontario government to implement an outright ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides after a leaked government report shows no positive economic gains from the pesticide’s use.

Draft findings from Canada’s Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) were leaked today before the final report was made public, showing farmers who use the pesticide receive only a 0.4 per cent yield benefit from coated soy seeds and a 3.4 per cent yield benefit for corn.

“Arguably, based on the findings of PMRA’s draft value assessment, Ontario could revise its decision to a full ban that would save Ontario farmers considerable dollars,” said Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth Canada.

Olivastri’s group argues a re-examination of Canada’s pesticide regulatory processes is long overdue.

“I believe PMRA’s negligence is costing farmers millions of dollars while, at the same time, killing off important beneficial pollinators by direct lethal exposure or through slower sub-lethal poisoning from neonicotinoids,” Olivastri said in a statement.

Neonicotinoids (also known as “neonics”) are a class of neuro-active insecticides developed in the 1980s and 1990s. Imidacloprid, a neonic, is the most common insecticide in the world. The popularity of neonicotinoids took a hit starting in 2008 when Germany linked its use to honey-bee colony collapse disorder. The European Union moved to heavily restrict its use starting in 2013.

In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released their own study on neonic use on soybean yield and found “little or no overall benefits to soybean production in most situations.” Further, the EPA argued that “in most cases there is no difference in soybean yield when soybean seed was treated with neonicotinoids versus not receiving any insect control treatment.”

“In comparison to the next best alternative pest control measures, neonicotinoid seed treatments likely provide $0 in benefits to growers…”

In November, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced her government would drastically reduce the use of neonicotinoids — 80 per cent by 2017.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs outlined an initiative they believe will ensure “healthy ecosystems” and a “productive agricultural sector” in an attempt to halt large-scale pollinator die-offs which have been increasing in recent years.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario immediately issued a release following Wynne’s announcement, claiming an 80 per cent reduction is tantamount to a “total ban on the product,” despite efforts and investments on their part to reduce bee deaths.

“This new regulation is unfounded, impractical, and unrealistic and the government does not know how to implement it,” said Henry Van Ankum in the statement. The announcement is proof that “popular vote trumps science and practicality.”

But Olivastri believes the only group benefitting from the continued use of neonicotinoids are the pesticide manufacturers who are “reaping huge profits from farmers,” she said.

“It does appear there’s virtually no benefit, only vast hazards to our environment from neonicotinoids. If the Canadian government can’t get its act together to do its job then the provinces must lead to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.”

About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.


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