Health Canada, after seven long years of study, has finally concluded what a lot of other governments, including all of Europe, have already decided: neonicotinoid pesticides aren’t good for bees and pollinators.
Having been the victims of a callous spraying incident by a Richmond farmer, who killed a lot of our bees, we could have told them that too.
On Thursday Health Canada issued its “final decision” on the re-evaluation of three neonic pesticides, clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. This is a decision that strikingly comes years after allowing these pesticides to be used on our foods for years without significant evaluation.
“The scientific assessments show varying effects on bees and other pollinators from exposure to each of these pesticides. To protect bees and other pollinators, Health Canada has announced that it will be cancelling some uses of these pesticides, and changing other conditions of use such as restricting the timing of application.”
Predictably, Health Canada has split its decision like Solomon’s baby, saying that the continued use of neonics in seed treatments (in other words, the valuable canola seed and soybean industries) is“not expected to pose unacceptable risks to bees and other pollinators.”
That’s a hollow statement because a number of years ago Ontario beekeepers suffered major losses from neonic-laced talc dust as treated corn seed was planted. Health Canada had to amend its label to warn of this danger.
So too, the poisoning of our bees right next to an everbearing strawberry field at a Richmond country farm, caused Health Canada to change the regulations for the use of Clutch, a clothianidin spray. After that incident in 2015, which heavily damaged our business, Health Canada took nearly nine months of investigation, including examining the farmer’s spray records, to issue a conclusion that our bees had been killed by his spray, even though the label clearly said it was toxic to bees.
The poisoning resulted in Health Canada issuing a temporary restriction banning the use of Clutch on strawberries. I note that this new “final decision” specifically bans clothianidin from use on strawberries.
I’d like to think that our devastating losses had something to do with this.
What’s frustrating now with this newest decision is that Health Canada is going to allow a three-year phase-out of these dangerous pesticides.
I was at a provincial production guide meeting for tree fruit growers on Wednesday where a Ministry of Agriculture representative went through a host of other pesticides and fungicides now cancelled for use in farming. But he pointed out that whenever a use is actually cancelled, Health Canada allows for three years to phase out: the first year the manufacturer can still produce to allow for transition to other chemicals; the second year is to allow the seller to get rid of his stock; the third year is to allow the farmer to exhaust his purchases.
This may sound like it is helpful to assist farmers in transitioning to a different pesticide, but let’s remember the actual issue at hand: it allows for three more years of poisons to be applied when those poisons are shown to have an unacceptable risk to the environment.
That’s like saying that a politician who is corrupt can continue to hold office for three more years while we figure out how to find a replacement.
I agree with the Ontario Beekeepers Association and other groups who say this long phase-out is unacceptable.
I’d like to think that our documented and investigated incident – and for which the farmer never so much as apologized or compensated us for the losses – helped contribute to this new decision to ban neonics from fruits and plants.