Neonics are pesticides that are hurting our pollinators, aquatic insects and impacting wildlife. Pollinators are essential for our food supply, our ecosystems and our enjoyment of nature.
Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) proposal to phase out three neonicotinoids: imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin due to unacceptable risk to aquatic species was the correct decision to make, given evidence of serious harm.
CWF applauds Health Canada’s recent announcement to cancel certain uses of these neonicotinoids to address risks to pollinators. However, the decision to continue registration of products containing neonics makes no sense. Continued use of these pesticides is unacceptable, given the weight of scientific evidence of serious harm to pollinators, aquatic insects and other beneficial insects.
While other jurisdictions have banned the use of these neonicotinoids based on the same evidence of harm, we are concerned that Health Canada’s fragmented and lengthy approach to evaluating risks from neonics will impede species recovery.
With the power of our united voice, CWF delivered a strong message to the Government of Canada to:
• Accelerate the timeline for the proposed phase out of three neonics – clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid
• Work towards phasing out the registration of any future systemic pesticides and invest in alternatives
• Ensure that Agriculture Canada works to build a sustainable agriculture industry that is not dependent on poorly adapted seed varieties and high uses of pesticides
• Ensure a full assessment of the impacts of neonics on the species at risk that are likely to be affected, including bats, Monarch Butterflies, Yellow-banded Bumble Bees and Western Bumble Bees
Last summer, the Canadian Wildlife Federation launched a petition calling for a legislated, national ban on the use of all forms of neonicotinoid pesticides in agriculture, horticulture, turf production and golf courses. Under the CWF proposal, emergency use of neonics would be permitted for a limited number of years, but only under cases of severe pest outbreak and with a prescription from a certified agronomist.
What Can You Do?
Don’t use pesticides with neonics around your home and garden
Grow pollinator-friendly plants
How Neonics Spread
You can’t wash your hands of it
Neonics are a systemic pesticide. They can’t be washed off of our apples or rinsed from our garden flowers. They are inside the plant, having been taken up by the leaves or roots and distributed throughout by the vascular system. All parts of the plant are affected, including the stem, flowers, fruits, nectar and pollen. When insects ingest fluids or tissues from a treated plant, the neonics damage their central nervous system, causing tremors, paralysis and sometimes death.
Neonics are now the most widely used insecticides in the world with a global market value of billions of dollars annually. However, mounting evidence suggests unforeseen, negative effects on non-target species and the environment.
In our Environment
Neonics are highly soluble in water, which is the reason they can travel to all parts of a plant. They also last a long time both in the plant and the soil around it. This combination not only makes them desirable insecticides, but also potent environmental contaminants. Water can easily transport neonics throughout soils and into waterways. Once there, they take months (possibly years) to break down.
Neonics can now be found in some water bodies at levels that are toxic to aquatic insect species like midges and mayflies. This can cause serious disruptions in the food chain. In the Netherlands, declines of insects from neonics have been linked to declines of insect-eating birds. Birds can also be harmed directly if they eat neonic-coated seeds. In a Canadian study, migratory White-crowned Sparrows exposed to a dose of a neonic equal to four to eight treated canola seeds a day over three days lost a quarter of their body weight.
Depending on the concentration and mode of delivery of the neonic, it’s likely that many other species are harmed. Although amphibians and fish are less sensitive to neonics than insects, studies show neonics to be toxic to them at high doses, or after long exposures. Neonics can alter the eating patterns of earthworms to the point that they starve. Even bats may fall victim to neonics.
A Problem For Pollinators
Without pollinators, where would we be? By some estimates, 30 per cent of our food is made possible by the bees, beetles, flies, birds and butterflies that help grow our food — and let’s not forget honey! Honeybees produce honey from nectar and pollen collected from flowers. But now many pollinators get more than pollen and nectar when they visit blooms in our agricultural fields. In Canada, neonics have been found in the pollen and nectar of many crops.
Hundreds of studies show that the use of neonics causes pollinators like bees significant harm. It affects their ability to navigate, learn, collect food and reproduce. Bumble bee colonies permeated with neonics grow more slowly and produce fewer queens.
Not just agriculture
Are Neonics Worth It?
We have come to rely on insecticides like neonics for the control of pests on our food crops, garden flowers, tree farms and even the fleas on our dogs. We routinely apply these chemicals even before they are needed as insurance against a pest outbreak that may or may not occur. “It’s like taking antibiotics to avoid getting ill, before you are ill,” says biologist David Goulson, a scientist with the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides.
But is it worth it?
Widespread over-use of neonics is accelerating the rate at which insect pests all over the world are developing resistance. For example, just ten years after the neonic imidacloprid was introduced, 95 per cent of Colorado Potato Beetle populations in the Northeastern and Midwestern USA showed resistance. Yet despite increasing rates of pest resistance, many producers still consider neonics to be beneficial.
Neonics ≠ increased yield
And although neonics may appear to work in terms of reducing damage to the plant, in many cases this does not translate into higher yields at the end of the season. In one study, a neonic was found to reduce root injuries in corn, but this did not translate to a yield increase and associated economic benefit.
The questionable effectiveness of neonics and growing resistance of pest insects to these chemicals needs to be carefully weighed against the harm they are causing other organisms, and the loss of pollination and other services nature provides to agriculture.
Governments within Canada have been slow to respond to this serious issue. We have to take action now; our precious wildlife is counting on us.
Your contribution today is critical to support all steps of our plan. This threat is not going away.The harmful effects of neonics will be seen decades from now and we can’t afford to lose any more time thinking about the issue.
For over 55 years, CWF has been dedicated to conserving wild species and spaces and with your help the future of Canada’s wildlife and habitat is in good hands.