Your opinion matters to us. Will you please answer the following questions?
If you’ve bought garden plants from a big box store, or grabbed a few ears of corn from your grocery, you may have encountered neonicotinoid pesticides. In the 1990s, they were introduced because many insects were becoming resistant to common pesticides. These new pesticides, or “neonics” were a group of insecticides that were chemically related to nicotine, and were known to be toxic to the insects that were exposed to it. Today, five of these insecticides including Thiacloprid, Clothianidin, Acetamiprid, Imidacloprim and thiamethoxam are approved for use here in Canada. They are being used on foods like wheat, corn, soy, peas, beans, fruits and vegetables. They are applied to the plant as seed coatings, soil solutions, or as sprays on the leaves and stems. They remain active in the plant for many months, and in the soil up to several years.
Sadly, they’re wreaking havoc on our pollinators. Did you know that 75 to 95 per cent of Earth’s flowering plants rely on pollinators for reproduction? Many of these wild pollinators are put at risk when they fly over the farm fence to feed on the blooms of crops treated with neonics. Hundreds of studies show that even low doses of neonics cause pollinators like bees significant harm. It affects their ability to navigate, learn, collect food and reproduce. Bumble bee colonies exposed to neonics grow more slowly and produce fewer queens. In some areas, butterflies too are sharply declining where their habitat is nearby agricultural areas.
Neonics are one more problem for our disappearing wild pollinators to handle on top of habitat loss, disease, climate change and competition or predation from introduced species. Given that the impacts of neonics are serious, its use is global, and there is evidence of its persistence in the environment for many years, the story of neonics is reminiscent of DDT. This pesticide was widely reported to be safe for people and the environment but in fact was seriously harmful to the environment and recent studies show harmful effects to people at very low levels of exposure. The impacts of DDT continued for decades after it was banned. Decades ago, CWF worked very hard to push the government of Canada to ban DDT, and now we are working hard to push our government to ban neonics.
In response to evidence of harm to beneficial insects, the European Parliament recently voted for a complete and permanent ban on all outdoor uses of the three most commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides. The government of Ontario is phasing in a partial ban to reduce use of neonics. Unfortunately, the partial ban has fallen far short of meeting its objectives. The government of Quebec has also posed restrictions on use of neonics, but it is too soon to tell if these restrictions have been effective in reducing use.
In a recent open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Federation along with 15 non-profit environmental and human health organizations signed their support to urge our government to take immediate action to end the use of neonicotinoid insecticides in Canada in response to recent international developments and significant evidence of serious harm. In addition, one of CWF’s scientists joined over two hundred scientists in an open letter published in the journal Science to urge for immediate action from governments around world to create national and international agreements to greatly restrict the use of neonics.