Includes Statements from Friends of the Earth Canada, Sierra Club Canada, Environmental Defence
Ontario Setting New Rules to Protect Bees, Other Pollinators
Ontario is taking the strongest action in North America to protect bees, birds, butterflies, and other pollinators by proposing new rules that would reduce the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80 per cent by 2017.
Some neonicotinoid insecticides are toxic to bees and other beneficial insects.The government is taking a precautionary approach to limit the use of neonicotinoid treated seeds. The proposed regulation sets rules for the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds.
The draft regulation is available for public comment on the environmental registry until May 7, 2015. If approved, new rules would take effect July 1, 2015.
Following provincewide consultations in winter 2014-15, the proposed regulation will help protect pollinators and ensure a productive agricultural sector. It is also an important step in developing a pollinator health action plan that will examine key stressors that can affect pollinator health, including:
Loss of habitat and nutrition
Climate change and weather
Disease, pests and genetics
Ensuring a strong and healthy agricultural sector is part of the government’s economic plan for Ontario. The four part plan is building Ontario up by investing in people’s talents and skills, building new public infrastructure like roads and transit, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives, and building a secure savings plan so everyone can afford to retire.
In the winter of 2013-2014, bee deaths in Ontario reached 58 per cent. The generally accepted level by those who care for and breed bees is 15 per cent.
Bees and other pollinators are responsible for pollinating roughly 13 per cent of agricultural crops in Ontario (crops worth about $897 million), and support $26 million annually in honey production.
Ontario’s agri-food sector employs 760,000 individuals and contributes $34 billion each year to the province’s economy.
Read a summary of the proposed regulation
Comment on the draft regulation
Pollinator health discussion paper
“We heard overwhelmingly that the people of Ontario support immediate action to protect our food sources and the environment from the effects of neurotoxic neonicotinoids. The proposed regulation will contribute to reducing a major stressor on pollinators and other vulnerable species.”
Glen R. Murray
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
“After extensive consultation, our government is moving forward with the next phase of our comprehensive pollinator health strategy, based on the advice of agricultural leaders. The proposed regulation released today is a balanced and practical way forward that would ensure farmers have access to treated seeds when needed.”
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Ontario sets the stage for Canada wide regulation of bee-killing pesticides
TORONTO – Sierra Club’s #SaveTheBees campaign took a giant step forward today with the introduction of new regulations by the Ontario government.”These regulations will restrict the use of dangerous, bee-killing pesticides on corn and soybean crops,” said John Bennett, National Program Director of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation (SCCF). “The new rules will cover millions of acres. It’s good news for the bees and other pollinators.”
SCCF worked closely with the Ontario Bee Keepers Association for two years to build support for today’s government action.
“It’s not a total ban, but it is a huge step toward sustainable agriculture in Ontario. We applaud the government’s leadership,” said Mr. Bennett. “Now we are turning our sights on other provinces –it’s urgent that use bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides are is controlled in this country.”
Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency has long lost its ability to regulate the agri-chemical industry,” said Mr. Bennett.
SCCF has been strongly critical in the past of the government regulator’s relationship with former MP Ted Menzies, now CEO of the powerful lobby group CropLife (an industry organization representing pesticide makers).
Ontario government action on bee and pollinator protection applauded by Friends of the Earth
Premier Wynne and Ministers of Environment and Agriculture cited as North American leaders
(March 23, 2015, Ottawa, ON) Today, following extensive public consultation, Ontario tabled a Regulation to permanently reduce 80 percent of the bee-harmful neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides used on corn and soy seed by 2017. This announcement makes Ontario the first North American jurisdiction to permanently restrict usage of this pesticide (for neonic-coated corn and soy seed).
“Saving bees is the most compelling environmental mission in decades,” stated Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada (FOE Canada). “Ontario is getting it right and demonstrating leadership at a continent-wide scale.”
FOE Canada polling indicated Ontario’s residents, whether rural or urban, strongly supported government action to save bees.
“Ontario is to be congratulated,” continued Olivastri. “It identified the opportunity with the greatest potential for saving bees and took action. Designating neonic-coated seeds as pesticides under the provincial Pesticides Act is the right step.”
The Regulation ensures that bee-harmful pesticides can no longer be used to coat seeds “just in case” they’re needed. Only farmers who prove they have a pest challenge will be able to access the pesticide. This means that uncoated seeds should be readily available to the majority of farmers.
For the past three years, FOE Canada has argued that widespread use of seed coatings are unnecessary. This is exactly the priority acted on by the Ontario government.
In addition to its focus on neonicotinoids in agriculture, FOE Canada has tested garden supply and plant nursery products for neonics. Testing last summer showed over half of the nursery plants considered to be “bee friendly”, in fact, contained bee-harmful pesticides. The FOE “Gardener Beware” campaign advises gardeners to buy only neonic-free plants.
Friends of the Earth encourages everyone to do their part to save bees by stopping the use of bee-harmful neonics—whether you are a farmer or home gardener.
Olivastri concluded, “All Ontarians concerned about the environment and the future of agriculture, should applaud Premier Wynne, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Murray, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Leal and their Cabinet colleagues for making a tough but positive decision.”
Friends of the Earth Canada (www.foecanada.org) is the Canadian member of Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroots environmental network campaigning on today’s most urgent environmental and social issues.
Neonicotinoids work by interfering with insects’ nervous systems. Three neonicotinoid pesticides are subject to a temporary ban in the European Union (EU) from 2013 due to evidence that they harm bees.
In light of the EU ban, Friends of the Earth has been calling for a Canada-wide ban on the registration of neonicotinoids since 2013. In Canada, the federal government controls registration of pesticides products and the provinces control sale and use of the pesticides. Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North American to restrict neonic use permanently for neonic-coated corn and soy seed, developed by Bayer CropScience and introduced about a decade ago.
In a German Court earlier this month, Friends of the Earth Germany won the right to free speech about the bee-harmful effects of neonics in gardening products against an injunction brought by Bayer. For decision and background on the case, click here.
Friends of the Earth has commissioned several public opinion polls on neonicotinoids in Ontario—most recently in December 2014, following the release of Ontario’s discussion paper on pollinator health. Public support for the government’s plan is strong among both rural and urban respondents, across all regions of the province. The proposed reduction was endorsed by 85% of residents in southwestern Ontario; 81% in Toronto; 79% in the Niagara/Hamilton region; 78% in the GTA; 77% in Eastern Ontario; 63% in Northern Ontario; and 60% in Central Ontario.
Statement from Tim Gray of Environmental Defence on Ontario government’s proposed science-based rules on neonics
Toronto, ON – Today, the Ontario government released its draft regulation on how it intends to protect bees and other pollinators from neonics, a group of pesticides. Environmental Defence applauds the province for showing leadership on this issue.
Scientists agree that neonics are toxic to bees, birds, and ecosystems. Scientific studies also show that, in most cases, neonicotinoid treatments are no more effective when it comes to insect control, compared to plants not treated with the chemicals.
Ontarians have been loud and clear that they support smarter rules on the use of neonics. More than 50,000 Ontarians submitted comments during the first comment period this winter, and 97 per cent were in support of the new regulations. The province has listened to scientists and heard the public’s concerns, and has decided to act.
The proposed regulations are reasonable and will go a long way in protecting the health of pollinators. They will restrict the use of neonics by 80 per cent by 2017, describe neonicotinoid-coated seeds as a new class of pesticides, and strengthen the rules on the sale and use of neonics. They would also require a reduction in the use of neonics over a two year period, allowing farmers to adjust and obtain non-treated seed stock.
There is a 45 day period for the public to provide feedback on the specific regulations and Ontarians are encouraged to submit their comments.
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.