Health Canada has proposed banning two of the most commonly used neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) used in Canadian agriculture in the next three to five years following a review of their impact on aquatic insect species.
The proposal published on Wednesday would end outdoor agricultural and turf uses for clothianidin, and all outdoor agricultural and ornamental uses for thiamethoxam in the next three to five years.
The special review for both these neonics was launched in 2016 when Health Canada made a similar announcement proposing a three-year phase out of the other main neonic —imidacloprid.
Clothianidin and thiamethoxam are commonly used as seed treatments to protect canola, corn, and soybeans seeds and seedlings from insect pests. Clothianidin-containing seed treatments include Poncho 600 FS, Prosper EverGol and Nipsit Suite. The list of products containing thiamethoxam includes Cruiser Maxx, Cruiser Vibrance, and Helix Vibrance.
The federal health department says its Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) “has found that these substances are being measured at levels that are harmful to aquatic insects.”
The announcement kicks off a 90-day consultation period, where stakeholders can submit comments and provide additional data to be considered. The final decision is slated to be made near the end of 2019.
“The majority of the products that are registered will be phased out over the shorter period because there are alternative products available to growers. The five-year phase out would be for products that have no alternatives, so this would allow for the development of alternatives prior to the phase out,” Scott Kirby, director general of the PMRA’s environmental assessment directorate, told reporters in a technical briefing.
He said the PMRA’s review process does not specifically take into account the impact of farmers switching to alternative treatments, such as a switch from seed-applied treatments to spraying.
“We don’t do a comparative risk assessment of alternative chemistries,” he explained. ” If they are registered, they’re considered safe to use, and those alternatives will eventually get reevaluated following our cyclical reevaluation schedules,”
As for the surface water data supporting the proposed decision, Kirby described it as being more “robust” in parts of the country than others.
“We had monitoring data where canola is grown, and most canola is treated with these products, and we saw exceedances that were a level of concern. The data was not as robust as what we found in Ontario and Quebec, however we could not rule out risk from these uses,” he said. “If we get additional information over the course of the consultation period that can show in fact the risks are acceptable from those uses, then we’ll definitely take that into consideration in making our final decision.”
The decision to ban clothianidin and thiamethoxam is specifically related to concerns about aquatic insects, not bees or other pollinators. Health Canada is also reviewing the impact of the main neonics on pollinator health, but those reviews are separate from the aquatic insect assessments.
A proposed decision for clothianidin and thiamethoxam in the context of pollinator health was published last December and included new three-year registrations for both neonics, with some added restrictions. The final decisions in the pollinator health review are expected before the end of 2018.
The final decision on the aquatic insect-based phase-out of imidacloprid is also expected before the end of this year.
As for the proposed phase-out of clothianidin and thiamethoxam as part of the aquatic insect review, the consultation period will be open from August 15 to November 13. Comments can be submitted to the PMRA Publications Section.
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