The House of Commons Agriculture Committee sent a letter to the federal Health Minister last week outlining concerns about Health Canada’s proposed ban of imidacloprid, one of the three main neonicotinoid seed treatments used by farmers.
The extended comment period on the proposal to phase out imidacloprid use over the next three years concluded on March 23, 2017.
The letter, signed by Ag Committee chair and Liberal MP Pat Finnigan, asks Minister Jane Philpott to consider several concerns regarding the proposed decision:
- Concerns about transparency and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s re-evaluation process:
“…concerns have been raised about the lack of transparency of PMRA’s re-evaluation process. More specifically, dialogue with the registrant was not pursued once potential risks had been identified. Witnesses suggested that dialogue with the registrant and other stakeholders should be initiated earlier in the process, before a decision is published, to allow for scientific input and new data to be obtained.”
- The scientific evidence referenced in proposing the decision:
“Pesticide manufacturers also suggested that PMRA consider additional recent studies in its decision, since it dismissed many studies showing that there were no imidacloprid concentrations of concern in water samples collected across Canada. In their view, the decision does not take into account the regional differences or the different production practices. They also criticized the fact that the toxicity threshold was determined based only on laboratory data rather than on mesocosm studies, which they believe are more revealing of the real environmental impact.”
- The likelihood that alternative products will cause more harm:
“Although there are imidacloprid alternatives, they may not be economically sustainable and profitable solutions for farmers. Some in the beekeeping industry, for example, fear that alternative products could turn out to be more harmful to bees than neonicotinoids. Farmers and pesticide registrants are afraid that discontinuing imidacloprid would force farmers to use greater quantities of ineffective pesticides, resulting in even greater environmental damage and possible harm to the applicator. It is in fact a concern that the environmental and health effects of a greater use of alternative products have not been weighed in the re-evaluation of imidacloprid.”
“The loss of imidacloprid remains a great concern for the agriculture sector, and the Committee hopes that you will take our concerns into account…,” concludes Finnigan.
In a news release, Conservative agriculture critic and MP for Cypress Hills-Grasslands David Anderson notes “the Minister said that she would not revisit this even though, at the time, the Agriculture Committee was actively studying the issue. This highlighted the fact that science was not the determining factor in her considerations.”
Bev Shipley, Conservative MP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex and vice chair of the Ag Committee, says the decision sets a “terrible precedent”
“For the first time we see the banning of a crop protection product without scientific corroboration,” he says. “Canada’s regulatory process has had a good reputation. This government is undermining that confidence by putting environmental politics ahead of science.”
Products containing imidacloprid include Bayer’s Admire, Gaucho, Raxil Pro Shield, Stress Shield 600 and Trilex EverGol Shield, as well as FMC’s Grapple and Adama’s Alias and Sombrero seed treatments.
Clothianidin and thiamethoxam, two other neonicotinoid products, are not included in this phase-out, but Health Canada is also launching special reviews for them, looking at “potential risks these pesticides may pose to aquatic invertebrates, including insects, as they are also being detected frequently in aquatic environments.”