Canada’s federal pesticide regulator wants to phase out a controversial pesticide widely used in the agriculture industry because of the risk it poses to aquatic insects, officials said Wednesday.
Imidacloprid is one of three neonicotinoids that have been under heavy scrutiny by Health Canada and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency because of environmental concerns and potential risks to bees.
Health Canada said Wednesday it is proposing a three-year phase-out of all agriculture use of Imidacloprid because of its high concentration in water habitats in areas where there is heavy farming. That phase-out, officials said, could be extended to five years in situations where alternative products are not available.
The phase-out is currently subject to a 90-day public comment period. PMRA said Wednesday the recommendation is based on research and data gathered by agency scientists during its review, along with information from pesticide companies and university scientists.
The phase-out is being driven by the pesticide’s potential risk to insects like mayflies and midges. It comes after the PMRA said in January that the pesticide, which is widely used on corn, soybean and potato crops, did not pose threat to bees.
Use of Imidacloprid is currently banned within the European Union because of environmental concerns. A handful of municipalities, including the City of Montreal, also have banned the use of neonicotinoids, but no federal ban is in place in North America.
The Ontario government restricted the agricultural use of neonicotinoid pesticides in 2016. Quebec officials are considering similar actions.
The Ontario regulations limit how much farmers can treat their corn and soybean crops with neonicotinoids, a seed
treatment used on nearly 100 per cent of corn seed
and 60 per cent of soybean seed. The pesticides are also used in other ways, including as foliar sprays.
Under the Ontario rules, farmers who fail to comply with the phase-out — which aims to reduce the use of neonicotinoids by 80 per cent — risk fines of up to $20,000. The new regulations were met with anger by many in Ontario’s farm community.
Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray apologized to grain farmers earlier this week, telling members of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture the rules are too restrictive and will be amended.