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A bumblebee sits on the petals of a yellow flower.

Photo by Royal Tyler


Protecting pollinators from neonicotinoids

David Suzuki Foundation et al. v. Attorney General of Canada et al.

September 19, 2018

Ecojustice went to Federal Court in November 2018 to challenge conditional registration of some Thiamethoxam pesticides, which are toxic to bees and other pollinators. We argued that these pesticides are unlawfully registered in Canada due to the lax oversight by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA).

Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are systemic chemical insecticides that are found in all tissues of treated plants, including pollen and nectar. They are widely used in modern, intensive agriculture.

In the agriculture sector, neonics are marketed as a way to protect crops from harmful insects. But studies show that these pesticides are also likely to harm “non-target organisms” like native bees, which are responsible for pollinating one third of the world’s crops and 90 per cent of all wild plants. Neonics are one of the largest threats to colony size and health in Canada. Research suggests neonics have played a role in mass bee die-offs, and that the pesticides harm bees’ metabolic, immune, and reproductive functions, and negatively affect bees’ foraging and homing behaviour.

In August 2018, the PMRA proposed to eventually phase out outdoor uses of two widely-used neonicotinoids, Thiamethoxam and Clothianidin, due to the risks they pose to aquatic invertebrates and the fish, birds, and other animals that rely on them as a food source. However, the same day, despite recognizing the dangerous risks Thiamethoxam poses to the environment, the PMRA extended Thiamethoxam’s registrations to December 2020 and proposed granting additional three-year registrations.

In April 2019, Ecojustice received a decision that our lawsuit was not successful. The court did not consider the merits of the case and declined to consider the issues on mootness grounds. This meant that the Court did not make any findings on the PMRA’s actions. (David Suzuki Foundation et al. v. Attorney General of Canada et al. 2019, FCC 411.)

Despite the fact the PMRA’s own research concluded that some uses of Thiamethoxam neonicotinoid pesticides pose unacceptable risks to pollinators, all the products remain conditionally registered until December 31, 2020.

This case challenged a decades-long history of the PMRA failing to live up to its responsibility as a regulator. For years, the PMRA has maintained registrations for Thiamethoxam, a widely-used neonicotinoid pesticide, while failing to ensure it had the scientific information necessary to determine the pesticide’s risks to pollinators. The PMRA has also skirted its legal requirement to consult the public on Thiamethoxam’s environmental risks.

Concern over the PMRA’s lax oversight led Ecojustice to file a lawsuit on behalf of Wilderness Committee, Ontario Nature, David Suzuki Foundation and Friends of the Earth. We asked the court to rule on the issue that the PMRA’s “approve first, study the science later” approach is unlawful and that the practice of granting approvals without science should not continue.

To our disappointment, the Court declined to consider the merits of the case, and did not make any findings as whether the PMRA is undermining the precautionary nature of the Pest Control Products Act by registering possibly harmful products without understanding their impact on ecosystems.

The Pest Control Products Act already has requirements that protect the environment. Ecojustice continues to want the PMRA to follow the law for neonicotinoids and every other pesticide. No pesticide should be used in Canada unless and until it meets the Act’s registration standards for protection of human health and the environment.

May 2019
A bumblebee flies up to a pink flower.

Bittersweet ending to neonicotinoid pesticide case

Ecojustice learned that the Federal Court decided to dismiss our neonicotinoid pesticide case on mootness grounds, related to the timing of the case.
Apr 2019
press release

Statement: Court declines to hear merits of neonicotinoid pesticide case

TORONTO, 11 April 2019 – Environmental groups expressed their disappointment at the Federal Court’s April 5, 2019 decision to dismiss a case challenging a decades-long history of conditional registrations of Thiamethoxam neonicotinoid pesticides by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA).
Nov 2018
2 bumblebees sit on a large yellow sunflower.

The latest buzz: Pollinators’ week in court

Last week, I was in court with my colleagues, Laura and Bronwyn, fighting to end lax regulatory practices that put pollinators at risk.
Nov 2018
press release

Canada’s approval of pollinator-killing pesticide violates federal law

Groups in court over neonicotinoid pesticide linked to declining pollinator populations TORONTO — Environmental groups are in Federal Court today to protect pollinators from a harmful neonicotinoid pesticide, Thiamethoxam, by challenging the lax oversight of Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA).
Aug 2018
A bumblebee sits on a white flower.

Is the federal government doing enough to protect our environment from harmful pesticides?

While many of us are taking some time to quietly enjoy the sights and sounds of nature this summer, the buzz around the health of Canada’s pollinators just got a little louder.
Apr 2018
A bumblebee pollinates a yellow flower in a yellow and green field.
press release

Federal Court rules bee-killing pesticide lawsuit will go to full hearing

Lawsuit brought by environmental groups survives second attempt to shut it down.
Nov 2017
A bumblebee hangs from a flower upside down.

Bees v. government & industry, round two

We’re fending off a second attempt to shut down our lawsuit against pollinator-killing pesticides Today, we’re back in court to fend off a second attempt by industry and government to shut down our clients’ case against the continued registration of bee-killing pesticides without the scientific studies required to assess their risks to pollinators.
Jul 2017
A bumblebee hangs from a flower upside down.

VICTORY: Pollinators will get their day in court!

Ecojustice lawyers were in court this month to make sure our case against bee-killing pesticides is heard.
Jul 2017
Brown belted bumblebee Photo by Andrew C
press release

Judge orders a hearing of environmental groups’ pesticide case

TORONTO – A Federal Court judge has ruled that a case to protect pollinators from neonicotinoid pesticides must be heard before the courts.
Nov 2016
press release

Federal regulator announces Neonicotinoid pesticide phase out

TORONTO — Ecojustice lawyer, Charles Hatt, reacts to the PMRA’s announcement: The Pest Management Regulatory Agency announced that it would phase out a neonicotinoid pesticide that poses unsustainable environmental risks, and said it will review other neonicotinoids (Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam) for the same risks.
Jul 2016
Pollinator garden Photo by Sara
press release

Environmental groups head to court over pollinator-killing pesticides

Neonicotinoid pesticides have been linked to mass bee die-offs and declining pollinator populations.