Ecojustice Blog – Healthy communities Posted on September 4, 2014 (updated: February 17, 2015)

New report supports request for review of neonicotinoid pesticides in Canada

Dr. Elaine MacDonaldScientist

Yesterday, an international group of independent scientists concluded that neonicotinoids pesticides are causing significant damage to a wide range of species including butterflies, earthworms and birds, and are a key factor in the decline of bees.

This report supports the need for Health Canada to establish an independent review of the use in Canada of neonicotinoid pesticides, nerve poisons used on Canadian fruits, potatoes and other crops.

Last September, Ecojustice’s lawyer’s clients objected to the registration of pest control products containing the neonicotinoid clothianidin. With our help, they asked Health Canada to convene a review panel to decide whether Canada should continue to approve the use of products containing clothianidin. We continue to wait for a decision.

What’s inside the report?

The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides is an international group of 50 independent scientists. They reviewed 800 scientific reports and came to a conclusion, which they announced yesterday in Ottawa.

“We can now say conclusively there is clear evidence of harm sufficient to trigger regulatory action,” said Madeline Chagnon, co-author of the study and a professor of biology at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Here are a few of the report’s highlights:

  • “Neonicotinoids persist — particularly in soil — for months and in some cases years and environmental concentrations can build up over the years. This effectively increases their toxicity by increasing the duration of exposure of non- target species.”
  • “The effects of exposure to neonicotinoids range from instant and lethal to chronic. Even long term exposure at low (non-lethal) levels can be harmful.”
  • “Neonicotinoids impact all species that chew a plant, sip its sap, drink its nectar, eat its pollen or fruit and these impacts cascade through an ecosystem weakening its stability.”

Click here to read the report

Why is Ecojustice involved?

At issue for the David Suzuki Foundation, Équiterre and the Wilderness Committee – clients represented by Ecojustice lawyers – is a pesticide named clothianidin. Europe has restricted the use of clothianidin, but Canada continues to allow its use. Clothianidin was found to contribute to the massive honey bee die offs in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

Approximately 90 per cent of all flowering plants require pollinators to survive. Bees are perhaps the best known pollinators, but other pollinators play an essential role in plant reproduction and food production in Canada.

What is the Canadian government doing?

Unfortunately, while the Canadian government recognizes that it lacks requisite information showing that clothianidin is safe for pollinators, Canada continues to keep products containing clothianidin on the market.

Six months ago, our clients asked the federal health minister, Rona Ambrose, to strike a panel to review her decision to renew the registration of several clothianidin products.

The health minister has yet to respond.

What needs to be done now?

Like our clients, we want a healthy environment where the government protects bees and wild pollinators from this harmful pesticide.

To do that, Health Canada should strike an independent panel to review its decision to reapprove products containing clothianidin for use in Canada.

Stay tuned. When we hear Health Canada’s decision, we’ll let you know.

Build the case for a better earth

Thanks to the support of people like you, Ecojustice goes to court to protect what we value most — the air, land and water that sustains all life. Make your gift today and support bold litigation for a brighter environmental future.

Join our newsletter

Get updates on the most pressing environmental issues delivered straight to your inbox.

Join our online community

Follow us on social media