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Farm use of neonics ‘not sustainable:’ PMRA

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(Photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Canada’s farming practices involving corn and soybeans treated with neonicotinoid pesticides are “not sustainable” and new measures to reduce their risk to bees are en route for 2014, the federal government says.

Following reports of bee deaths over more corn- and soybean-growing areas in three provinces, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) announced Friday it’s now open to public comment on its proposed measures, which at the farm level would include “adherence to safer seed planting practices” and use of dust-reducing seed flow lubricants.

Its measures up for comment also propose new pesticide and seed package labels with “enhanced warnings.”

PMRA said it also plans to require “updated value information be provided to support the continued need for neonicotinoid treatment” on up to 100 per cent of corn seed and 50 per cent of soybean seed.

PMRA also announced Friday it’s now “expediting” its previously announced re-evaluation of neonicotinoids, in co-operation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). PMRA said it also proposes to implement label improvements “similar to those announced by the U.S. EPA.”

EPA’s planned changes, announced Aug. 15, call for new pesticide labels that “prohibit use of some neonicotinoid pesticide products where bees are present.” The planned U.S. labels are to have a bee “advisory box and icon” with information on routes of exposure and spray drift precautions.

PMRA in February had announced plans for its review of Canada’s approved neonicotinoids, which include clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid, following reports of bee kills in Ontario and Quebec during the 2012 corn planting season.

The agency then proposed label amendments to a number of neonicotinoid products to take effect this year in time for 2014 planting, to “alert growers and applicators to the potential hazard treated seed dust can pose to bees and to provide information regarding best management practices to be employed during the planting of treated seed.”

The products to which the amended labels would apply include Bayer CropScience’s clothianidin seed treatment Poncho, Valent Canada’s clothianidin treatment NipsIt Inside, Syngenta Canada’s thiamethoxam-based Cruiser seed treatments, Bayer’s imidacloprid-based Gaucho insecticides and Mana Canada’s imidacloprid product Sombrero 600.

“Significant number”

PMRA on Friday noted it received a “significant number of pollinator mortality reports” in the spring and summer of 2012, mainly from corn-growing regions of Ontario and Quebec.

About 70 per cent of the affected dead bee samples tested positive for residues of neonicotinoid insecticides used to treat corn, while neonicotinoids were only detected in unaffected bees in one sample at “very low” levels.

PMRA thus concluded “the majority of pollinator mortalities were a result of exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides, likely through exposure to contaminated dust generated during the planting of treated corn seed.”

Unusually warm and dry weather conditions were thought to be a contributing factor, PMRA said — but this spring, with “more typical weather patterns,” the agency said it has “continued to receive a significant number of pollinator mortality reports from both corn- and soybean-growing regions of Ontario and Quebec, as well as Manitoba.”

Thus, PMRA said, “we have concluded that current agricultural practices related to the use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed are not sustainable.”

The agency said it’s now working with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the provinces, growers, beekeepers and the pesticide industry to see if “other options exist” that would protect the environment while allowing neonicotinoids’ continued use.

At a recent meeting with officials from the Ontario and Quebec ag ministries, PMRA noted a number of research projects, “such as those aimed at improving integrated pest management techniques,” were discussed and possible solutions explored. — AGCanada.com Network

Related stories:
Bayer working to find answers to bee deaths, Aug. 6, 2013
Ont. panel to study crop pesticide management for bee health, July 10, 2013

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