Neonicotinoids could be harmful to aquatic insects — and that has sealed the fate for one version of the pesticide.
Following a review, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has proposed phasing out Imidacloprid over the next three to five years.
“Our re-evaluation found no risk for human health,” said Scott Kirby, director general of the environmental assessment directorate with Health Canada. “But our environmental risk assessment found that it does pose a potential risk to terrestrial and aquatic insects.”
Aquatic insects are vital in ecological communities, particularly in nutrient cycling. Spray drifts and run-off of Imidacloprid may result in toxic effects to aquatic insects, even though the chemical does not pose a risk to fish, amphibians, algae or aquatic plants. The risks were determined by environmental modelling and water monitoring.
The chemical also poses a risk to birds and small mammals that consume treated seed. Imidacloprid is used in greenhouses, ornamental production, commercial vegetables, potatoes, vineyards, corn, canola, and pulse production. The PMRA is seeking to phase out the use of Imidacloprid in trees, greenhouses, outdoor agriculture, commercial seed treatment, turf, and lawns. The chemical poses no risks when used around buildings, as an application for tree injection, or in flea, tick and lice collars for cats and dogs.
Imidacloprid is used in products such as Sombrero, Stress Shield, and Alias. It is a minor use product in pulses, but is quite important in soybeans.
Kirby said he cannot speak on the implications of the phase-out for agricultural producers, but Health Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are looking to find alternative chemicals that can replace Imidacloprid. The two agencies are also looking to determine strategies for transition to other products, if available.
All stakeholders have had the opportunity to engage in the consultation, said Nevin Rosaasen, program and policy specialist with the Alberta Pulse Growers Commission.
“Growers should be voicing their concerns to their grower organization and to any type of body that represents their concerns or their bottom line,” said Rosaasen. “Growers themselves are also welcome to submit an individual submission to Health Canada.”
Many groups are making submissions — including pulse organizations from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. The Canola Council of Canada and the Grain Growers of Canada are also talking to their members.
“Keep in mind that right now all we have is a proposed decision and that’s being consulted on,” said Kirby. “We’re going to get a lot of information from grower groups and the agricultural industry that will give us information on alternatives, as well as what kind of impact this will have on farmers.”
Under the Pest Control Products Act, all registered pesticides must be re-evaluated by the PMRA to ensure they continue to meet modern health and environmental safety standards. While the proposed phase-out deals only with Imidacloprid, the neonicotinoids Thiomethoxam and Clothiandin are under review. The phase-out of Thiomethoxam could have a definite impact on pulse growers, since there is no alternative for pea leaf weevil control.
Comments can be made until March 23 at Health Canada’s website at hc-sc.gc.ca (search ‘Imidacloprid’).