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Health Canada proposes plan to phase out two neonicotinoids

Health Canada has announced its plan to phase out most uses of the neonicotinoids clothianidin and thiamethoxam, citing that the two insecticides are being measured at levels harmful to aquatic insects.

August 15, 2018  By Stephanie Gordon

Following special reviews for the two neonicotinoid pesticides, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has found that these substances are being measured at levels that are harmful to aquatic insects. The announcement released earlier this morning says that the findings also affect fish, birds and other animals which feed on aquatic insects for food.

Based on these findings, Health Canada proposes to phase out all outdoor (non-greenhouse) agricultural and turf uses for clothianidin, and all outdoor agricultural and ornamental uses for thiamethoxam in the next three to five years.

Neonicotinoids are most well known for being linked to declining bee populations. However, according to Health Canada cited in a Toronto Star article, no single factor has been identified as the cause of bee declines. Alongside pesticide exposure, other contributing factors may include loss of habitat, diseases, viruses, and pest infestations. Health Canada scientists have reviewed more than 1000 scientific studies related to neonicotinoids and received more than 55,000 comments on our neonicotinoid consultations to date. The announcement today is not related to bees, but aquatic insects and those that feed on aquatic insects. 


Health Canada has published proposed special review decisions for both pesticides. These proposals will be subject to a 90-day consultation period, during which stakeholders and interested parties can submit comments on the proposed decision and provide additional data for consideration. Final special review decisions are expected to be announced at the end of 2019 and will take into consideration any comments or new information received during the consultation period. The consultation period ends November 13, 2018.

The Canola Council of Canada already released a statement concerned about PMRA’s proposed decision. Both clothianidin and thiamethoxam are used by canola growers to prevent damage caused by flea beetles.

“The proposed decisions are of concern for the canola industry as a ban will reduce yield and increase the risks faced by growers…PMRA earlier determined that clothianidin and thiamethoxam do not pose a risk to pollinators, including honey bees, when used as a seed treatment on canola,” said Canola Council of Canada in a published statement.

The Council cited a study published in 2017 based on European growers’ experience without these products which showed that growers faced an increased risk of insect damage and had lower yields. In 2013, the European Union severely restricted the use of three neonicotinoids: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam citing the protection of honeybees. Currently 22.7 million acres of canola are seeded in Canada, and “banning these plant protection tools would have a dramatic impact,” said the Council.

The Canola Council of Canada stated it will review today’s proposed decisions and will continue to actively contribute to the review process. 

Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers (MPSG) also issued a statement, stating that they will join other concerned grower organization in reviewing PMRA’s decisions. 

“MPSG is deeply concerned over the prospect of its farmers no longer having access to Thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid contained in Cruiser, Helix, Actara, Flagship and Minecto – chemicals commonly used to protect soybeans, edible beans, faba beans, chickpeas, lentils, lupins and many more crops from wireworm, seed-corn maggot and pea leaf weevil,” the statement read. 

In addition to chemicals used directly on pulses and soybeans, MPSG also said it was “equally concerned over the potential banning of Clothianidin (Prosper, Poncho, Nipsit, Titan and Clutch)” which is not registered for use on pulses and soybean crops because the potential decision “sets a concerning precedent for the registration of future products that could benefit Manitoba’s and/or Canada’s pulse and soybean industries.”


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