When it comes to protecting our wildlife from negative impacts of pesticides, many Canadians believe that our governments are not doing enough. Managing pesticide use and its impacts requires a high level of diligence, scientific rigour, and the will of governments to stand up and announce when they got something terribly wrong.

Today, however, Canadians can feel satisfied that Health Canada has weighed the evidence of harm for imidacloprid, one of the class of systemic pesticides known as neonicotinoids, and decided that its use causes an unacceptable risk to aquatic invertebrates. These pesticides seep into streams and lakes from farmer’s fields, and kill aquatic insects, many of which are a very important food source for fish and birds, as well as being indicators of aquatic health.

Health Canada recently completed its re-evaluation of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid and published its draft risk assessment for public comment. The assessment proposes that current use of imidacloprid is not sustainable, and the levels of this pesticide that are being found in waterways and aquatic environments are harmful to aquatic insects, such as mayflies and midges, which are important food sources for fish, birds and other animals.

Mayfly
This mayfly is one of the aquatic species most impacted by imidacloprid. Mayflies are an important food for fish and birds.

To address the risks identified, Health Canada has also published a proposed risk management plan for public comment, which includes a proposed three-year phase-out of agricultural uses of imidacloprid in order to address risks to aquatic insects. In some cases, where there are no alternative pest control products available, a longer phase-out transition period of five years is being proposed.

The Canadian Wildlife Federation applauds Health Canada for using evidence-based decision making to manage pesticide use in Canada. This is a big step in the right direction.

Imidacloprid is one of the most widely used pesticide and has been found in aquatic environments in Canada at concentrations of up to 290 times the acceptable level for aquatic invertebrates. This is very concerning, and proposing a ban on its use is the appropriate decision given the evidence of harm.

CWF would like to see Health Canada do more to protect our biodiversity from neonicotinoid pesticides, of which imidacloprid is only one of nine. Health Canada is launching special reviews of two other neonicotinoids. These pesticides have become infamous for impacting pollinators around the world.

While protection of the environment is paramount, Canadian Wildlife Federation also wants assurance that our farmers are supported throughout the banning process, some of whom may feel that the proposed ban will truncate their options to deal with pests.

Agricultural departments across Canada should support our famers by boosting their capacity to provide agricultural extension, particularly in the area of integrated pest management.

Imidacloprid is one of the most widely used pesticide and has been found in aquatic environments in Canada at concentrations of up to 290 times the acceptable level for aquatic invertebrates.

The next phase of our federal agricultural policy framework, Growing Forward 3, is an excellent opportunity to address this deficiency.

If you would like to comment on Health Canada’s proposed ban of imidacloprid, see the Pest Management Regulatory Agency Publications Section page for contact information. Please include the title of the consultation: Consultation on Imidacloprid, Proposed Re-evaluation Decision PRVD2016-20. The comment period is open until March 23, 2017.

This post was updated on March 16, 2017.