The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has published a notice of its intention to impose further controls on the use of neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seeds for the 2014 planting season.

Neonicotinoids are a widely used class of insecticide that have been in use for a number of years. Typically the pesticide is applied as a seed coating and acts as a “systemic pesticide” meaning that it is taken up by the living plant and transported to all the tissues such as the roots, leaves and stem as well as the plant’s pollen and nectar. A treated plant is then protected against “sucking” insects, since ingestion of any plant material will be toxic to those insects.

According to the PMRA notice of intent (which can be found here http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pest/part/consultations/_noi2013-01/noi2013-01-eng.php ) the PMRA “has determined that current agricultural practices related to the use of neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed are affecting the environment due to their impacts on bees and other pollinators”. This conclusion followed an investigation of a significant number of pollinator mortality reports received by the PMRA in the spring and summer of 2012 mainly from Ontario and Quebec.  The investigation initially concluded that neonicotinoids were responsible for the pollinator mortality incidents. Because unusually warm and dry weather conditions that season were considered to be a contributing factor, measures were implemented at that time to reduce pollinator exposure  by introducing best farming practices for seed planting.

PMRA now reports that despite the implementation of these practices and  more typical weather in the spring of 2013, it continued to receive a significant number of pollinator mortality reports from corn and soybean growing regions in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. PMRA now states that “Consequently, we have concluded that current agricultural practices related to the use of neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed are not sustainable.”

As a result, for the 2014 growing season, PMRA intends to implement additional measures for corn and soybean production, including:

  • Requiring the use of safer dust-reducing seed flow lubricants;
  • Requiring adherence to safer seed planting practices;
  • Requiring new pesticide and seed package labels with enhanced warnings; and,
  • Requiring updated value information be provided to support the continued need for neonicotinoid treatment on up to 100% of the corn seed and 50% of the soybean seed.

PMRA is currently conducting a re-evaluation of all uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in co-operation with the US-EPA. It also intends to introduce labeling changes similar to those implemented by the US-EPA earlier in 2013.  As a result of similar concerns, in April of 2013, a number or Eurpoean Union members voted in favour of a two-year restriction on the use of three neonicotinoids starting in December of 2013.

PMRA is accepting comments on its proposal. Interested persons have until 12 December 2013, to do so. Comments can be sent to pmra.publications@hc-sc.gc.ca.