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431-00218 (Environment)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English

PETITION TO THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada draw the attention of the House to the following:

THAT,

Pollinators, including honeybees, are a central element of our food system and a critical pillar of our ecology;

While the impact of honeybees extends far beyond the pollination of commercial agricultural crops, the monetary value of just this service is estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars globally each year;

In the past decade, extreme declines in bee populations have been measured across North America and throughout Europe, prompting widespread concern from citizens, scientists, and many governments;

While many theories have been put forward for this collapse of the bee population, one of the most likely is a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which attack insects' central nervous systems causing paralysis and death, and have proven very harmful in sub-lethal quantities;

In a responsible attempt to head off this crisis, and following a major scientific review of the risks associated with these pesticides, on April 29th, 2013, the European Commission has acted on the precautionary principle and placed the use of these pesticides under heavy restrictions for a two year period while additional studies can be conducted;

THEREFORE,

Petition calling upon the Government of Canada to,

For the sake of our bees and our food security, follow Europe's lead, and adhere to the precautionary principle by banning the use of neonicotinoids in Canada.

Response by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, PC, MP

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) works with beekeepers, federal and provincial officials, and other relevant groups to ensure that beekeeping is a successful industry in Canada. AAFC works nationally with provincial governments and other federal departments and agencies, as well as with industry representation from the beekeeping, honey, horticulture, grains, oilseeds, seeds and crop protection sectors to consider issues affecting honeybee health. In 2014, AAFC committed $1 million to Beekeepers Commission of Alberta to conduct a nationwide surveillance project to document the health profile of honeybee colonies in Canada. The project is currently analyzing samples from beehives to determine the prevalence of pests and diseases. It is also assessing hive contaminants in order to provide a national baseline of bee health challenges. AAFC also continues to conduct research on the complex issues of long-term bee health, including screening for the presence of neonicotinoids and other pesticide residues in pollen, honey and beeswax, as well as research on native pollinators and the effects of other agricultural practices.

With over 700 native species in Canada, bees are the most common pollinators. Other pollinators include butterflies, moths, wasps, flies and some types of beetles. Insect pollinators, including honeybees, are critical to the production of many crops and play an essential ecological role. Crops that depend on the work of pollinators include tree and berry fruit, canola, alfalfa, squash and melon. In 2019, there were 10,344 beekeepers in Canada keeping 773,182 colonies of honeybees. This represents a 2.1% decrease in colonies over 2018, and an increase of 0.6% over the average of the previous four years. Beekeepers identified the leading causes contributing to losses as poor winter/spring weather, poor queens, weak colonies, and starvation. Each province has a provincial apiculturist who collects relevant data about beekeeping, including the levels of overwinter honeybee colony losses. The most recent data on overwinter losses shows that, for the winter of 2018-2019, the national average colony loss was 25.7%, with individual provincial percentage losses ranging from 19.8% to 54.1%. The overall colony loss reported in 2019 is in the middle range of reported losses since 2007. Furthermore, the data highlights that the 35.2% increase in Canadian colony numbers since 2007 provides evidence that beekeepers have been successfully addressing bee health issues while growing their beekeeping operations.

Pest control products are regulated in Canada through a federal and provincial regulatory network that delivers a program of pre-market scientific assessment, enforcement, education, and information dissemination. The registration and regulation of pesticides in Canada falls under the responsibility of Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) via the authority of the Pest Control Products Act.  In 2012, the PMRA  began re-evaluations of three neonicotinoids to address growing concerns around bee health. Health Canada issued proposed decisions for clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam in December 2017, May 2018 and December 2017, respectively, and consulted the public and stakeholders. All comments and information received during the consultation periods were considered and helped inform the proposed decisions.

These pollinator re-evaluations considered hundreds of scientific studies, from both manufacturers and published literature. In order to protect pollinators, Health Canada is cancelling many uses of neonicotinoids on crops that bees find attractive, such as orchard trees, and is not allowing spraying of some crops, such as berries and fruiting vegetables, before or during bloom. Seed treatment uses were found to be acceptable; however, Health Canada requires the addition of label statements for all cereal and legume crops to minimize exposure of pollinators to dust during planting of treated seeds. The implementation of these decisions is currently underway and the required mitigation measures must be implemented on all product labels sold by registrants no later than April 11, 2021.

AAFC works closely with the PMRA to help ensure that pesticides, when used according to directions, do not pose any unacceptable risks to humans or other living things including beneficial insects such as bees and other insect pollinators. AAFC will continue working with stakeholders so that they can protect and enhance our agricultural and natural assets and continue to prosper sustainably.

Response by the Minister of Health

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Darren Fisher

The Government is committed to the health and safety of Canadians, their food supply, and the environment.  Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) will continue diligently ensuring that only pest control products meeting our stringent health and environmental standards will be approved for use in Canada. Pesticides are regulated under the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA), which is administered by Health Canada, to protect Canadians and the environment from risks associated with the use of pesticides.

Health Canada is aware of the importance of bees and the beekeeping industry to the production of food in Canada, as well as the issues regarding bee health, including concerns over the potential effect of pesticides. Departmental scientists collaborate with scientists from universities and other organizations to determine whether pesticides are contributing to pollinator declines.

The PMRA has worked with stakeholders to develop measures to reduce risk to pollinators from exposure to dust generated during planting of insecticide-treated seed. These measures were developed in collaboration with the provinces, pesticide industry, international regulatory authorities, growers, beekeepers, and equipment manufacturers.

 

 

The PMRA implemented the following measures since the 2014 planting season, for corn and soybean production:

  • mandatory use of a new dust-reducing seed flow lubricant;
  • adherence to identified safer seed planting practices; and
  • enhanced warning statements on pesticide and seed package labels.

 

Since these measures have been put in place, the number of incidents has declined substantially. Monitoring continues and additional measures will be implemented if necessary.

To address concerns regarding long-term effects on pollinators, Health Canada also conducted a pollinator-focused re-evaluation of the neonicotinoid insecticides in collaboration with the US Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. On April 11, 2019, Health Canada published the final re-evaluations of the neonicotinoid pesticides clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam in relation to their potential impact on bees and other pollinators. The scientific assessments show varying effects on bees and other pollinators from exposure to each of these pesticides. To protect bees and other pollinators, Health Canada announced that it will be cancelling some uses of these pesticides, and changing other conditions of use such as restricting the timing of application. Remaining uses (e.g., treatment on canola seeds and greenhouse vegetables) are not expected to pose unacceptable risks to bees and other pollinators.

 

These pollinator re-evaluations considered hundreds of scientific studies, from both manufacturers and published literature. Cancellations and new restrictions will be implemented over a two- to three-year period, in accordance with the Department’s Policy on Cancellations and Amendments Following Re-evaluation and Special Review. 

 

The Department continues to evaluate the potential risks to aquatic insects from the use of neonicotinoids. Current research shows that these pesticides are detected frequently in waterbodies at levels that could be harmful to certain aquatic organisms. The analysis of the information received is ongoing. In September 2020, the Department will communicate revised timelines for when it expects to report on its findings related to the cyclical re-evaluation of imidacloprid and the aquatic special reviews of clothianidin and thiamethoxam, originally targeted for Fall 2020 but delayed due to COVID-19.

Health Canada’s PMRA is an active participant in Agriculture and Agri-food Canada’s Bee Health Roundtable in which stakeholders (including grower and beekeeping groups, the seed trade, pesticide and equipment industry associations, and federal and provincial governments) are working together to find comprehensive solutions that will improve pollinator health in Canada. This initiative looks broadly at all aspects of pollinator health, including agricultural pesticide use practices, with the goal of promoting pollinator health and positive interactions between the agricultural and beekeeping industries.

Health Canada will continue to closely monitor scientific information and other developments related to potential impacts of pest control products on pollinators, not only in Canada and the US, but also in Europe, and will take action as needed to further protect pollinators.

Presented to the House of Commons
Paul Manly (Nanaimo—Ladysmith)
May 28, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00218)
Government response tabled
July 20, 2020
Photo - Paul Manly
Nanaimo—Ladysmith
Green Party Caucus
British Columbia

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