Health Canada plan proposes three-year phaseout of neonic imidacloprid to protect aquatic insects

According to a press release issued on Nov. 23, Health Canada has completed its re-evaluation of the neonicotinoid pesticide “imidacloprid,” and has published its draft risk assessment for public comment. Among their conclusions are that the 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.”

Health Canada has determined that concentrations of imidacloprid in surface water can range from non-detectable to, in some rare cases, levels as high as 11.9 parts per billion. Scientific evidence indicates that levels above 0.041 parts per billion are a concern.

To address these risks, Health Canada published a proposed risk management plan (for which a public comment period is open until Feb. 21, 2017), which includes “a proposed three-year phase-out of agricultural uses of imidacloprid.” Though, the press release notes that, “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 final re-evaluation decision and risk management plan will take into consideration any comments received during the consultations. As part of the consultation process, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency will host a webinar on Dec. 15 at 12:30 pm EST to provide an overview of the proposed decision. There will also be a multi-stakeholder forum focusing on the potential for alternative neonicotinoid mitigation strategies.

During the 90-day comment period, proposals may be accepted for “potential alternative mitigation strategies that would achieve the same outcomes in a similar timeframe,” however the press release notes that “any proposals for continued registration would need to clearly demonstrate concrete actions that would ensure that levels of imidacloprid in water would be reduced below the level of concern.”

According to the US National Pesticide Information Center, there are over 400 products for sale in the United States that contain imidacloprid. These include such products as Admire, Condifor, Gaucho, Premier, Premise, Provado, and Marathon. It is the active ingredient in insecticides used for cereals, soybeans and potatoes.

Based on their findings on imidacloprid, Health Canada is also launching reviews for two other neonicotinoids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Those reviews wil also look into the risks the pesticides may pose to “aquatic invertebrates, including insects,” as they are also being detected frequently in aquatic environments.

The release states that Health Canada “regularly reviews all pesticides to make sure they continue to meet modern health and safety standards” and “will continue to follow the evidence on neonicotinoid use and will act when necessary to protect the health and safety of Canadians and the environment.”

Minister of Health Jane Philpott said in the release that the announcement “follows a detailed science-based evaluation and demonstrates our government’s commitment to evidence-based decision-making.”

“Health Canada is taking the findings of the re-evaluation of this pesticide seriously, and is taking action to further protect the environment,” she said.

To take part in the public consultation or to learn more, go to hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pest/part/consultations/_prvd2016-20/index-eng.php.

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