Environmental groups challenge PMRA over neonicotinoid approval

Conditional registration has been granted despite the objections

Bee on a flower

Four environmental organizations have attacked the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) for extending the conditional registration of clothianidin, a neonicotinoid insecticide, as a spray treatment until the end of 2015.

The groups say PMRA didn’t properly consider two Notices of Objection to the renewal and the registration extension could keep the product on the market until 2018 despite fears it could be contributing to high levels of bee deaths in Ontario and Quebec.

There is a lack of valid scientific studies on the environmental hazards the neonic pesticides create for bees, says Sierra Club Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, Wilderness Committee, and Equiterre. They filed a formal objection to the licensing of clothianidin-based products in September 2013 asking for a review panel to be established. Successive ministers of health have rejected that proposal.

Reviewing information

A PMRA spokeswoman said the agency is reviewing the information it has received about the pesticide “and, once the assessment is complete, will communicate the outcome to the objectors.” The review likely won’t be complete until next year.

Most of the controversy about neonic insecticides has involved their use as a seed treatment in planting corn and soybeans in Ontario and Quebec. The spray treatment is used in some horticulture crops.

Pierre Petelle, vice-president chemistry for CropLife Canada, said products that are granted a conditional registration have already passed the internationally respected regulatory assessment by PMRA that ensures the product is safe for human health and the environment. “These products can be safely used according to label directions,” he said.

“It takes about 10 years and costs over $256 million to bring a new product to market, so our member companies only invest in products that they know are safe and will pass PMRA’s stringent regulatory review,” he said. “The PMRA grants conditional registrations on products when they would like more information about how tests were completed to evaluate the product or to have the registrant provide additional data or complete a new type of study to confirm previously assessed data.”

From the Country Guide website: Keeping bees

More data needed

However, the environmental groups said more data is needed on how the insecticide behaves in soil, plants and its concentration in nectar and pollen in addition to its long-term or chronic toxicity to bees.

“If PMRA leaves this pesticide on the market and only takes band-aid measures until then, clothianidin will have been on the market 14 years unsupported by valid scientific information on chronic toxicity,” the environmental groups say.

Meanwhile, executive vice-president of the Canadian Horticulture Council, told the Senate agriculture committee studying bee health in Canada that her sector “is an exemplary model of coexistence between farmers, production and a robust pollinator population.

“This coexistence is an absolute must: no bees, no food; conversely, no crop management tools or product, no food. Apples, blueberries and cherries are particularly striking examples of this. We rely on research, innovation and a conducive regulatory environment to bring forward new technologies and chemistries.”

She noted that nationally the number of beekeepers has increased by 24 per cent since 2000. While reports have noted declines in honeybee and other pollinator populations, there has been no single factor identified as the main cause, she said, noting an outright ban on any product would be devastating for her industry.

Farmers are working with beekeepers “to find a fair and reasonable solution that meets the needs and protects the interests of all parties affected,” she said.

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