Bees are seen in Keremeos, B.C. on March 10, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett

Farmers ponder impact of alternatives to pesticides being banned

The nicotine-based pesticides scientists have linked to a rising number of honey bee deaths will be phased out of use in Canada over a three year period starting in 2021.

The federal government is giving farmers three years to figure out what pesticides they can use to protect their crops from aphids and mites, but some say they aren’t convinced about the alternatives.

Health Canada confirmed plans Wednesday to gradually phase out two of the three nicotine-based pesticides — neonicotinoids, also known as neonics — that are currently approved for use in Canada. Plans to phase out the third have already been announced.

Testing by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency found the buildup of the chemicals in groundwater was approaching levels dangerous to aquatic invertebrates like midges and mayflies, which are important food sources for fish and birds.

Health Canada began studying the pesticides in 2012 amid concern they were contributing to the collapse of honey bee colonies, but it was the impact on aquatic invertebrates — a study that began in 2016 — that led to Wednesday’s decision.

It’s frustrating that Canadian scientists aren’t reaching the same conclusions about the impact on bees as their European counterparts, said John Bennett, senior policy adviser at Friends of the Earth Canada. But a ban on neonics is good news no matter how it comes about, he added.

“It looks like the mayfly is going to save the bees,” Bennett said.

Related: Pesticides linked to bee deaths will be phased out in Canada, sources say

Related: B.C. VIEWS: Polluted logic plagues pesticide bylaws

Bee farmers in North America and Europe started reporting unusually high losses of bees more than a decade ago, and eventually researchers began linking those deaths to neonics. A task force at the International Union for Conservation of Nature last year updated a comprehensive review of more than 1,100 peer-reviewed research studies on neonicotinoids and concluded there was no doubt they harm bees.

Not all bee farmers believe neonics pose a huge risk. Rod Scarlett, executive director of the Canadian Honey Council, said losses in eastern Canada have been much higher than those in the West.

Europe is phasing out neonics at the end of this year. The United States has yet to make a decision.

Scott Kirby, the pest management agency’s director general of environmental assessment, said the neonics will be phased out in 2021 for any products that have an existing alternative, and in 2023 for those that do not.

The alternatives were tested when they were approved and all approved pesticides are re-examined every 15 years, he added.

But Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, says he’s not convinced the alternatives will be better, particularly since some of them have to be applied in much larger quantities to achieve the same result.

“It’s not that we’re tied to any one type of product, but this was the tool that was working very well — and we thought it was less toxic,” he said.

The government has established a 90-day period to give stakeholders a chance to weigh in on the measure.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

55-year-old man taken to hospital after fire at Surrey RV park

Firefighters find man suffering from smoke inhalation, burns to face and hands: battalion chief

South Surrey parking ticket perplexes, frustrates

Theresa Delaney predicts more people will be wrongly ticketed

OUR VIEW: Let’s find Surrey pellet-gun punks

Those who do have information – if they are also possessed of a conscience – must contact police

Coldest Night an event for warm hearts

Sources’ White Rock event one of 130 walkathons across Canada on Feb. 23

VIDEO: A new Hive climbing/fitness facility coming to Surrey in 20,000-sq.-ft. space

‘Bouldering’ and other activities planned at site near Pattullo Bridge

VIDEO: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Flying squirrels found to glow pink in the dark, including two from B.C.

Squirrels from Hope and Abbotsford were included in the biologists’ database

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

No Center of Gravity festival in Kelowna this summer: organizers

COG organizers said the hope is to return to the Okanagan in 2020

Most Read