5 Reasons We Support Restrictions on Neonics
Yesterday, Friends of the Earth Canada, in collaboration with a number of other organizations, sent a letter and report to all Ontario MPP’s in support of Ontario’s proposed plan to reduce the use of neonicotinoid pesticides by 80% on coated corn and soy seed within the province.
The report outlined the five major reasons we support restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides, as outlined below:
1. Neonics kill bees
In 2014 Ontario beekeepers reported overwinter losses of 58 per cent, more than three times the average for all other provinces that winter.1 Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency has determined that neonicotinoid pesticides are a contributing factor to bee mortalities.2 Scientists estimate that some neonics are 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT, in terms of acute effects alone.3 Ontario’s native wild bees are also at risk.4 Many of our wild bumblebees — even those that were once common — are in steep decline. Declining pollinator health has an impact on food production and food security.
2. At sub-lethal levels, neonics can harm bees and many other species
Long-term (chronic) exposure to neonicotinoids even at low levels of less than 3 parts per billion are associated with impaired navigation, learning, memory, food collection, resistance to disease and fertility. Based on a systematic review of more than 1,000 published scientific studies (including industry-sponsored ones), the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides concluded that neonics can harm terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates and birds, as well as insect pollinators: “Overall, a compelling body of evidence has accumulated that clearly demonstrates that the wide-scale use of these persistent, water-soluble chemicals is having widespread, chronic impacts upon global biodiversity and is likely to be having major negative effects on ecosystem services such as pollination that are vital to food security and sustainable development.”5
3. Neonics are a persistent environmental contaminant
Neonics persist in the environment for months, or even years,6 resulting in near-continuous and increasing exposure from one agricultural season to the next. They are also water-soluble. These two characteristics point to the potential for large-scale contamination of soils, sediments, ground water and surface water, as well as vegetation. Researchers in Quebec identified neonic residues in 100 per cent of 25 water samples from puddles in fields where neonic-treated corn seeds were planted, at levels that could harm bees drinking from the puddles.
4. Current use of neonic seed treatments is inconsistent with recommended farm practices
Integrated Pest Management (IPM), as recommended by OMAFRA, requires that pest-control strategies target identified pest threats, with a view to minimizing the adverse effects of pesticides on the environment.8 Instead, neonic seed treatments have become indiscriminate and routine, whether or not a pest problem is present. In Ontario, virtually all corn and 60 per cent of soybean seeds are treated with neonics.9 This means close to four million acres planted with neonic-treated seeds. A recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study of neonic seed treatments in soybean production concluded that they were of little or no overall benefit to overall crop yield in most situations.10
5. Other jurisdictions have banned neonics to protect pollinators
After a thorough review by the European Food Safety Authority, The European Commission placed a two-year moratorium on certain agricultural uses of neonics to protect pollinators. European Commission countries nevertheless experienced record yields of grain corn last year, the first year the moratorium was in place.
Despite the strong scientific evidence of harm, North American governments have been slower to act. We welcome Ontario’s leadership on this issue. New regulatory restrictions to reduce the use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds in Ontario by 80 per cent are necessary to protect pollinators and the environment.
1 CAPA Statement on Honey Bee Wintering Losses in Canada (2014) (Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, July 24, 2014),
2 Evaluation of Canadian Bee Mortalities in 2013 Related to Neonicotinoid Pesticides – Interim Report (Pest Management Regulatory Agency, September 26, 2013),
3 Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impacts of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (Notre Dame de Londres: Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, January 9, 2015),
4 Dave Goulson, Elizabeth Nicholls, and Ellen L. Rotheray, “Bee Declines Driven by Combined Stress from Parasites, Pesticides, and Lack of Flowers,” Science, February 26, 2015,
7 Olivier Samson-Robert et al., “Neonicotinoid-Contaminated Puddles of Water Represent a Risk of Intoxication for Honey Bees,” PLoS One 9, no. 12 (December 1, 2014): e108443.
8 “What Is IPM?,” Ontario Crop IMP, October 27, 2009,
9 Ontario, Pollinator Health: A Proposal for Enhancing Pollinator Health and Reducig the Use of Neonicotinoid Pesticides in Ontario (Toronto: Ontario, November 25, 2014),
10 MARS Bulletin Vol.22 No.13 (Crop Monitoring in Europe) (European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for Environment and Sustainability, December 15, 2014),
The following is the letter sent to all Ontario MPP’s yesterday:
The undersigned organizations support swift action to limit the use of neonicotinoid insecticides. The attached document outlines our perspective. Our recent news release and an article reviewing the conclusions of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment on Systemic Pesticides are also attached for your information.
Our groups have long-standing concerns with pollinator health, environmental sustainability and sustainable agriculture in the province. We believe the government’s proposal for a new regulatory framework to reduce the use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80 per cent is urgently needed if we are to protect Ontario’s pollinators and the environment.
We would be pleased to meet with you to discuss this matterYours truly,David Suzuki FoundationRegistered Nurses’ Association of OntarioOntario Beekeepers’ AssociationOntario NatureCanadian Association of Physicians for the EnvironmentEnvironmental DefenceSierra Club Canada FoundationEcojusticeFriends of the Earth CanadaBeyond Pesticides CanadaPollination CanadaCanadian Environmental Law Association
Let us know in the comments below where you stand on the use of neonicotinoids in Ontario.
Feel free to send the points outlined above to the MPP in your riding to show your support of our position.