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Why is Quebec waiting to ban bee-killing pesticides?

36,000 Quebecers call on the quebec government to ban neonicotinoid pesticides now

Montreal, June 17, 2015 – Équiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation today presented the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change with letters from 36,000 Quebecers calling on him to ban the sale and use of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics). In the wake of the Ontario government’s adoption of a regulation aimed at reducing the number of acres planted with neonic-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80% by 2017, environmental groups are demanding that Quebec also restrict the use of these pesticides, which are hazardous to the environment and potentially to human health.

“The evidence is well established with regard to the negative impact of neonics on bee health. Given that 70% of our crops and 35% of our food production depend on the work of pollinating insects such as bees, this is very worrying,” says Madeleine Chagnon, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the Université du Québec à Montréal and co-author of the largest review so far of scientific literature on the environmental impact of neonics, which was recently published by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, an international group of 50 independent researchers.

“Cases of neonic poisoning were found in my apiaries during the planting season in 2014. This situation concerns me and we need to act quickly to stop these losses,” says Alexander Gardner of Miel Gardner, located in St-Norbert-d’Arthabaska.

Voluntary approach is not enough

For nearly two years, the Quebec government has opted for a voluntary approach to this issue, inviting the farming community to use neonic-treated seeds in a reasoned way and asking seed merchants in Quebec to increase their offer of seeds that have not been treated with these pesticides. However, “getting seeds that haven’t been treated with neonics is very difficult,” says Heidi Asnong, a producer of field conventional crops (corn and soybeans) in Montérégie, who has chosen not to use neonic-treated seeds. “I had to be very persistent to do so,” she says.

“It’s obvious that the voluntary measures proposed by the Quebec government for the past two years are clearly insufficient: a regulatory approach is needed. Europe and Ontario have understood this: what are we in Quebec waiting for?” says Sidney Ribaux, Executive Director of Équiterre.

Bees and other non-targeted species may not be the only victims. Exposure to neonics through food and water raises public health concerns and the European Food Safety Authority considers that some neonics may also harm the development of the human nervous system.

According to a leaked Pest Management Regulatory Agency analysis, neonics seed treatments contribute little to corn and soybean production in Canada – 3.6 per cent in the case of corn and 0.4 per cent in the case of soybeans. “Considering the risks to health and our environment, the widespread use of these toxic pesticides cannot be justified, especially given their limited value in agricultural production,” says Lisa Gue, senior researcher and analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation.
Used for just about a decade, neonics have become the most widely used class of insecticide in the world, claiming 40 per cent of the global market. In Quebec, almost all grain corn and between 35 to 50 per cent of soybean seeds are treated with neonics — affecting some 550,000 hectares of crops every year.

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For more information:

Nadine Bachand, Project Manager, collective choice, agriculture and pesticides, Équiterre
Tel. 514 213-3287 / nbachand@equiterre.org

Lisa Gue, Senior researcher and analyst, David Suzuki Foundation
Tel. 613-914-0747/ lgue@davidsuzuki.org