MONTREAL, May 29, 2015 — Neonicotinoid pesticides harm a large number of non-target organisms including bees and other pollinators, according to a comprehensive review of more than 1,000 peer-reviewed reports conducted by the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides.
“As a scientist, I can now say conclusively that the evidence of harm is clear and points to the urgent need for action to reduce the quantities of these pesticides entering the environment,” said Jean-Marc Bonmatin, researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Task Force vice-chair. He was in Montreal today to share key findings on the impacts of neonics on the environment at an event organized by Équiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation.
The Task Force assessment of more than 1,000 studies published on the subject — including those sponsored by industry — is the most comprehensive review of the ecological effects of neonicotinoid pesticides undertaken to date. It was published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research in January 2015.
"In Quebec, the research shows a mortality rate four times higher for bees in hives located near fields where seeds were treated with neonicotinoids," said Madeleine Chagnon, associate professor in the Université du Québec à Montréal’s Department of Biological Sciences. Chagnon also participated in the literature review and presented research on the impact of neonics in Quebec at today’s event. "This is very worrying and we need to take action quickly," she said.
The central role of pollinators in food production
Bees and other pollinators play a vital role in food production. They are responsible for 70 per cent of food crop pollination and one-third of what we eat. "Restricting the use of neonics is an important step to preserve and improve our food systems," said Sidney Ribaux, executive director of Équiterre.
"Ontario has proposed a regulation to reduce the use of neonic-treated soybean and corn seeds by 80 per cent by 2017. Quebec should follow Ontario’s lead," said Lisa Gue, David Suzuki Foundation senior researcher and analyst.
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 50 and 75 per cent of soybean seeds are treated with neonics — affecting some 600,000 hectares of crops every year.
A leaked report from Canada's federal pesticide regulator, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, indicates that neonicotinoid seed treatments are of little value to Canadian agricultural production, despite their current widespread use.
Équiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation are calling on all provinces across the country to restrict the use of neonics. More than 85,000 letters have been sent by citizens to decision-makers asking for a ban on these pesticides that kill bees and harm other species like birds, worms and butterflies.
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