In April, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), a division of Health Canada, released its final decisions on the pollinator re-evaluations of three neonicotinoid insecticides: clothianidin (Clutch), imidacloprid (Admire), and thiamethoxam (Cruiser, Actara).
Health Canada determined that the continued registration of imidacloprid, clothianidin, or thiamethoxam products are acceptable; however, certain uses have been cancelled to address possible risks to pollinators. Many of these cancelled uses affect Canadian fruit and vegetable growers.
Bees and other pollinators are vital to the production of Canadian fruits and vegetables, and growers are intimately aware of the need to protect their pollinators and their mutually beneficial relationship. As such, growers do not make decisions that would hurt their pollinators. As an organization, the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC) will work with its members to support farmers during this transitional phase resulting from these long-awaited final decisions.
The PMRA did a thorough science-based risk assessment and accounted for real exposure risks such as plant pollinator attractiveness. For these reasons, most uses on non-attractive crops such as root and tuber vegetables (including potatoes), brassica leafy vegetables, leafy vegetables, and (indoor) greenhouse vegetables remain unchanged. All seed treatments were also approved for continued use.
Many uses of imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin were modified or cancelled so as to reduce risk to pollinators during bloom, due to the systemic nature of the chemistries. As such, many horticulturally significant uses have been cancelled or restricted, including:
- Cancellation of most foliar applications before bloom
- Cancellation of foliar applications to pome and stone fruit, strawberries, and some tree nuts
- Cancellation of soil applications on berries, fruiting vegetables, legume vegetables, and cucurbits
- Modified application timings for potatoes, berries, tree nuts, fruiting vegetables, cucurbits, and legume vegetables.
The PMRA included a chart of pollinator mitigation which is a valuable quick-reference guide for growers to see what changes will occur and how it will affect their crops.
Cancellations and label modifications will come into effect over the next two years. However, the PMRA acknowledges the lack of alternatives for certain pests, such as brown marmorated stink bug, European chafer, cucumber beetle, leafhoppers (on berries), and berry weevils (black vine weevil, cranberry weevil, strawberry root weevil). Use of neonicotinoids to address these serious pest issues is being granted an additional year to the cancellation deadline in order to find workable alternatives.
While these final decisions have a significant impact on many horticultural uses of the neonicotinoid insecticides, there are two more rounds of final decisions coming up in 2019/2020 – the general re-evaluation of imidacloprid, and the aquatic invertebrate special reviews of clothianidin and thiamethoxam. All of these reviews and decisions are being made independently of each other. The CHC will continue to monitor the progress of the PMRA re-evaluations and decisions.
In the meantime, the Canadian Horticultural Council urges the government to commit additional resources to PMRA for pesticide regulation, a recommendation that the government’s own Pest Management Advisory Council has made repeatedly in recent years. Additionally, PMRA requires more data to understand actual use patterns of crop protection tools, based on Canadian crops, climate, and labels, something the CHC strongly recommends to ensure the federal government works across government departments to collect and share pesticide use data.
With adequate resources, PMRA can deliver the credible and effective regulatory regime needed to maintain a strong agricultural sector, prevent unacceptable risks to human health and the environment, and maintain public confidence.