Medical professionals in Canada have vociferated their concern regarding the use of neonicotinoid pesticides and have urged the Ontario government to ban their use, citing the decline of bees and other insect pollinators.
The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) and the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) are the driving force behind the ban and plan to meet with the Ontario Environment Minister, Glen Murray, later this year to urge the government to ban the chemicals.
“Physicians believe neonics are a major threat to both nature and people,” says CAPE Executive Director Gideon Forman. “These nerve poisons are fatal to bees but there are also concerns they may adversely affect the human nervous system. We need to ban neonics to protect public health.”
The Canadian government is proactively investigating the impact of three of the pesticides on bee colonies in agricultural areas. Last year, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) –responsible for regulating pesticides in Canada– discovered neonicotinoid-contaminated dust had caused severe bee mortality in Ontario and Quebec, and released new measures intended to protect bees from exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides. These included guidelines for soybean and corn growers who use neonicotinoids on treated seeds, requiring a dust-reducing lubricant to prevent the pesticide from spreading at seeding time. Additionally, ongoing monitoring is being used to determine whether these mitigation techniques will help reduce bee mortality in 2014. Based on the results, new measures could be introduced for next year, such as a permit system for the use of neonics. A final report is expected in 2015.
“This is a unique campaign because health professionals have teamed up with environmental groups to urge a ban on these toxic pesticides. And it makes perfect sense because as nurses we know that if you kill bees –and endanger our food supply– you undermine human health,” said Doris Grinspun, RN, MSN, PhD, and Chief Executive Officer of RNAO. Dr. Grinspun also commented on the pervasive environmental impact of neonicotinoids disrupting other ecological systems. “The issue with the neonic pesticides is that they are absorbed and incorporated into every part of the plant, from leaves and stems to seed, pollen and nectar. They are very persistent, they are highly water soluble, so they can contaminate ground and surface water and can persist in aquatic environments for a very long time,” Dr. Grinspun said.