Canada’s Bees Will Have Their Day in Court

Lawsuit Says Failure to Enforce Regulations on Neonicotinoids Harms Bees

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
August 1, 2017

Canada’s bees have won a small victory: the right to have their day in court. In July, the Federal Court in Ottawa allowed a lawsuit to go forward against Canada’s Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) for failure to enforce Pest Control Products Act requirements.

A bee on clover flower. In Canada, bees will have their day in court to decide if failure to enforce regulations on neonicotinoids harms bees.

The pesticides in question are the neonicotinoids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam—chemicals widely believed to cause deadly harm to bee populations. The lawsuit, brought by four environmental organizations, asserts that the PMRA approved the use of neonicotinoids without fulfilling the Pest Control Products Act requirement that no pesticide significantly harm the environment.

Neonicotinoids and Bees

Neonicotinoids (neonics), first introduced in the 1990s, are pesticides which paralyze the nervous systems of a number of crop-destroying insects. Around 2006, just as the neonicotinoids were becoming the most widely used pesticides on the market, beekeepers and scientists around the world began noticing mass die-offs in their hives.

This immediately raised warning flags because bees and other insects are are responsible for pollinating approximately one-third of the world’s food crops. This includes such vital foods as tree fruits, berries, nuts, and vegetables.

Evidence gradually accumulated that neonicotinoids harm many insect and bird species outside of their target pests. Ongoing scientific research indicates that neonicotinoids negatively affect bees’ and other pollinators’ immune, metabolic, and reproductive functions. In Europe, the use of neonicotinoids has been subject to increasing restrictions, and now faces the likelihood of a total ban on use.

Ecojustice Lawsuit to Protect Bees in Canada

In 2016, Ecojustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm representing the David Suzuki Foundation, Friends of the Earth Canada, Ontario Nature, and the Wilderness Committee, filed suit against the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency for conditionally registering (temporarily permitting) clothianidin and thiamethoxam to be used extensively in agriculture for over a decade, without the thorough and complete scientific data required by the Pest Control Products Act.

According to news reports, the lawsuit claims that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, uncertain about the pesticides’ risks, requested more information and further studies on the products from the pesticide manufacturers in 79 cases, but never received adequate information. Despite this, the PMRA continued to allow the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture.

The lawsuit, now allowed to proceed, will be heard on its merits in the coming months. Neonicotinoids may soon join the list of products whose environmental costs far outweigh their economic benefit.

Related articles:
Where Have All the Bees Gone?Where Have All the Bees Gone?
Clues to the Disappearance of a Vital Pollinator

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