Proposed New Requirements for Neonicotinoid Pesticides to Protect Pollinators
Research shows that the increased use of neonicotinoid insecticides - a pesticide that is highly toxic to bees and other pollinators - is contributing to the decline in pollinator populations.
In Ontario, there is widespread use of neonicotinoid coated seeds, in some cases, without evidence of pest problems. More than 99 per cent of corn seed and 60 per cent of soybean seed sold in the province are treated with neonicotinoid insecticides. Reducing neonicotinoid use in these two crops presents the greatest potential to reduce pollinator exposure to neonicotinoids.
The Ontario government set a target to reduce the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 80 per cent by 2017. To support this goal, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, has prepared proposed new regulatory requirements for the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds in Ontario.
If approved, the proposed regulatory amendments would take effect on July 1, 2015. The proposal is currently posted for 45 days for public comment.
Proposed changes to regulations under the Pesticides Act
The provincial government is responsible for classifying pesticides and regulating their sale, use, transportation, storage and disposal. The classification determines who can sell or use the pesticide, and what requirements are in place for its use.
Treated seeds are seeds that have been coated with a pesticide. Neonicotinoid-treated seeds are not currently regulated under the Pesticides Act. The proposed regulatory changes will create a new class of pesticides - Class 12 - for corn and soybean seeds treated with the following neonicotinoid insecticides:
Class 12 pesticides will be referenced as neonicotinoid-treated seeds.
New requirements for the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds
The Ontario government is proposing to establish a system for regulating neonicotinoid-treated seeds that:
- Requires training on integrated pest management methods that would protect pollinators
- Establishes methods that assess if pest problems require the use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds
- Sets out requirements for the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds
- Tracks the sale of neonicotinoid-treated seeds
Integrated pest management (IPM) training
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a broad approach to managing pests in a way that is environmentally and economically sustainable. IPM training specific to corn and soybean production will be developed to promote the use of different methods to prevent and reduce the risk of pests and encourage beneficial insects.
Any person (e.g. a farmer or a person who supervises the planting of neonicotinoid-treated seeds) who purchases neonicotinoid-treated seeds would be required to receive IPM training. The course would include training on the importance of pollinators in the ecosystem and how to protect them from pesticide exposure, as well as, identifying pests and pest scouting methods, and using alternative methods to pesticides.
The integrated pest management course will be available in fall 2015, throughout winter and spring 2016, and will be offered in a classroom and online. Following successful completion of the course, a certification number will be given. This certification would be valid for five years.
To encourage early reductions, the regulation sets out a voluntary approach that allows the purchase and use of neonicotinoid-treated seed for the 2016 growing season for up to 50 per cent of the land that will be planted with corn or soybean seed, if a written declaration is made. Above this amount, a pest assessment would need to be completed.
In 2015, a person (e.g. farmer) would be able to perform a soil pest assessment for the 2016 growing season.
Pest assessments assist in identifying pest problems and in determining if pests are present above thresholds. The proposal outlines pest thresholds that must be met in order to conclude that neonicotinoid-treated seed may be used.
After the 2016 growing season, a person who wants to order neonicotinoid-treated seeds would need to have IPM training and a pest assessment demonstrating a pest infestation. Pest assessments would be completed by people with IPM training and independent professional pest advisors, as defined in the proposed regulation.
For the 2017 growing season, a person who wants to order neonicotinoid-treated seeds would need to have IPM training and a pest assessment demonstrating a pest infestation. Pest assessments would be completed by an independent professional pest advisor.
The two pest assessment methods that can be used to determine pest problems are:
- A soil pest-scouting assessment that confirms the presence of two pests (grubs and wireworms) above thresholds
- A crop damage assessment that confirms damage due to four pests (grubs and wireworms, corn rootworm in corn and seedcorn maggot) above thresholds
New requirement for the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds
There are approximately 20 seed companies (vendors) that sell neonicotinoid-treated seed in Ontario. In order to sell neonicotinoid-treated seed, it is proposed that seed companies (vendors of neonicotinoid-treated seed) obtain a new treated seed vendors licence.
A licensed treated seed vendor could sell only to people with IPM training or other licensed treated seed vendors. Other requirements include notifying purchasers that the seed is a neonicotinoid-treated seed, ensuring that untreated seeds are available for purchase and reporting the sale of neonicotinoid-treated and untreated seeds to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
The proposal also includes requirements for treated seed sales representatives (those who facilitate the purchase of neonicotinoid-treated seed). Sales representatives must ensure purchasers provide the required documentation to purchase neonicotinoid-treated seed. Sales representatives will be required to provide this documentation to vendors.
In general, purchasers would have to provide a written declaration that IPM training principles were considered and proof of IPM training before ordering neonicotinoid-treated seeds. In addition to IPM training and a pest assessment demonstrating infestation, those who plant neonicotinoid-treated seed would need to read and follow instructions that are required to be set out on the seed tag, such as avoiding equipment maintenance in areas that may affect bee colonies or where bees are foraging.
The proposal does not include requirements for the transport and storage of neonicotinoid-treated seeds.
Tracking the sale of neonicotinoid-treated seeds
Sales data is to be submitted annually to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and pest assessments are to be submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. This will allow for an open and transparent system.
You can comment on the proposed regulatory amendments