Neonicotinoids Timeline, 1980’s to June 2020 from an Edmonton, Alberta, Canada perspective

Neonicotinoid pesticides, arguably called “bee killers” are scientifically understood as a problematic class of pesticides. The European Union, in recognition of mounting evidence of their danger banned 3 neonic formulations in 2018. Health Canada, at various times after 2015, promised to enact a similar ban. Instead, in November of 2019, Health Canada enacted restrictions of the use of certain neonic formulations, stopping short of any complete bans. Further decisions have been delayed until at least Spring of 2021 or Spring of 2022 due to delays attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This Neonic Timeline was prepared by the Pesticide Working Group of the Edmonton Chapter of the Council of Canadians. It is published according to the terms of the Creative Commons. It is available for anyone to build upon and expand, with acknowledgement of the Pesticide Working Group of the Edmonton Chapter of the Council of Canadians.

In the 1980’s Shell, and in the 1990’s Bayer began developing a new class of insecticides called neonicotinoids.  These pesticides are neuro-active and chemically similar to nicotine.  Compared to organophosphate and carbamate insecticides, neonics cause less toxicity to mammals and birds than to insects.  That said, in so far as neonics reduce insect populations, they clearly and detrimentally affect insectivore bird and other  populations.  Although neonics do not immediately kill bees, there are several studies suggesting that the insecticide reduces the probability of bees surviving the winter.  During the coming years, neonicotinoids are linked more and more to significant decreases in bees and other insect populations.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neonicotinoid

1990s:  Neonicotinoid pesticides are first introduced for use in Canada.  https://ncceh.ca/environmental-health-in-canada/health-agency-projects/neonicotinoid-pesticides

2005:  The first neonicotinoid pesticides were approved for use in the European Union.  https://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/pesticides/approval_active_substances/approval_renewal/neonicotinoids_en

May 2013:  The European Union places a moratorium on three kinds of neonicotinoids (out of 7 types),   The partial ban  forbids their use in flowering crops that appeal to honey bees and other pollinating insects.  There is a large body of evidence showing that neonics harm honey bees.  The ban is limited but acknowledges the need to follow a precautionary approach.  https://www.eea.europa.eu/highlights/neonicotinoid-pesticides-are-a-huge

Feb. 2014:  Canadian Dr. Meg Sears of Prevent Cancer Now makes link between neonicotinoid pesticides and the collapse of bee and bird populations:  https://www.farmlandbirds.net/content/meg-sears-prevent-cancer-now-%C2%BB-buzz-about-%E2%80%9Cnew-nicotine-like%E2%80%9D-insecticides

September,2014:  A new,, international report concludes there is evidence of significant harm caused by the neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin and that a regulatory review should be triggered.   https://ecojustice.ca/new-report-supports-request-for-review-of-neonicotinoid-pesticides-in-canada/

Mar. 19, 2015:  Legislators in Minnesota propose a 5-year moratorium on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides.  See:  http://www.panna.org/blog/minnesota-bees-poised-relief-neonics

Summer, 2015:  Montreal bans all neonicotinoid pesticides – without exceptions- within its borders, including golf courses, the botanical gardens and all agricultural lands.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neonicotinoid and https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/montreal-bans-neonicotinoid-pesticide-to-help-save-the-bees-1.3360458 and https://beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/2015/12/montreal-canada-proposes-complete-ban-on-neonics/

June 3, 2016:  Health Canada and the PMRA end the practice of conditionally registering pesticides. This action was taken after the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development criticized Health Canada for maintaining conditional registration for a number of neonics for more than 10 years.  There remain a number of conditionally registered neonicotinoid (and other) pesticides.  Health Canada promises to ensure that the needed scientific studies and needed responses will “be resolved”  by 2017.     https://www.producer.com/2016/06/conditional-pesticide-registrations-no-longer-possible/

July 2016:  The Canadian environmental charity Eco-Justice files a law suit against the Pest Management Regulatory Agency challenging its conditional (and arguably illegal) registration of a number of neonicotinoid pesticides containing clothianidin and thiamethoxam.  https://ecojustice.ca/were-going-to-court-to-protect-the-bees/ (See also April 2019)

2016:   Health Canada initiates a re-evaluation and possibly phasing out the neonic imidacloprid in 3 years. (Health Canada later back pedal on this initiative.  See:  Feb. 2019 and Jan. 16, 2020)  Environmental assessments identified risks to aquatic insects such as midges and mayflies due to the pesticide.  Special reviews of two other neonics, clothianidin and thiamethoxam are also initiated.  A final decision, regarding idimacloprid is expected in December, 2017.         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neonicotinoid and https://caar.org/ag-retail-news/454-health-canada-current-use-of-imidacloprid-not-sustainable and https://www.fas.usda.gov/data/canada-health-canada-intends-phase-out-imidacloprid  

February, 2018:  Quebec places new restrictions on pesticides, but stops short of banning neonicotinoids:  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-pesticides-honeybees-1.4541996

April, 2018:  “The European Union … expanded a … ban of 3 neonicotinoid pesticides, Clothianidin, Imidacloprid and thiamethoxam.  This decision was made based on the threat they pose to pollinators. …        https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/04/european-union-expands-ban-three-neonicotinoid-pesticides

August 2018:  Citing significant threats to aquatic insects, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency conditionally proposes a 3-5 year phase out of two classes of neonicotinoid pesticides, clothianadin and thiametnoxam.   https://ipolitics.ca/2018/08/15/health-canada-says-popular-nicotine-based-pesticides-pose-risk-to-aquatic-insects/  and https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/august-18-2018-canada-bans-neonics-tracking-animals-from-space-and-more-1.4786729/canada-bans-neonic-pesticides-implicated-in-bee-declines-1.4786738  Health Canada later back pedals on this initiative.  (See Feb. 2019 and Jan. 16, 2020)

February, 2019:  Despite a growing body of evidence that 40% of the world’s insects are on the verge of extinction, and a growing body of evidence showing that neonics kill bees and despite a 2018 European Union total ban on the use of 3 main neocinotinoid pesticides, Health Canada and the PMRA reverses the planned 3-5 year phase out of the 3 main neonicotinoid pesticides.  An announcement at the end of 2019 is expected to provide details.  The PMRA is criticized for this decision.   https://thenarwhal.ca/canada-delays-insecticide-ban-study-finds-insects-verge-extinction/  and

and 

April 11, 2019:  The Federal Court arguably sides with the pesticide industry and the PMRA not to hear the merits of a case challenging the legality of conditionally approving pesticides like neonicotinoids before scientific research proves that there is an acceptable risk associated with their use.  The environmental law charity, Eco-Justice argued for this case representing the David Suzuki Foundation, Friends of the Earth Canada, Nature Canada and the Wilderness Committee.  The Federal Court dismissed this case on the grounds of “mootness”, presumably because theh PMRA was about to announce restrictions on the use of some neonicotinoids.  It took nearly 3 years for this case to wend its way through the courts, including surviving a number of challenges from the PMRA and the pesticide industry to have this case dismissed.  Note also that the PMRA suspended the pracitse of conditionally registering pesticides back in 2016 when this case was initially brought forward.     https://ecojustice.ca/pressrelease/statement-court-declines-to-hear-merits-of-neonicotinoid-pesticide-case/

April 2019:  Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) conditionally restricts certain uses of neonicotinoid pesticides in Canada, flouting the need for a precautionary approach and complete bans in Europe:  https://ipolitics.ca/2019/04/11/health-canada-restricts-certain-pesticide-uses-because-of-bee-health-concerns/

July 2019:  Canada lacks a standardized population tracking system of its over 800 native bee species.  Honey bees, often imported, are competing with native bee species.  https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/canada-has-no-standardized-method-for-tracking-native-bee-species-until-its-too-late-researchers-say

Jan. 16, 2020:  As noted in the February, 2019 posting here, Health Canada/the PMRA releases an informational update on neoncotinoids which does not include the previously promised  3-5 year phase out of neonicotinoid pesticides,.  Health Canada is, arguably equivocating while continuing to collect data before deciding whether or not to follow the complete ban on the 3 neonicotinoid pesticides in Europe.     https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/consumer-product-safety/reports-publications/pesticides-pest-management/fact-sheets-other-resources/update-neonicotinoid-pesticides-january-2020.html

In order to protect pollinators, Health Canada is cancelling many uses of neonicotinoids on crops that bees find attractive, such as orchard trees, and is not allowing spraying of some crops, such as berries and fruiting vegetables, before or during bloom.Jan 16, 2020

January 21, 2020:  The Canadian National Collaborating Cenre for Environmental Health releases an updated assessment on the human health impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides.  Five neonics are currently approved for use in Canada.  There is a growing body of evidence showing that neonic residues or contamination in our food is ubiquitous but the significance of this is contested.      https://ncceh.ca/environmental-health-in-canada/health-agency-projects/neonicotinoid-pesticides

June 2020:  Alberta bee keepers confirm “catastrophic” loss of bees during the winter of 2019-20.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-bee-population-devastated-cold-winter-pandemic-1.5633527

September 2020: Health Canada publishes an “Update on the Neonicotinoid Pesticides”. Health Canada continues to delay following up on its earlier commitment to banning any of the neonicotinoid formulations. Efforts to gather, compile and publish data on aquatic insect populations and other factors have been delayed until Spring of 2021 and, in some cases until Spring 2022. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/consumer-product-safety/reports-publications/pesticides-pest-management/fact-sheets-other-resources/update-neonicotinoid-pesticides-2020.html

Urging City Hall to Challenge Questionable Pesticide Practises and Stand Up to Troubling Federal Pesticide Regulatory Lapses


The City of Edmonton Community and Public Services Committee met
this past Wednesday, June 26 to discuss the recently released updated
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) policy.  The Committee accepted the policy as is and has punted it  forward to the entire City Council for discussion,
possible amendments and possible acceptance on Tuesday July 2nd or
Wednesday, July 3rd.

We’ve asked the City Clerk to make this a time specific issue, ideally 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, July 3rd. Council will decide this fairly early on
Tuesday morning, July 2nd. We would like to make it relatively easy for our
allies can speak to this issue and urge City Council to consider a couple of key amendments:
1. That there be a “red, yellow, green” list of pesticides as used in othe
jurisdictions such as Ontario (See: https://www.ontario.ca/page/pesticides-home-lawns-and-gardens)
2. That there be a strong, credible and influential medical expert voice (or,
ideally voices) on the advisory panel being called for by the new IPM Policy.
2a. And that this improved advisory panel meet as often as necessary to ensure
that dangerous pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos, are never needlessly used
again in Edmonton.  

Our main concern remains the City’s misplaced deference to the federal
regulator, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) in determining
whether or not a pesticide can be safely used.  It appears that the new IPM
policy will not ensure that the highly questionable and haphazard use of a
pesticide like chlorpyrifos will not happen again in the future.   
(See:  https://edmontoncouncilofcanadians.ca/2019/06/26/edmontons-sordid-history-of-chlorpyrifos-use-to-control-mosquitos/)


 The fact is that chlorpyrifos is and was “approved for use” by the PMRA when Edmonton was the only municipality in Canada to be using this highly toxic and volatile neurotoxin to control mosquitos as recently as 2017.  Our understanding is that the City of Edmonton still retains a significant stock of chlorpyrifos to be used again whenever a Pest Branch functionary decides it is necessary to do
so.  As long as chlorpyrifos or any other pesticide is “approved for use” by the
PMRA, the City of Edmonton may use it.  That’s not good enough.   It is
especially not good enough for Edmonton’s children who are most susceptible
to deleterious effects of pesticides like chlorpyrifos and others.   

Chlorpyrifos is “approved for use” today in Edmonton and could be used again, despite the fact that it has never undergone a complete, mandated
re-assessment since its initial approval in 1969.  Since 1969, over 2000 peer
reviewed studies about the toxicity of chlorpyrifos, especially to children, have
been published and a number of high profile court cases have indicated that it
is not safe to use this pesticide under any circumstance.   

A green light from the PMRA does not inspire confidence and Edmontonians
deserve better.  Edmontonians should not have to worry that our health is
compromised simply because another dangerous pesticide has questionable
approval from the PMRA and City of Edmonton Pest Control Staff and
Contractors have a misplaced green light to spray it near unsuspecting citizens.   
The City should continue to work towards developing and practising organic
turf management techniques to naturally reduce weeds.  Of particular interest
and relevance to Edmonton could be the development and comprehensive use of “compost tea” as a natural supplement for healthy turf management.   The
City might also consider naturalizing some of its extensive catalogue of grassy
turf. Turf is costly to maintain without extensive and arguably unhealthy
management.  

Every effort should also be made to monitor and protect mosquito predator
populations and other bird/animal species threatened by pesticide use.  

Back ground information:  
Here’s the agenda for July 2/3:  http://sirepub.edmonton.ca/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=2310&doctype=AGENDA Double click agenda item 6.12
“Integrated Pest Management Policy” and links to the updated policy and
background documents can be seen on the right of the screen.  Council may
update the schedule Tuesday morning, July 2nd, just after 9:30 a.m.

If you’d like to speak to this issue at City Council , please call the City Clerk
at 780-496-8178 to confirm the schedule and to confirm your participation.    

Link to Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Pesticide Director Randall McQuaker’s brief to Edmonton IPM Review :  https://cape.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/CAPE-brief-to-Edmonton-IPM-review-February-2019.pdf

Edmonton’s Sordid History of Chlorpyrifos Use to Control Mosquitos

Facts about Chlorpyrifos:  By Sheryl McCumsey, Coordinator for Pesticide Free Canada and Pesticide Free Edmonton

Chlorpyrifos is a potent and persistent neurotoxic pesticide that inhibits proper nerve function.

(It kills insects by paralysing the insects muscles used for breathing. It is linked to severe birth defects, brain damage, developmental delays and behavioral problems in humans, certain cancers and has caused deaths.)

It is 700 times more toxic than Malathion and breakdown products are 10-100 times more toxic than chlorpyrifos itself.

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Is City Council Prepared to Challenge Questionable Pesticide Practises and Stand Up To Troubling Federal Pesticide Regulatory Lapses?

On Wednesday, June 26, the Edmonton Public Services Committee is scheduled to respond to the pending Integrated Pest Management (IPM) review and policy update.  It is disconcerting that little more than a week before that scheduled meeting, it appears that this policy update has not yet  been publicly posted.  Therefore, as concerned citizens and volunteers, our communication strategy is limited by available information gleaned from public engagement sessions attended during the past six months and from the report of those engagements (linked below).  

Based on interactions with the  team contracted to complete the IPM review and policy update, (the IPM Working Group), our main concerns are as follows:  

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URGENT CALL TO COUNCIL OF CANADIANS SUPPORTERS – THE BIGHORN COUNTRY

The Edmonton Chapter of the Council of Canadians urges all Albertans to show their support for proposed new and upgraded protection for the Bighorn Country, the primary source of the North Saskatchewan River.  This new parks system, adjacent to Jasper and Banff, will help to complete the Yellowstone-to-Yukon initiative, assuring protected travel corridors for wildlife. Measures are needed to protect this source of drinking water for Edmonton and the hundreds of thousands of prairie Canadians who depend on the North Saskatchewan River for daily sustenance.   Of course, a number of threatened animal and fish species also depend on the critical wild life habitat to be given additional ecological protection under this plan.

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