(Adds Bayer, Monsanto comments)
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba Nov 23 Canada may ban an
insect-killing chemical used to protect crops because it harms
aquatic bugs, including midges and mayflies, while the
government continues to investigate whether imidacloprid poses a
risk to bees.
Imidacloprid, made by Bayer AG, should be phased
out within five years, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency
(PMRA) said on Wednesday.
Imidacloprid is part of a class of pesticides called
neonicotinoids, also called neonics, that are applied as a seed
treatment or sprayed on plants' leaves. Neonics have drawn
scrutiny in recent years after research pointed to risks for
honey bees, which have been in serious decline in North America,
possibly due to pesticides, loss of habitat and climate change.
The European Union limited use of neonics, including
imidacloprid, two years ago. There is no such ban anywhere in
North America yet, said Scott Kirby, director general of
environmental assessment at PMRA.
Bayer, the biggest imidacloprid manufacturer, is "extremely
disappointed" in the decision, said Bayer Canada Vice President
Derrick Rozdeba, in a statement.
"Canadian growers value imidacloprid due to its efficacy,
safety to applicators and favourable environmental profile, when
used according to label instructions," he said.
The recommendation is a surprise, said Dave Carey, manager
of government affairs and policy at Canadian Seed Trade
Association, whose members include seed suppliers Syngenta AG
and Monsanto Co.
"There are always concerns when a product that companies and
growers rely on is taken off the market," Carey said.
Monsanto treats most of its soybean varieties with
imidacloprid, spokeswoman Trish Jordan said.
Ron Bonnett, president of Canadian Federation of
Agriculture, said phasing out the chemical may not cause
problems for farmers because other neonics are still available.
"I don't see a lot of red flags right now," he said.
The government will now hold a consultation period on the
change before PMRA makes its final decision next year.
The regulatory agency is also reviewing two other neonics,
clothianidin and thiamethoxam.
The move was greeted with cautious optimism by Canadian
beekeepers, who have been concerned about a possible link
between neonics and spikes in bee deaths.
Phasing out imidacloprid may result in fewer bee deaths, but
it depends on what chemicals farmers replace it with, said Rod
Scarlett, executive director of Canadian Honey Council.
Environmental Defence, an activist group, said the decision
is welcome, but the phase-out is unnecessarily long.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Lisa