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New Limits, but No All-Out Ban on Pesticides That Harm Bee Population

Health Canada says use of pesticides under new rules will not pose "unacceptable risk" to bees

The federal government has proposed tighter restrictions around two insecticides that are harmful to bees, but stopped short of an all-out ban.

Health Canada announced new mitigation measures today on the neonicotinoids​ clothianidin and thiamethoxam, pesticides which are sold as seed treatment or sprays to protect agricultural crops from various insects.

Under proposed changes, the product will be banned from some uses such as orchard trees or strawberry patches.

Restrictions are on the way for other uses such as on berries and legumes.

New measures will also require new labelling for seed treatments, which will still be permitted.

"Scientific evidence shows that with the proposed restrictions applied, the use of clothianidin and thiamethoxam does not present an unacceptable risk to bees," said Margherita Conti, an official with Health  Canada's pest management regulatory agency.

But environmental groups say the new measures fall short of what's needed to protect pollinators and ecosystems.

'Half-pregnant' approach

Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth Canada, said pressure from pesticide manufacturers and users led to the government's "gutless" and "inadequate" response.

"That's not addressing the long-term issues we have with these pesticides building up in the soil, building up in the wildflowers, in the vegetation," she told CBC News. "It's like a half-pregnant approach. It's impossible, what they're doing, in terms of having a positive impact."

A coalition of environmental and health groups including Équiterre, the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) and the Canadian Environmental Law Association issued a news release urging Canada to follow the lead of other countries with stronger measures against neonicotinoids, also called neonics.

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