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New Strategy to Limit Neonicotinoids and Other “High Risk” Pesticides in Québec

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Source: Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

In a press release issued on November 22, 2015, the Canadian province of Québec (Quebec) announced its release of Québec Pesticide Strategy 2015-2018.  Although the Strategy itself is available only in French, Québec has provided a summary of the Strategy in English, which is available here.

Québec’s press release states that the Strategy “sets out the major directions and goals that will guide government action to protect public health, pollinators, and the environment in the coming years.”  One of the ways the Strategy seeks to do this is to impose additional restrictions on the use of the 'highest-risk pesticides' which the Strategy states includes atrazine, chlorpyrifos, and neonicotinoid insecticides.  To reduce use of high risk pesticides, the Strategy’s “Objectives” include:

  • Requiring agricultural application of such highest-risk pesticides to be 'justified by an agronomist in advance of 100% of cases';
  • Tripling of the number of pesticides that are banned in urban environments for use on lawns and green spaces;
  • Obliging owners of golf courses that use the greatest amount of pesticides to reduce their use of the highest-risk products by 25 percent; and
  • Authorizing the 'unrestricted sale of all biopesticides by all retailers' and encouraging “the application of the lowest-risk pesticides through economic incentives (levies, permits and compensation fees).”

To lower exposures, the Strategy calls for ensuring adequate qualification levels for employees that apply pesticides and increasing mandatory minimum distance when pesticides are applied near inhabited areas.

With specific regard to neonicotinoid insecticides, Québec seeks to reduce such use with the following “Objectives,” some of which overlap with the Objectives noted above for high risk pesticides:

  • Banning the use of all neonicotinoids for lawn and flower bed maintenance;
  • Requiring agricultural application of such neonicotinoids to be 'justified by an agronomist in advance of 100% of cases'; and
  • Encouraging the use of seeds uncoated with neonicotinoids through economic incentives such as levies, permits, and compensation fees.

Québec also intends to obtain additional information about use of treated seeds in Quebec by requiring companies to submit reports on Québec sales of neonicotinoid-treated seeds.

Québec in its Strategy summary also describes the following additional activities it plans to undertake in2016:

  • Amend the Pesticides Management Code to “tighten the conditions under which pesticides may be used”;
  • Modernize the Pesticides Act to incorporate coated seeds and strengthen compliance through a system of administrative penalties; and
  • Hold pesticide users accountable by “having users of highest-risk pesticides assume a greater share of associated environmental and public health costs.”

Commentary

Québec’s Strategy to impose additional restrictions on the use of the 'highest-risk pesticides,' including neonicotinoid insecticides, is part of its efforts following a 2011 strategy aimed at reducing the risks related to pesticide use by 25 percent by 2021.  The Canadian province of Ontario also issued final regulations in June 2015 aimed at reducing the area planted with maize and soybean seed treated with neonicotinoid insecticides as discussed in our blog item Canadian Province Finalizes Neonic Reduction Rule, although Quebec’s Strategy goes arguably farther by broadening the scope of the pesticides at issue to include atrazine and chlorpyrifos.  It remains to be seen whether different rules in different provinces will create any confusion or other regulatory issues for companies seeking to comply with these restrictions.

In the U.S., the issue of forbidding “prophylactic” use of pesticides has been raised to date primarily at the local level in a relatively few number municipalities.  Regarding pollinator issues more generally in the U.S., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of reviewing comments it received on its “Proposal to Mitigate the Exposure to Bees from Acutely Toxic Pesticide Products” released earlier this year. The next milestone in EPA activity related to neonicotinoid pesticides is the expected release of a registration review risk assessment document for imadicloprid, a widely used neonicotinoid insecticide,before the end of the calendar year.

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