Photo: Ontario supports pollinator health

Neonicotinoid pesticides threaten bees and other pollinators. (Credit: Jode Roberts)

Ontario is proposing North America's first regulatory restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides. Scientific studies have linked these pesticides to high death rates in honeybees, as well as harmful effects on birds, butterflies, bumblebees and earthworms, among other species. On November 25, 2014, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs invited public comments for a 60-day period on a pollinator health proposal that includes regulations to reduce the use of neonic-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80 per cent.

Thanks in part to a message platform on the David Suzuki Foundation website, close to 50,000 comments were submitted, with about 97 per cent favouring government action to restrict the use and sale of neonics.

"We know there is sound science and strong public support behind protecting pollinators with tough, timely action on neonics, but to see this level of participation and near-consensus in public comments is extraordinary," said Foundation senior researcher and analyst Lisa Gue.

The strong public response is consistent with earlier polling results. A poll conducted by Oracle Research in December 2014 for Friends of the Earth Canada, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Ontario Beekeepers' Association found nearly eight of 10 Ontarians believe the proposal for new regulations is on the right track.

Last June, the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides completed a comprehensive meta-analysis of hundreds of scientific studies examining the ecological effects of neonics. It concluded neonics threaten not just honeybees but also native bee populations and a large number of species that contribute to pollination, soil health and biological pest control. Last year, the European Commission placed a moratorium on certain uses of neonics to protect the environment. Ontario's proposed regulations would take effect July 1, 2015.

A second round of public consultation is now taking place with the publication of draft regulations.