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Ontario government action on bee and pollinator protection applauded by Friends of the Earth

Monday, March 23rd 2015 3:06:40pm

Premier Wynne and Ministers of Environment and Agriculture cited as North American leaders


(March 23, 2015, Ottawa, ON) Today, following extensive public consultation, Ontario tabled a Regulation to permanently reduce 80 percent of the bee-harmful neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides used on corn and soy seed by 2017. This announcement makes Ontario the first North American jurisdiction to permanently restrict usage of this pesticide (for neonic-coated corn and soy seed).

“Saving bees is the most compelling environmental mission in decades,” stated Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada (FOE Canada). “Ontario is getting it right and demonstrating leadership at a continent-wide scale.”  

FOE Canada polling indicated Ontario's residents, whether rural or urban, strongly supported government action to save bees.

“Ontario is to be congratulated,” continued Olivastri. “It identified the opportunity with the greatest potential for saving bees and took action. Designating neonic-coated seeds as pesticides under the provincial Pesticides Act is the right step.”

The Regulation ensures that bee-harmful pesticides can no longer be used to coat seeds “just in case” they're needed. Only farmers who prove they have a pest challenge will be able to access the pesticide. This means that uncoated seeds should be readily available to the majority of farmers.

For the past three years, FOE Canada has argued that widespread use of seed coatings are unnecessary. This is exactly the priority acted on by the Ontario government.

In addition to its focus on neonicotinoids in agriculture, FOE Canada has tested garden supply and plant nursery products for neonics. Testing last summer showed over half of the nursery plants considered to be "bee friendly", in fact, contained bee-harmful pesticides. The FOE “Gardener Beware” campaign advises gardeners to buy only neonic-free plants.

Friends of the Earth encourages everyone to do their part to save bees by stopping the use of bee-harmful neonics-whether you are a farmer or home gardener.

Olivastri concluded, "All Ontarians concerned about the environment and the future of agriculture, should applaud Premier Wynne, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Murray, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Leal and their Cabinet colleagues for making a tough but positive decision."

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For more information, or to schedule interviews, please contact:
Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada, (613) 724-8690, beatrice@foecanada.org

Friends of the Earth Canada (www.foecanada.org) is the Canadian member of Friends of the Earth International, the world's largest grassroots environmental network campaigning on today's most urgent environmental and social issues.

Neonicotinoids work by interfering with insects' nervous systems. Three neonicotinoid pesticides are subject to a temporary ban in the European Union (EU) from 2013 due to evidence that they harm bees.

In light of the EU ban, Friends of the Earth has been calling for a Canada-wide ban on the registration of neonicotinoids since 2013. In Canada, the federal government controls registration of pesticides products and the provinces control sale and use of the pesticides. Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North American to restrict neonic use permanently for neonic-coated corn and soy seed, developed by Bayer CropScience and introduced about a decade ago.

In a German Court earlier this month, Friends of the Earth Germany won the right to free speech about the bee-harmful effects of neonics in gardening products against an injunction brought by Bayer. For decision and background on the case, click here.

Friends of the Earth has commissioned  several public opinion polls on neonicotinoids in Ontario--most recently in December 2014, following the release of Ontario's discussion paper on pollinator health. Public support for the government’s plan is strong among both rural and urban respondents, across all regions of the province. The proposed reduction was endorsed by 85% of residents in southwestern Ontario; 81% in Toronto; 79% in the Niagara/Hamilton region; 78% in the GTA; 77% in Eastern Ontario; 63% in Northern Ontario; and 60% in Central Ontario.