News / Vancouver

Lawsuit launched against bee-killing pesticides

Approval of two neonicotinoid-based pesticides for Canadian crops should be overturned, argues new environmental court case.

Bee populations have been dying off in massive numbers, which scientists have linked to some of the most common pesticide ingredients, neonicotinoids.

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Bee populations have been dying off in massive numbers, which scientists have linked to some of the most common pesticide ingredients, neonicotinoids.

Canada’s beleaguered bees may soon get their day in court, if a lawsuit launched Wednesday in federal court is approved.

Environmental groups across the country teamed up to launch the case, which is calling for a judge to overturn the federal government’s approval of two controversial pesticides which they argue have decimated pollinator populations.

They’ve honed in on two pesticide ingredients approved by Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency — both of them known as “neonicotinoids,” or “neonics” — Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam.

“Neonics are some of the most widely used pesticides in the world,” Ecojustice lawyer Charles Hatt said in a phone interview. “They get right into the plants they’re applied to — into the leaves, the pollen, the roots. They can’t be washed off.”

And worse, he said, they’re “persistent” throughout the environment, so it’s not just bees exposed to them, but aquatic invertebrates and birds.

“There’s really a potential for them to cause harm broadly in ecosystems,” he added.

Hatt is arguing the case on behalf of two Vancouver-based groups, the Wilderness Committee and David Suzuki Foundation, as well as Friends of the Earth Canada and Ontario Nature.

Ontario recently increased its restrictions on the use of neonic-based pesticides. According to a statement released Wednesday after groups filed the lawsuit in Toronto, they hope the court will quash the decade-old approval of the two chemicals.

“We're hoping that our court case will compel the federal government to take similar action in response to widespread public concern over the fate of pollinators in Canada,” stated Faisal Moola, David Suzuki Foundation’s director for Ontario and Northern Canada.

The case argues that the regulator failed to consult the public, as required, before permitting the neonics from being used in agriculture, and also that it failed to heed scientific studies required on the chemicals’ environmental effects.

The government has not yet responded to the court case. But some opponents of a neonics ban in the agriculture sector have argued that restricting the common pesticide ingredients would have a significant financial cost for farmers.

Amidst massive die-offs of bees worldwide that scientists have linked to neonics, however, advocates argue that farmers will be even worse-off if bees — the largest pollinator of crops — go extinct.

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