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Since the European Union voted to suspend the use of three neonicotinoid insecticides in 2013, there has been significant interest in Canada and the United States to regulate the use of these pesticides. Also known as neonics, these pesticides are believed to be significantly contributing to the wide-spread harm of pollinators, including bees.

While a review of the ban is now ongoing in the EU, in Ontario, on July 1, 2015, new regulations took effect to control the sale and use of three types of neonicotinoid-treated seeds. The regulations were unsuccessfully challenged in court, with the Court of Appeal dismissing an appeal by the Grain Farmers of Ontario in April. The regulation applies to corn seed grown for grain, silage and soybean seed, but not for popping corn, sweet corn or corn used for the production of seed.

In December 2015, Quebec announced it would follow Ontario’s lead, but would also compensate farmers who choose not to use the seeds. However, no further information has been released to date.

At least two Canadian municipalities, Vancouver and Prince Edward County, have taken steps to stop the use of these pesticides for municipal purposes.

Earlier this year, Maryland, the first U.S. state to do so, took steps to reduce the use of neonicotinoid pesticides with the Pollinator Protection Act of 2016. Effective January 1, 2018, the sale and use of all neonics will be prohibited at retail unless the person also sells a “restricted use pesticide”. This means only persons who are certified applicators, a farmer, or a veterinarian may use the pesticide. Some exceptions apply, for example pet care products and indoor pest control products may continue to be sold.

The bill also requires that on completion of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) pollinator risk assessment of neonics, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (“MDA”) must review the State’s pesticide laws and regulations and make any further recommendations for changes to ensure that the regulations are protective of pollinators. Finally, the MDA must incorporate habitat expansion and enhancement practices into the State’s managed pollinator protection plan developed in accordance with the EPA. Violators of the new Act will be subject to a civil penalty of $500 and/or prison of up to 3 months for a first offence. A second offence attracts a penalty of up to $500 and/or 1 year in prison

The fiscal and policy note prepared for the bill also noted that the EPA is conducting risk assessments of four neonicotinoid pesticides – imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran – which are expected to be completed over the course of 2016 and 2017. As an interim measure, the EPA has required that products containing any of those pesticides that are for outdoor application to foliage be labeled with specific terms that highlight measures necessary to better protect pollinators.

Several other states are reportedly considering restrictions on neonics, including California, Alaska, New York and Massachusetts.

Some American municipalities have also decided to get into the fray and have banned the use of neonicotinoids.

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