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In July 2016 The David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Friends of the Earth, and the Ontario Nature and Wilderness Committee collectively filed an application requesting that the Federal Court declare that Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s (“PMRA”) practice of registering neonicotinoid pesticides for use in Canada without being provided the supporting scientific information is unlawful.

The environmental groups argue that PMRA’s course of conduct in initially registering and then subsequently renewing the registrations of the neonicotinoid pesticides without sufficient information and justification determining whether or not the environmental risks are acceptable represents an unlawful practice. The case also challenges the PMRA’s failure to consult the public as required by the Pest Control Products Act.

The environmental groups claim that in approximately 79 cases, PMRA requested more information and field studies on the neonicotinoids and then proceeded, absent the information requested, to grant the conditional registrations. The conditional registrations were then repeatedly renewed despite the PMRA still not being provided the information requested.

On April 11, 2018 the Federal Court confirmed that the lawsuit launched by the environmental groups can proceed to a full hearing notwithstanding the repeated attempts by the federal government and manufacturing companies to have the case dismissed. Justice Catherine Kane of the Federal Court upheld an earlier decision of the Federal Court allowing the case brought by the environmental groups to proceed.

The continued use of neonicotinoids is an international issue. Earlier this year the European Union brought forward compelling information seeking a total ban on neonicotinoid bee-harming pesticides.

Upon review of the information provided, on April 27, 2018 the European Union (“EU”) voted to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on outdoor crops. A report released by the European Food Safety Authority (“EFSA”) concluded that “most uses of neonicotinoid pesticides represent a risk to wild bees and honeybees.” The EU regulations ban the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam on outdoor crops in EU member states. However, the indoor use of the neonicotinoids, in greenhouses, was not found to have the same harmful effects on honeybees and wild bees and as result indoor use was not subject to the restriction.

The Environment Secretary for the UK, Michael Gove, expressed support for the ban after reversing the government’s previous position on neonicotinoids stating “we cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.”

The Vermont State Senate, in April 2018, voted 29-0 to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. “Bees and other pollinators are responsible for one in every three bits of food we eat and their decline poses a serious threat to our food supply, environment and agricultural economy in Vermont,” stated Molly Anderson, Professor of Food Studies, Middlebury College.

Earlier this year on February 20, 2018, the Québec Superior Court granted an application on behalf of the beekeepers of Québec for authorization to proceed with a class action against the pesticide manufacturers for damages suffered by the beekeepers as a result of the harm caused by the use of the neonicotinoids. The authorization has been appealed by the chemical manufacturers and the appeal is scheduled to be heard in June 2018.

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