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In an interesting twist, Health Canada just announced its intention to manage the agricultural uses of the pesticide imidacloprid to protect aquatic insects; this pesticide, like other neonicotinoid pesticides, has been under fire for some time for its effects on pollinators, for which we have written extensively about.

Health Canada has recently completed a re-evaluation of imidacloprid and now seeks public comment on its draft risk assessment, in which it proposes to phase-out agricultural uses of imidacloprid over a three to five-year period, depending on the availability of alternatives. The comment period is open until February 21, 2017.

Key findings showed that in aquatic environments in Canada, imidacloprid is being measured at levels known to be harmful to aquatic insects: these levels were measured to be as high as 11.9 parts per billion, with safe levels being 0.041 parts per billion or lower. The report concludes that the continued high volume use of imidacloprid in agricultural areas is not sustainable.

The risk assessment also found that there is a potential risk to birds and small mammals from feeding on seeds that are treated with the pesticide.

The imidacloprid re-evaluation has also triggered special reviews of two other widely used neonicotinoids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. At any point during the special reviews, the registration of the pesticides under review containing the active ingredients of clothianidin and thiamethoxam may be changed, if the evidence warrants it.

As we have previously blogged, the PMRA, the branch of Health Canada that is responsible for regulating pest control products in Canada, has been subject to pressure and legal action in recent years, including in relation to its regulation of neonicotinoid pesticides. Recently, several environmental groups sued the PMRA in federal court in relation to its registrations of pest control products containing clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

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