En­gage

Dr. Carolyn Cal­laghan is a Se­nior Con­ser­va­tion Bi­ol­o­gist with the Cana­dian Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion with a fo­cus on ter­res­trial wildlife. She is CWF’S lead on the neon­i­coti­noids issue. With the re­cent Health Canada pro­posal to ban one type, there have been a l

Canadian Wildlife - - FEATURES -

News, events and up­dates on con­ser­va­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and en­gage­ment projects from the Cana­dian Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion

HOW LONG HAS THE CANA­DIAN WILDLIFE FED­ER­A­TION BEEN RAIS­ING AWARE­NESS OF THE DAN­GERS OF PES­TI­CIDE USE?

CWF was founded in 1962, and al­most im­me­di­ately we be­gan urg­ing gov­ern­ments to in­ves­ti­gate the ef­fects of bio­cides. Th­ese tox­ins were de­signed to kill or­gan­isms, and CWF was con­cerned about the ef­fects on wildlife. We urged gov­ern­ments to im­pose reg­u­la­tions on the sale of bio­cides to re­duce threats to wildlife. CWF also urged gov­ern­ments to es­tab­lish suitable di­ag­nos­tic and recording stan­dards for identifying and recording hu­man ill­nesses or deaths caused by bio­cide poi­son­ing in Canada. At the time, lit­tle was known about the ef­fects of tox­ins such as pes­ti­cide on wildlife.

In sub­se­quent years, CWF con­tin­ued to urge gov­ern­ments to in­crease research into the harm­ful ef­fects of th­ese chem­i­cals. In 1972, Canada banned the use of a par­tic­u­larly harm­ful pes­ti­cide called DDT, which caused the thin­ning of eggshells in birds such as the bald ea­gle. Un­for­tu­nately, im­pacts of this pes­ti­cide per­sisted, to the ex­tent that in the 1980s, the bald ea­gle pop­u­la­tion of south­ern On­tario was nearly wiped out by in­dus­trial chem­i­cals and pes­ti­cides. CWF stepped up to help save the species.

In the 1990s, neon­i­coti­noid pes­ti­cides were in­tro­duced be­cause many in­sects were be­com­ing re­sis­tant to com­mon pes­ti­cides. Neon­ics are de­rived from nico­tine, which is a neu­ro­toxin that af­fects brain func­tion. While orig­i­nally thought to be safer than their forerunners, neon­ics are sys­temic, which means they are ab­sorbed by plants when ap­plied to seeds, soil or leaves. The chem­i­cals cir­cu­late through the plant’s tis­sues, killing the in­sects that feed on them.

CWF con­tin­ues to cam­paign against the use of neon­ics, as we are very con­cerned about their im­pacts on many species, in­clud­ing pol­li­na­tor pop­u­la­tions, birds, aquatic in­ver­te­brates and earth­worms.

HEALTH CANADA RE­CENTLY PRO­POSED A BAN ON ONE TYPE OF NEONIC PES­TI­CIDE KNOWN AS IMIDACLOPRID. WHAT’S CWF’S PER­SPEC­TIVE ON THIS BAN?

CWF sup­ports the ban. This is a big step in the right di­rec­tion. Imidacloprid is one of the most widely used pes­ti­cides and has been found in aquatic en­vi­ron­ments in Canada at con­cen­tra­tions of up to 290 times the ac­cept­able level for aquatic in­ver­te­brates. This is very con­cern­ing, and propos­ing a ban on its use is the

ap­pro­pri­ate de­ci­sion given the ev­i­dence of harm. Th­ese pes­ti­cides seep into streams and lakes from farm­ers’ fields and kill aquatic in­sects, many of which are an im­por­tant food source for fish as well as birds once the in­sects hatch into fly­ing adults.

IF THE IMIDACLOPRID BAN IS IM­PLE­MENTED, WILL WILDLIFE BE SAFE?

Un­for­tu­nately, elim­i­nat­ing one pes­ti­cide is not enough. A lot of other dan­ger­ous pes­ti­cides are put­ting wildlife at risk. In fact, imidacloprid is one of nine neon­i­coti­noids pes­ti­cides cur­rently be­ing used in Canada. Health Canada is launch­ing spe­cial reviews of two other neon­i­coti­noids (cloth­i­an­i­din and thi­amethoxam). Th­ese pes­ti­cides have be­come in­fa­mous for af­fect­ing pol­li­na­tors around the world. CWF would like to see Health Canada do more to pro­tect bio­di­ver­sity from neon­i­coti­noid pes­ti­cides. They are toxic. They are re­tained in soil. They are wa­ter sol­u­ble. They are ab­sorbed by plants. Th­ese im­pacts are acute and chronic. There is solid sci­en­tific ev­i­dence of se­ri­ous harm to wild bees, hov­er­flies, but­ter­flies, lacewings, flower bugs and earth­worms. There is also some ev­i­dence of harm to ver­te­brates such as birds and bats. Routes of con­tam­i­na­tion in­clude dust gen­er­ated dur­ing drilling of dressed seeds, con­tam­i­na­tion and ac­cu­mu­la­tion in soils, run-off into water­ways, and up­take by non-tar­get plants via their roots or dust de­po­si­tion on leaves.

BE­SIDES BAN­NING PES­TI­CIDES, WHAT ELSE CAN GOV­ERN­MENTS DO TO HELP?

While pro­tec­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment is para­mount, the Cana­dian Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion also wants as­sur­ance that through­out the ban­ning process there is sup­port for farm­ers, some of whom may feel that the pro­posed ban will re­duce their op­tions to deal with pests. Agri­cul­tural de­part­ments across Canada should sup­port farm­ers by en­sur­ing that there are safer al­ter­na­tive op­tions and that farm­ers re­ceive train­ing in in­te­grated pest man­age­ment. This is de­signed to re­duce use of pes­ti­cides by scout­ing for crop pests in the field be­fore any spray­ing hap­pens and en­sur­ing that ben­e­fi­cial pest preda­tors are sup­ported in farm fields. The Next Pol­icy Frame­work, the next phase of an agri­cul­tural pol­icy that is co­or­di­nated by fed­eral, pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial gov­ern­ments, is an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress this de­fi­ciency. The pol­icy pro­vides $3.5 bil­lion in pro­gram fund­ing, and CWF be­lieves that some of that fund­ing should be used to sup­port farm­ers in pro­vid­ing for wildlife and habi­tat on farm­land.

WHAT CAN THE PUBLIC DO TO HELP?

The public can join CWF in sup­port­ing the pes­ti­cide bans. The public also has to be very care­ful as con­sumers of gar­den­ing prod­ucts. Many bed­ding plants, seeds and flow­ers have been treated with neonic pes­ti­cides. Look for gar­den­ing items that CWF has cer­ti­fied wildlife friendly, such as our pol­li­na­tor plant kits. Plant na­tive species of flow­ers. Be­ware of wild­flower seed packs that might con­tain in­va­sive species or pes­ti­cide-treated prod­ucts. Share this story with your friends, neigh­bours and social me­dia net­works.

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