Skip to main content

Canadian Government Sued Over Bee Deaths

Michelle Schoffro-Cook,
July 7 2016

Environmental groups across Canada have decided to hold the Canadian government accountable for its role in the massive die-offs in bee populations. The David Suzuki Foundation, Friends of the Earth (Canada), Ontario Nature and The Wilderness Committee filed a lawsuit against the Canadian federal government for allowing the use of two common pesticides that are known to kill bees. The pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, or neonics for short, include: clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

According to the lawyer representing the environmental groups, Charles Hatt, the Canadian government has an obligation to review the safety information of the products, and when deemed insufficient or unsafe, to stop registering the pesticide products. But the federal government continued to register these two neonicotinoids for over a decade despite a lack of safety documentation. Says Mr. Hatt: “We’ve had a situation where for years, they’re continuing these product registrations without the scientific information that the agency itself flags as critical for determining the risks of these pesticides.”

Health Canada, the Canadian federal health agency being used, actually conducted its own testing of dead bees and found neonicotinoid on 70 percent of the corpses. Yet, this research was conveniently forgotten by the agency for the sake of approving the pesticides for sale.

International groups of scientists and environmentalists have been declaring neonics unsafe for bees, as well as other natural populations including humans, for over two decades. According to the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides neonics are 5,000 to 10,000 TIMES more toxic to bees than DDT. These toxic pesticides affect beesÂ’ navigation, learning, food collection, resistance to disease and longevity, in many cases killing the bees or rendering them unable to perform their vital tasks. In bumblebees, the organization states that “irrefutable colony-level effects have been found, with exposed colonies growing more slowly and producing significantly fewer queens.”

While most people don’t give bees a second thought until they’ve been stung, the reality is that we need bees for human survival. Without healthy bee colonies, a massive amount of our food supply is at risk. Without food, so are we.

According to EcoJustice, a Canadian charity made up of lawyers to defend the environment, European countries severely restricted the use of neonics. The U.S. banned new uses but continues to allow them for previously approved purposes. Companies like Home Depot have announced that they will phase them out.

But, for the most part, these efforts are more greenwashing and good press than reality. The fact remains that neonics are still in widespread use in the U.S. and Canada, and they continue to be a significant factor in our massive bee losses. In Canada, massive bee colony deaths in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba have been linked to neonics.

Maybe it is time that the Canadian government, along with the American one, and companies like Lowes and Home Depot, get off their decades-high stacks of research and actually ban these disgusting and highly-damaging chemicals. Ban them once and for all-not just commit to phasing them out for the sake of merely sounding like they give a damn.

Related: Bee-Killing Pesticide More Dangerous than Previously Believed

Take Action

Don’t wait for your government agency to do the right thing and ban neonics in your area. Here are some things you can do to take action:

-Stop shopping at retailers that are selling neonicotinoid pesticide-containing plants and pesticides and falsely advertising them as “bee friendly.” Or equally bad, claim to phase out neonics while they pad their wallets from selling them now. Not only is this practice detrimental to bees, it is also duping consumers.

-Stop using chemical pesticides at home or in your garden. Ask your friends and neighbors to do the same.

-If you have any chemical pesticides in your home or garage, take them to a hazardous waste disposal center. Do not flush them into the water system or pour them out in your yard.

-Write a letter to your municipal government asking them to stop using pesticides on public land and parks. You’d be surprised to learn how many still use them.

-Call your federal government representatives and demand that they ban neonics now.

-Start a Care2 petition targeting your local officials and get support from fellow environmentalists.

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is an international best-selling and 19-time published book author whose works include: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, and Cooking (New World Library, 2016).