CBC and Better Farming are reporting that the Ontario Superior Court has upheld a provincial regulation to dramatically reduce the number of acres planted with corn and soybean seeds coated with a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which are toxic to bees.
The regulation had been under challenge by the Grain Farmers of Ontario and a decision on the application, which was heard on September 28, 2015, was reserved by the Ontario Supreme Court. It is understood that this may not be the last word on this matter and Grain Farmers of Ontario is “reviewing [its] legal options”.
According to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, the new provincial requirements are intended to support the government of Ontario’s target to reduce the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 80 per cent by 2017.
Banning the use of neonicotinoids has been a hot topic for the environmental movement for the past couple of years. For example, both Environmental Defence, and the David Suzuki Foundation, have called for complete bans on neonicotinoid use on the basis of studies which have shown and link between neonicotinoid pesticide use and escalating honeybee colony losses.
The decision follows on the heels of a US decision in September, 2015 where a US court overturned federal approval for a new neonicotinoid formulation called sulfoxaflor. In that decision, the US court found that the Environmental Protection Agency had relied on “flawed and limited” data, and its green light was unjustified given the “precariousness of bee populations”.
It is time for an outright ban, country-wide, in Canada.
Today, October 7, 2015, Ontario passed the Great Lakes Protection Act (the “Act“). The Act is designed to strengthen Ontario’s ability to keep the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River clean, as well as to protect and restore the waterways that flow into them.
According to the provincial government’s news release, the Act enables the province to address significant environmental challenges to the Great Lakes, including climate change, harmful pollutants and algal blooms. The Act will also:
Establish a Great Lakes Guardians’ Council to provide a collaborative forum for discussing and gaining input on issues and priorities relating to the Great Lakes.
Allow the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to set environmental targets and enable communities to address local problems.
Require the establishment of monitoring programs on a number of water quality indices where needed, as well as regular public reporting.
Require consideration of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in decisions made about the health of the Great Lakes if offered by First Nations or Métis communities.
Enshrine Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy the province’s action plan on the Great Lakes, as a living document to be reviewed every six years and reported in the legislature every three years.
This is extremely positive news given the declining health of the Great Lakes, particularly with regard to recent toxic algal blooms and the availability of clean drinking water for those people reliant on the Great Lakes’ fresh water supply.
According to Environmental Defence, who has championed this Act for a number of years, the Act will lead to:
Empowered communities through consultation and new opportunities for involvement;
Consideration of traditional ecological knowledge in research and decision-making;
Provincial commitment to meeting targets that will reduce or eliminate harmful pollutants and address algal blooms; and
Accountability, through improved monitoring and reporting.
The Great Lakes basin is home to 98 per cent of Ontario’s population, 95 per cent of its agricultural lands, 80 per cent of its power generation capacity and 75 per cent of Canada’s manufacturing sector. Additionally, Ontario has 10,000 kilometres of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence shoreline, the longest freshwater coastline in the world. This is reason enough to celebrate the passing of the Great Lakes Protection Act.