Europe has banned them outright: harmful pesticides, like Atrazine that affect fish, bird and bee populations. Quebec is now tightening the rules.
Feeling in an Olympic mood, Environment Minister Isabelle Melançon stepped up to the podium at a press conference Monday afternoon and announced she was going to bring home the gold medal — in the environment.
“It’s with a lot of pride that I’m going to proceed with the announcement about these important rules,” she said.
The Quebec government has banned, for personal use, the five most dangerous pesticides: Atrazine, Chlorpyrifos, three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam), as well as treated seeds.
Agricultural producers will only be allowed to purchase these pesticides if it is justified by an agronomist with the Ordre des agronomes du Quebec (OAQ). Farmers will also have to keep a pesticide registry.
When asked why she wasn’t banning the pesticides outright, Melançon said she believes she’s struck a balance between environmental concerns and economic progress.
Melançon was speaking at a honey factory in Chateau Richer, just outside Quebec City where she stressed the need to protect the bees who make it. Long known to be sensitive to pesticides, she said Canada’s $2 billion beekeeping industry is in jeopardy.
Human health is also at risk. According to statistics provided by the Quebec environment ministry, each year, the Quebec Anti-poison Centre receives 1,800 calls for pesticide intoxication.
Ministry tests have detected dozens of different kinds of pesticides in 48 per cent of streams and rivers.
Louise Henault-Ethier with the David Suzuki Foundation explained that Atrazine has been found to turn male frogs into females.
“It’s urgent that we act on this … because it’s a known substance that can impact the functioning hormones of our system,” she said.
Henault-Ethier said these high-risk pesticides should be banned altogether at the federal level.
“Studies are on their way that might end up in a complete ban of these substances. For now, what Quebec is doing is one step in the right direction,” she said.
However, Quebec grain growers say the province is just creating more red tape for farmers.
“Normally, farmers, we use the least amount of pesticides because it costs something,” said William Van Tessel, vice-president of Producteurs de grains.
He also said treated seeds (seeds coated in pesticides) should not be included in this new plan because they can actually reduce pesticide use.
“Some years I don’t use treated seeds in canola and then I have to spray three or four times,” he explained.