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Agriculture

Feds’ plan for neonicotinoids makes little sense, environment groups say

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OTTAWA — Environment groups are calling out Canada’s approach to assessing pesticides after seven years of reviews led Health Canada to simultaneously decide to allow certain popular products to keep being used with restrictions, an…


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  • OTTAWA — Environment groups are calling out Canada’s approach to assessing pesticides after seven years of reviews led Health Canada to simultaneously decide to allow certain popular products to keep being used with restrictions, and to propose banning the same products from outdoor uses altogether.

    The Pest Management Regulatory Agency on Thursday released its final decision on what limits should be placed on a category of nicotine-based pesticides known as neonicotinoids to keep them from killing bees. Starting in two years, the pesticides won’t be allowed to be sprayed at all on certain crops like apples and tree nuts and there will be limited times when they can be sprayed on many others, like tomatoes, eggplants and berries.

    Products that have no alternatives are given an extra year before they are affected by the decision.

    The agency said the risks the products pose to bees in other applications, such as pre-treating seeds, are acceptable and only require new labels to warn of the dangers. Most of Canada’s canola and corn crop seeds are pre-treated with neonicotinoids, along with about half the country’s soybean seeds.

    However, this decision, which won’t begin to take effect until 2021, will likely be overridden in less than a year when the agency finalizes a separate assessment of the exact same products for their impact on aquatic insects. The agency found in 2016 that the most popular of the neonicotinoids was building up in ground and surface water and recommended banning it outright. It also launched a special assessment of the other two most common “neonics,” concluding in 2018 that they also needed to be banned.

    The very final decision on that won’t come until January 2020.

    “Right now this is strictly about the risk to pollinators and for this assessment not all uses pose an unacceptable risk to pollinators,” said Scott Kirby, the director general of the environmental-assessment division of the pest management agency.

    Lisa Gue, a senior researcher at the David Suzuki Foundation, said it is “disturbing” that the agency is continuing to allow neonicotinoids at all given that the agency’s scientists have concluded they cause unacceptable harm to any kinds of insects.

    “The decision-making process here is just incomprehensible and incoherent,” she said.

    Beatrice Olivastri, the executive director of Friends of the Earth Canada, said the agency’s fragmented approach to reviewing the products is “nonsensical.”

    Neonicotinoids are used by farmers and hobby gardeners alike to manage pests like aphids and spider mites. Scientists blame the chemicals for weakening bees, making them more susceptible to disease and bad weather.

    More than one-third of the world’s food crops require pollinators, like bees, for production.

    The European Union banned neonicotinoids at the end of last year after scientists concluded there was no safe way to use them without hurting bees. In 2017, a task force at the International Union for Conservation of Nature updated a compilation of more than 1,100 peer-reviewed research studies of neonicotinoids and concluded there was no doubt they harm bees.

    Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press



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    Agriculture

    Canada needs stronger policies to protect against imported-dog diseases: vets

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    VANCOUVER — When a British Columbia woman experiencing fever, headaches and weight loss for two months finally went to her doctor, a blood test revealed she’d contracted a contagious disease from a dog she’d rescued in Mexico.
    Dr. Elani Galan…


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  • VANCOUVER — When a British Columbia woman experiencing fever, headaches and weight loss for two months finally went to her doctor, a blood test revealed she’d contracted a contagious disease from a dog she’d rescued in Mexico.

    Dr. Elani Galanis, an epidemiologist and public health physician at the BC Centre for Disease Control, said the case was surprising because the previously healthy middle-aged patient didn’t seem to be a candidate for the transmission of brucellosis, which medical literature suggests can afflict people with weakened immune systems, or the very young and elderly.

    “Up until this adult woman became infected and tested positive we felt like the risk to humans, although possible, was very, very low,” said Galanis, who wrote about the anonymous woman in a recent issue of the BC Medical Journal.

    The woman worked for an animal-rescue organization that transported dogs to Canada from Mexico and the United States, often driving there to pick up the animals, Galanis said.

    On one occasion, she was bringing back a pregnant dog from Mexico and likely came into contact with the animal’s pregnancy fluids as it spontaneously aborted two stillborn puppies, Galanis said, adding the dog later tested positive for the bacterium brucella canis and the woman was diagnosed after seeking medical treatment last December.

    “Given the story in other places, like the rest of North America, this hasn’t been seen much before,” Galanis said of transmission of the disease to humans. “We’re just starting to see it so I do believe it’s a true emergence of a new problem.”

    “For us, the priority will be to ensure that physicians are aware that this is possible, that they ask the question about contact with animals, particularly imported dogs.”

    Rob Ashburner, a veterinarian and spokesman for the B.C. branch of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, said efforts to have stricter regulations on the importation of dogs involving multiple federal agencies have so far been fruitless.

    “The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has spent a lot of time trying to get the federal government to put some rules in place where animals imported from other countries should be tested for a bunch of communicable diseases, brucellosis being one of them,” he said. “Dogs from the warmer climates have all sorts of parasites that we don’t have here and they bring them in and affect our population as well.”

    Plenty of dogs are available for adoption in Canada, Ashburner said, adding rescued animals can be traumatized after long trips and bring with them behavioural problems people may not expect.

    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency establishes requirements for animals such as dogs coming into the country.

    It said dogs that are less than eight months old are inspected by its veterinarians at borders and older dogs are inspected by Canada Border Service Agency officers, who also review the animals’ certificates, such as those listing any vaccinations.

    “If the CBSA officer has any concerns, such as the animal showing signs of illness or incomplete/incorrect paperwork, they call a CFIA veterinarian for examination,” the agency said in an email.

    Ashburner said examinations at the border are not comprehensive and current regulations, requiring just a rabies vaccination, have been in place for decades, long before an increase in the number of pets and rescue-dogs being brought to Canada, sometimes with certificates that are bogus.

    “In reality, just from personal experience, there are times when what the paperwork says is not true,” he said, adding while more dogs are being brought to Canada, there are no national statistics on how many are coming in.

    The Public Health Agency of Canada said it acknowledges the global movement of animals, including dogs, can facilitate the spread of diseases that can be passed on to people.

    “Educating breeders, importers, rescue organizations and Canadians on both the risks and mitigation measures is important to manage this issue,” it said in an email.

    However, the agency did not respond to questions about whether it plans to consider any policy changes involving potential transmission of diseases to humans.

    Emilia Gordon, a veterinarian and senior manger of animal health with the British Columbia branch of the SPCA, said various groups in the province are trying to create standards of practice for rescued animals.

    “This is really an important issue for Canada,” she said. “I’ve personally seen a number of significant diseases in animals that were rescued from shelters in other countries.”

    “We are increasingly seeing surrender requests for animals who were rescued from other countries and we’ve actually had to set an entire set of protocols and procedures in place to do risk assessments on these animals as they come in,” she said, adding up to five imported animals a week are being brought in to shelters around the province.

    The United States, Mexico and south and central America were the major source countries about five years ago but that changed in the last year, with more dogs coming in from elsewhere in the world, including Asia and Morocco, Gordon said.

    — Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

     

     

    Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


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    Agriculture

    Bibeau presses Chinese counterpart on canola ban at G20 ministers’ meeting

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    OTTAWA — Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says she used a G20 ministers’ meeting in Japan to press her Chinese counterpart for the evidence behind Beijing’s bans on Canadian canola.
    The overture follows last week’s intervent…


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  • OTTAWA — Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says she used a G20 ministers’ meeting in Japan to press her Chinese counterpart for the evidence behind Beijing’s bans on Canadian canola.

    The overture follows last week’s intervention by Canada at a major World Trade Organization meeting to demand China deliver proof that Canadian canola is contaminated.

    China has stonewalled requests for Canadian experts to examine Chinese evidence that two canola shipments had pests, and there was no sign Wednesday the Canadian food inspectors would receive travel visas from Beijing any time soon.

    Bibeau made clear Canada’s persistent prodding of China and her Chinese counterpart would continue as the uncertainty and strain of declining Sino-Canadian relations was on full display.

    “All of the G20 was about having a rule-based trade order and I’m confident that he will relay our conversation to his colleague responsible for customs China,” Bibeau said. 

    China’s rejection of Canadian food products is part of the escalating tension following the RCMP’s December arrest in Vancouver of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou. The Chinese telecom giant is at the centre of a mounting political battle, which was on display Wednesday, over whether it will equip Canada’s fifth-generation wireless networks.

    Nine days after Meng’s arrest, China imprisoned two Canadians — ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor — and accused them of violating China’s national security. Spavor received his seventh consular visit Wednesday, a day after Kovrig’s seventh, as both men remain locked in a Chinese prison without formal charges and no access to lawyers.

    Meng’s arrest has outraged China’s communist leaders. Meanwhile, Huawei denies the U.S. allegations that its new, next generation digital communications equipment is an organ of Chinese-state espionage.

    President Donald Trump effectively banned Huawei from the U.S. on Wednesday when he signed an executive order declaring a national emergency over what the Commerce Department deemed as “threats to the information and communications technology and services supply chain by foreign adversaries.”

    Conservatives mounted more pressure on the Trudeau government Wednesday to follow Trump’s lead and ban Huawei from supplying equipment for the Canada’s fifth-generation wireless networks.

    Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the government should have already selected one of Huawei’s rivals to be Canada’s next 5G provider. 

    “They should have made a decision much earlier. Had they done that, they could have taken this off the table,” Scheer said after meeting with his caucus. 

    “We have two Canadians being held illegally in China. We’ve seen actions against Canadian canola exports now moving into pork exports,” he added.

    “All along the way, the government of China is escalating the situation and Justin Trudeau has done absolutely nothing about it.”

    Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government will take the time it needs to make an informed decision about which company it will select to serve its 5G needs.

    “It is a huge enabling new technology that has enormous potential, but it also carries with it, depending on the supply chain, some significant risks,” he said, “and we want to make sure that all of that is factored very carefully into a Canadian decision so we get the advantages of the technology, but we do not in any way comprise national security.”

    Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government will take “a measured approach to how we deal with companies in Canada and with our international relations.”

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


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