Home Depot Canada plans to follow the lead of its U.S. parent and label plants that have been exposed to neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals implicated in the deaths of bees.
Home Depot is one of the retailers named in a Friends of the Earth study that found home garden plants, including "bee-friendly” plants such as Shasta daisy and salvia, contain neonicitinoids.
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The pesticides are systemic, meaning that they remain in the plant long after they are used, even if only the seeds or young plants were treated. The pesticide can kill grubs and other insects.
Neonicitinoids are nerve agents and bees who feed on flowers can become disoriented and sicken and die. The Friends of the Earth study last month revealed the use of the chemicals in nursery plants.
“We were reviewing a number of options to help raise awareness of this issue, including labelling plants like our partners in the U.S. are doing. We have decided to move in that direction and will label our plants; the details are being worked out at this time,” Home Depot spokeswoman Erika Botond said in an email to CBC News.
With 180 stores, Home Depot is one of Canada’s biggest garden centres. Canadian Tire and Rona have said they are reviewing nursery practices in the wake of the study.
The news comes a day after a University of Guelph study provided more evidence linking the pesticide to bee mortality.
Ontario considers restricting pesticide
It also follows an announcement by Ontario’s agriculture minister that the province will be looking at ways to restrict the use of the pesticides, which are heavily used by corn, canola and soybean growers.
Jeff Leal said the province wants to “move away from the widespread, indiscriminate use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides” and will hold consultations this year with a view to restricting their use in 2015.
That measure drew objections from the Grain Farmers of Ontario, an organization representing Ontario’s 28,000 corn, soybean and wheat farmers
The farm group said it was "extremely disappointed" over Ontario's move. It pointed to the changes that have been implemented this growing season in response to Health Canada’s response to bee die-offs in 2012 and 2013 related to neonicotinoids.
The farmers’ group called on the province to allow time to review the impact of the change in practices this year before it moves toward limiting use of the pesticide.
Grain production could be affected
“Many of these initiatives have been launched and put into practice this growing season and the results of ongoing research projects and in-field practices will be paramount in determining any future regulatory decisions. It is counterintuitive to implement a regulatory change without the completion of this research and trials,” the group said.
The Conference Board of Canada weighed in on the issue Thursday, estimating that restricting use of neonicotinoids could reduce revenues from corn and soybean production by $630 million a year in Ontario.
The think-tank said many farmers operate with slim margins and might scale back production if not permitted to use the pesticide. They would also be at a disadvantage compared to U.S. competitors.
The report did not weigh the cost of restricting use of the pesticide against the cost of losing bees, which are responsible for pollinating dozens of other crops.