Quebec has announced new restrictions on pesticides that many say have been destroying honeybees. But farmers say the new rules will make it even harder to them to protect their crops, and their livelihoods.

The tighter rules announced Monday target three nicotine-based pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or "neonics,” which are used on everything from field crops to fruit orchards to keep them free from aphids, spider mites and stink bugs.

Ontario limited the use of neonics for corn and soybeans in 2014, and the cities of Vancouver and Montreal have banned their use entirely within city limits.

Recent research has found a link between the pesticides’ use and the deaths of millions of honey bees. Maggie Lamothe Boudreau of the Quebec Federation of Beekeepers says the pesticides can easily wipe out entire hives.

“The product accumulates itself in pollen, in the wax, in the nectar. And the bees consume it during winter and you end up finding your hives dead when the springtime comes,” she told CTV Montreal.

Other research has suggested neonics are impacting invertebrates such as earthworms, and aquatic life, affecting their growth, movement and reproduction.

Quebec is also restricting the use of two other pesticides: chlorpyrifos, an insecticide that can affect brain and nerve development; and atrazine, a chemical banned in Europe that can end up in waterways, says Louise Henault-Ethier, a pesticide expert with the David Suzuki Foundation.

“It has long been established that once in surface water, (atrazine) can impact the sexual development of frogs, for instance, transforming male frogs into female frogs basically, changing their organs,” she said.

The Suzuki Foundation has been pushing the federal government to ban the five pesticides altogether. Henault-Ethier says Quebec’s new rules are steps in the right direction.

Quebec's new regulations mean farmers will need permission from a certified agronomist to use the pesticides on their crops. The changes will be phased in starting next month until the spring of 2019.

While beekeepers and environmental groups welcome the changes, Quebec's grain producers say the government is going too far. William Van Tassel, the vice president of the Quebec Grain Producers, says there are already enough restrictions on the chemicals and farmers are capable of regulating themselves on their use.

He says farmers rely on the pesticides to protect their crops and these new restrictions will force them to scramble to find alternatives.


“If the insect is killing or eating your plants, you need to have something,” he said. “So we'll be using different products which don't necessarily work as well and can be even harder on the environment.”

With a report from CTV Montreal’s Maya Johnson