The Provincial Board of the Ecological Farmers of Ontario (EFAO) has officially passed a motion to take part in the efforts of the Friends of Pollinators Action Coalition which is a collection of groups, at the grassroots level, working to educate those inside and outside of the farming community on pollinator health. Learn more about the coalition by reading their statement of purpose.
Friends of Pollinators Action Coalition- Statement of Purpose
1. To ensure that regulators immediately reassess the bee and pollinator safety of all neonicotinoid pesticide products and suspend all conditional registrations until we understand how to manage the risks posed by these products to honey bees, other pollinators and other wildlife including birds and amphibians.
2.To ensure that beekeepers are compensated for losses caused by deaths, chronic disease, or toxic residues in equipment resulting from neonicotinoid pesticide products beginning in the crop year 2012 and going forward.
3. To ensure that independent research is undertaken to determine threats of neonicitinoid use on long-term soil, water and air-borne toxicity and pollinator health and whether the substitution of less toxic pesticides, integrated pest management practices and/or organic farming practices can eliminate the pesticide’s impact on honey bees and other pollinators
4. To ensure that habitat for pollinators is created and maintained throughout the urban and rural landscape by promoting planting of native plants wherever possible and by protecting existing habitat.
Friends of Pollinators Action Coalition Statement of Principles and Purpose available online via the Practical Farmers of Ontario
Exert from: Industry’s Proposed Solutions for both Neonicotinoids and RR Alfalfa, September 2013
Written by: Ann Slater
Neonicitinoids are a class of insecticide commonly added, along with fungicides, to corn and soybean seed and intended to kill insects like wireworms, white grubs and corn rootworm. According to the National Farmers Union (NFU), these nicotine-like compounds interfere with nerve function in insects, causing death by paralysis and as they are taken up by growing plants can be found in all plant tissues, including pollen.
Bayer CropScience first brought neonicitinoids onto the market in 1991 (e.g. Poncho and Admire) and Syngenta followed in 1995 (e.g. Cruiser). The NFU says that as much as 90% of corn seed and 65% of soybean seed sold in Canada is pre-treated with neonicitinoids. Some neonicitinoids are also applied through other means, such as foliar sprays to control insect outbreaks.
In both 2012 and 2013, Ontario beekeepers noticed a significant increase in bee deaths during spring planting. In their 2012 re-evaluation of neonicitinoids, the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) noted that the compounds played a role in the 2012 bee deaths and that the most likely route of exposure was from insecticide contaminated dust created during planting.
Jurisdictions other than Canada have also identified a link between bee deaths and neonicitinoids. Earlier this year, the European Union suspended the use of three neonicitinoid insecticides on flowering plants for two years.
While the EU has taken the precautionary approach with the two-year moratorium, the NFU says that it looks like the PMRA will approach the issue from a ‘risk-management/cost-benefit stance. This is certainly the approach favoured by the agri-chemical industry and many farm organizations. CropLife Canada, the trade organization representing the ‘plant science industry,’ says that it supports the co-existence of insecticide-treated seeds and bees. It contends that bees and crop protection products (i.e. pesticides) are both vitally important to agricultural production – bees to pollinate many important crops and pesticides to protect those crops from “potentially devastating pest damage.” Industry, farm organizations and government are recommending that farmers follow a series of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce the risk of bee deaths. These BMPs include avoid planting in dry, windy conditions when possible, maintain planting equipment and communicate with local beekeepers.
In a presentation to the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) AGM in July, CropLife expressed concern that some provinces (Ontario and Quebec) were at risk of taking action to ban the use of neonicitinoids. The Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) have asked their members to help prevent a ban by contacting MP/MPPs. According to GFO, if they are not able to use neonicitinoid seed treatment ‘technology’ Ontario’s corn, soybean and wheat farmers have the potential for a yield loss of 3 – 20 bushels per acre with a corresponding loss of income. A July commentary, from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) said that when used appropriately, pesticides are “an important tool for modern agriculture” and that as a society we need “to avoid impulsive policies that limit farmers’ access to tools that are key to competitiveness”.
In response to the concerns over bee deaths and the role of neonicitinoids, the Ontario Minister of Agriculture and Food (OMAF), Premier Kathleen Wynne, has created a Bee Health Working Group. The group is to bring forward recommendations by the spring of 2014 on how to mitigate risks to honey bees from exposures to neonicitinoids. The list of members of the working group is on the OMAF website but it includes 12 OMAF staff, 3 Ministry of the Environment staff, 4 PMRA staff, 3 reps from the Ontario Beekeepers Association, 1 rep from the Canadian Pollination Initiative, 1 from the University of Guelph, 2 OFA members, 2 GFO members and 1 rep each from CSTA, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and CropLife Canada.
A report in the July 30 issue of the Ontario Farmer said that Maizex and Pride will offer seed corn without neonicitinoid treatment in 2014 but gave no indication as to how many or what varieties will be available without the treatment. Some seed companies, such as those serving ecological and organic farmers, have always given farmers the option to purchase untreated seed.
In an August 8, 2013 open letter to farmers, Dan Davidson, president of the Ontario Beekeepers Association, provides the rationale behind OBA’s call for a suspension of the use of neonicitinoid insecticides in field crops.
Additional links and about Neonicotinoids and Pollinator Health
Class of pesticides killing Ontario’s honeybees, National Farmers Union – Ontario Grey County Local 344, June 10, 2013
Pioneer Announces Neonicotinoid-Free Seed Offering. Press Release, Canadian Honey Council; Stephen Tilmann, September 10, 2013.
The OBA’s Position on Neonicotinoid Pesticides. The Ontario Beekeeping Association, April 7, 2013.
Bee-harming pesticides banned in Europe. The Gaurdian; Damien Carrington, April 29, 2013.
Colony Collapse Disorder: European Bans on Neonicotinoid Pesticides. US-Environmental Protection Agency, August 15, 2013.
An open letter to farmers from OBA Pres. Dan Davidson. Dan Davidson, August 18, 2013.