Update on Neonicotinoid Ban
by Michelle McConnell
As the summer ends we can say with certainty that it was not a good one for beekeepers. According to a press release from the Ontario Beekeepers Association Ontario, beekeepers lost 58% of their bees last winter. That's more than three times the average for the rest of Canada.
The debate on whether to ban neonicotinoids, which have been found to be harmful to bees, is well underway and has made great progress in the past months. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food has announced a plan to introduce a licensing system in order to restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. The proposed licensing system is aimed to be implemented for the 2015 growing season and will help to ensure that only farmers who truly need neonicotinoids are the ones that have a right to use them.
The National Farmers Union - Ontario (NFU-O) and the Organic Council of Ontario have both made official statements in support of this restriction.
"The NFU in Ontario has members who are beekeepers as well as members who farm various field crops, including conventional corn and soybeans. The effect neonicotinoids have on our environment is of importance to everyone," said Karen Eatwell, NFU-O President. "In our communication with governments, we have called for action to end the widespread prophylactic use of neonicotinoid seed treatments. We have suggested a moratorium on the sale of treated seed while allowing for the possibility of farmers applying to have their seed treated if they can demonstrate the need for neonicotinoid seed treatment."
The Organic Council of Ontario announced their support for the Ministry's "balanced approach...to protect both pollinators and growers in Ontario."
Susan Chan, Native Pollinator Program Manager at Farms at Work, is also in favour of a licensing system, which would see to better regulations and stricter availability. She cites that the lack of regulation so far has seen neonicotinoids used on 100% of conventionally grown corn in Ontario, when the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food has stated that only 10-20% of the acreage actually needs it.
However, some want stricter regulations. In a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail, Anne Bell, Director of Conservation and Education, writes: "These pesticides merit the same fate as DDT--an outright ban." She references an international review of over 800 studies that have demonstrated that neonicotinoids have very detrimental long term impacts that go beyond direct pollinator impairment, and include serious contamination of the soil, water and vegetation.
Michelle McConnell is interested in social justice, peace and environmental issues. You can follow her on Twitter @Mich_McConnell.