Ontario Gets Down to Bees-ness

Summer’s end is prime time for honey harvesting. And this year, as we sweeten our teas with the sweet substance, we’ll feel a little bit happier to be doing so. This past June saw the Ontario government make a huge advancement in preserving our bees by passing laws that will eventually reduce the province’s use of neonicotinoids by 85 per cent over the next few years. Dennis Edell, director at the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, tells City Life Magazine why this isn’t only a step in the right direction for the bees, but for us, too.

ON WHAT NEONICS REALLY ARE
“Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are systemic pesticides applied to corn and soy seeds, and they are extremely toxic to bees.”

ON THE DANGER OUR BEES HAVE BEEN FACING OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS
“Bee losses in Ontario have been unsustainable for several years. Since 2012 we have connected the overuse of neonicotinoid pesticides as the problem. Bees come into contact with neonics in the pollen and nectar of a plant, which carry the neonic dust from planting. And because they are water soluble, neonics migrate in the soil to puddles that bees drink from.”

ON ONTARIO’S NEONIC FOOTPRINT
“Ontario grows almost two thirds of the corn and soy in Canada, and neonics are applied to 100 per cent of corn and 65 per cent of soy seeds grown on 4.2 million acres in Ontario. Crop specialists have indicated that only 20 per cent of acreage actually needs neonics as pest protection, and EPA says that any benefits that neonics have on soy are questionable. This means that farmers have been sold neonic-treated seeds when there is little or no benefit to be derived from their use. Bee kill incidents were tracked in both 2012 and 2014, leading Health Canada to conclude that the continued use of neonics on corn and soy is not sustainable.”

ON HOW THE REDUCTION OF NEONICS WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE
“Ontario aims to reduce the amount of neonics on corn and soy by 85 per cent by 2017. This will provide some relief to beekeepers who cannot sustain beekeeping losses due to exposure of their bees to this neurotoxin. Ontario is not effecting a ban they are, rather, requiring farmers to demonstrate the need for neonics to get a permit to use them. The goal is to stop this overuse of neonics and disastrous destruction of honeybees and wild bees while allowing farmers with a legitimate need to have access to the pesticide.”

ON PLACING PROPER BLAME
“This is not about being anti-pesticide or anti-grain farmers. It’s about the overuse of the world’s best-selling pesticide that is extremely profitable to its manufacturers, Bayer CropScience and Syngenta Canada. They form a very well funded and organized lobby that has used the Grain Farmers of Ontario as their proxy. They prefer to continue to promote pesticides as cheap insurance without any regard for its effect on pollinators.”

WHY THIS IS A GOOD THING FOR HUMANS, TOO
“Neonics are a neurotoxin that were developed to be safe for humans — they do not cross the blood brain barrier in humans. So for now we are seeing some research, but not a lot, about possible effects on human health. There is some concern from scientists in Europe who did a massive literature search on neonics. The concern is twofold: first, being water soluble and widely used in agriculture on corn, soy, wheat and vegetables, neonics are also showing up in trace amounts in milk and many other foods and second, while neonics are ostensibly safe, little is known about chronic exposure of humans to neonics. If it’s in our food then we are getting small doses every day.”

ontariobee.com/neonics

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Amanda Storey

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