CATCH THE BUZZ – Ontario To Reduce Seed Treatment Chemicals

The Ontario government commits to an 80% reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed by 2017, a move welcomed by the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA).

“The government has shown bold leadership, unique in North America, in moving decisively and measurably to significantly limit the use of these toxic chemicals,” OBA president Tibor Szabo says.

A provincial government statement says it acted because the federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency has found a link between planting corn and soybean seeds treated with neonicotinoids and bee deaths in Ontario.

“Our agricultural industry depends on safe, healthy lands to be productive,” Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal says.

“This is why Ontario farmers have taken significant action to reduce pesticide use, reducing overall usage by some 45% in the past three decades. We know there is more that can be done, and we will work with farmers to protect the environment and grow the agricultural sector.”

The government wants to reduce the over-winter honeybee mortality rate to 15% by 2020.

“(This) will bring the industry back to the pre-neonicotinoid average winter loss and will support a thriving, sustainable beekeeping industry going forward,” OBA’s Tibor Szabo says

The province will consult on the proposal to reduce the use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed. If approved, new rules on the use of neonicotinoids will be in place by July 1, 2015, in time for the 2016 agricultural planting season.

Ontario released a discussion paper on pollinator health for comment over the next two months.

Consultation sessions will be held in December and January to seek input from industry, researchers, organizations and individuals.

The Ontario Provincial Winter Loss Survey in 2013-14 found bee deaths in Ontario reached their highest recorded level at 58%.

“ Scientific evidence shows that neonicotinoids harm bees by disrupting their ability to feed, navigate and reproduce, making them more susceptible to bacterium, virus, or other microorganisms that can cause disease,” the government statement says.

Bees and other pollinators are responsible for pollinating about 13% of agricultural crops in Ontario worth about C$897 million, and support C$26 million annually in honey production.

Ontario’s agri-food sector employs 760,000 individuals and contributes C$34 billion each year to the province’s economy.

Environment Minister Glen Murray says improving pollinator health is not a luxury but a necessity.

“Taking strong action now to reduce the use of neurotoxic pesticides and protecting pollinator health is a positive step for our environment and our economy,” he says.