There is a debate developing in British Columbia about the concern over neonicotinoid insecticides and the effects they may be having on pollinators, both wild and domestic.
We’ve been watching with interest the actions of the Ontario government to try and rein in the use of neonics (NNIs) by reducing their use by 80 per cent by 2017.
The proposed regulation comes in the wake of a number of bee kills, and what appear to be futile efforts to reduce corn dust poisonings during planting time.
The Ontario Beekeepers Association, whose members last year lost 58 per cent of their hives to a variety of factors, including diseases, weather and insecticides, has weighed in heavily in favour of the proposed reduction in use of NNIs. On the other hand, the Grain Farmers of Ontario and other farm groups have raised legitimate concerns that the regulation would go too far and could affect both the livelihood of farmers and the control of crop-damaging pests. The GFO and CropLife Canada, which represents the manufacturers, developers and distributors of pest control and plant science technologies, are undertaking an expensive public campaign to beat back the proposed regulation, including full-page advertisments in many Ontario newspapers. The OBA has responded, calling the information misleading. Here’s CropLife Canada’s submission to the Ontario government. The GFO position is here. The Ontario Beekeepers’ position is here.
(See this interesting column by Catherine Porter of The Toronto Star, published this weekend.)
The B.C. Honey Producers Association – of which I am a member of the executive – is also interested in understanding the effects of NNIs. Out here in the west it is not as clear-cut; we don’t appear to have the acute problems that Ontario beekeepers may have, but NNIs are certainly used here.
The BCHPA wants to promote discussion about NNIs and explore what the potential impacts may be on pollinators, beekeepers and farmers. It has organized a panel debate at its semi-annual conference in Kamloops on March 13 and has invited a number of vested groups to contribute.
CropLife Canada and the Canola Council of Canada, which represents one of the major users of NNI-treated seeds (and has done some interesting work with beekeepers), have confirmed they will be there. We’ve also invited a representative of the Ontario Beekeepers Association and the Pollinator Partnership (which has created a North American Pollinator Protection Campaign and is opening up a Canadian office) to join the panel.
The intent is to better inform our members of the issues around NNIs, and to get direction on what kind of position the association should take.
In the interim, the BCHPA has crafted a middle-of-the-road draft position that is in the motherhood-and-apple-pie range. I’ve attached it below.
Upcoming Pesticide Forum at the Semi-Annual meeting in Kamloops
In addition to organizing an exciting line-up of speakers for our Education Day, the BCHPA executive has organized a panel discussion for our Business Day on March 13 on the agricultural pesticide issue as it relates to pollinator protection. A variety of viewpoints, including the Canola Council of Canada (Growers), CropLife Canada (input suppliers), the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (beekeepers), and the Pollinator Partnership (NGO) have been tentatively booked to help inform the membership.
The executive has been studying many documents and statements about pesticides from across the country and around the world in an effort to understand the issues. We are hoping the panel discussion will result in a membership directive to craft a position statement that the executive can take to the Annual General Meeting in Courtenay in the fall.
In the interim, we have drafted an interim statement below that can assist us when called upon to make public statements. Please come to Kamloops to participate in this forum and have your say on this important topic. We hope that this process will clarify the wishes of BC beekeepers and guide us in advocacy on your behalf.
Draft Pesticide Statement of the BCHPA
As the representative organization for beekeepers in British Columbia, the British Columbia Honey Producers’ Association (BCHPA) supports our fellow beekeepers everywhere, including in other provinces of Canada and other parts of the world. Events that occur elsewhere have an effect on us. Therefore, it is prudent to take an interest and support developments that could benefit beekeepers.
Federally, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) regulates products used in Canada for control of pests. Provincial governments have further control over the use of regulated chemicals. PMRA stated in their document – Update on Neonicotinoid Pesticides and Bee Health, 25 November 2014: “Health Canada’s PMRA encourages growers to follow Integrated Pest Management practices, and supports the ongoing work in the provinces to develop tools and information to better understand when treated seed is necessary for crop protection, and to reduce the use of treated seed where it is not necessary.”
The BCHPA supports BC growers and other Canadian growers in their efforts to produce agricultural products for domestic and export markets. Beekeepers work together with them by providing pollination services. It is in beekeepers’ best interests, as well as growers’, to use agricultural chemicals wisely.
The BCHPA does not support a ban on neonicotinoids (NNIs) but supports their use as one tool in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs. Growers need to have a choice between insecticide treated seed and non-insecticide treated seed, in order to practise IPM. The BCHPA supports giving growers a choice.