Province plans talks on pesticide linked to bee deaths
Published Tuesday, July 8, 2014 5:30PM EDT
A provincial plan that would force farmers to fill out permits before planting crops has some farmers fuming.
The governing Liberals say permits to plant some corn and soybeans seeds linked to the deaths of millions of bees is up for discussion.
They say they'll start consultations on a potential system where permits would be required to use plant seeds treated with an insecticide called neonicotinoids.
When Ontario farmers hit the fields this spring, nearly all of them were planting corn with neonictinoids.
“We do a small amount of seed retailing. This spring farmers had the opportunity to buy seed with or without. We never sold without,” says Bev Hill, of Hill and Hill Farms.
The controversial seed treatment is on almost all corn and canola and half of the soybean seeds planted in Canada.
It's a breakthrough for farmers as it guards the seed and the resulting plant against grubs, worms and other insects. The problem is the neonictinoids, which have been temporarily banned in Europe, have been allegedly killing bees and other pollinators.
Beekeeper Bill Ferguson blames neonictoids for killing nearly half his bees last year.
“I don't want to sound alarmist, but if you look at the nature of the chemical, what it’s doing, what it's designed to do, and realize that it's going to be an environmental disaster."
The province has hinted they aren't in favour of a ban, but rather a permit system that will force farmers to prove they need to use the controversial seed treatment.
It’s an extreme overstep according to Hill, who says as much as farmers care and rely on bees for their production, they all like the treated seeds.
Some recent research from the University of Guelph suggests the two have nothing to do with each other.
“Bees foraging on treated crops and those foraging on untreated, there was no impact on bee deaths, no impact on honey production and no impact on overall bee health,” Hill said.
While the beekeepers of Ontario are applauding the province's potential plan, Ferguson remains skeptical.
“Permits are so easy to come by. Just look at water permits in our area. I mean permits are handed out with no look towards the long term."
The government plans to spend the summer working with farmers and beekeepers to try and come up with a compromise that makes them both happy.
If Ontario decides on these permits, it would be the first jurisdiction in North America to do so.