CBC reports, “When Health Canada tested dead bees last spring it found neonicotinoid on 70 per cent of them.”
Neonicotinoids are insecticides developed by Bayer CropScience and Syngenta. Seeds are now increasingly coated with their nicotine-related compounds to prevent ground-dwelling insects from damaging the seeds, but they are highly lethal to bees. In 2012 alone, 37 million bees were found dead in Ontario. The Canadian Honey Council says that the bee population in Canada has dropped by an estimated 35 per cent over the past three years. Scientists are linking the collapse of bee populations to this insecticide.
And yet, “This spring most Canadian corn and soybean growers will be planting another crop of pesticide-coated seeds, even as researchers raise new warnings that the practice may have deadly side effects for bees and other wildlife.”
Europe instituted a ban the use of neonic pesticides – for at least two years – that took effect on December 1, 2013.
The Council of Canadians has called for the same ban in Canada. Maude Barlow has stated, “Neonicotinoid insecticide is used on corn seed in Canada. It is killing bees and must be banned!”
But, “Health Canada shows no signs of pursuing a ban, and instead is working with the industry to try and find better ways to reduce the chances of exposing non-target insects to the pesticide.”
In short, “Bayer and Health Canada maintain that proper planting practices minimize the risk to bees…” When Health Canada found that 70 per cent of dead bees had neonicotinoid on them, “it was thought the bees had become exposed to the dust that’s kicked up during the planting process.” So, “To address the dust concern, Health Canada’s pesticide regulatory agency and the makers of the insecticide developed new best practices guidelines for farmers to go into effect this spring.” And Bayer introduced a new lubricant to help reduce the dust. “But when the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food tested the new lubricant under field conditions, it found dust was still problematic.”
Political parties in Canada have been slow to take up the cause. An exception is Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner who has called for an immediate ban on neonicotinoids. He says Ontario should impose a ban until neonicotinoids have been proven safe for honeybees.
Notably, with respect to Europe, “Bayer filed a court challenge against the EU ban in August last year, saying the EU has wrongly linked the pesticide to bee deaths.” It has been reported elsewhere that Bayer and the Swiss company Syngenta are taking the European Commission to the European Court of Justice. These proceedings could take up to two years. European Voice adds, “Partial bans of neonicotinoids are already in place in Italy, France, Germany and Slovenia.”
To read the CBC special report on this issue, please go to Bee researchers raise more warning flags about neonicotinoid pesticides.