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WIN! Ontario moves to restrict the use of bee-killing neonic insecticides

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, “Neonicotinoid insecticide is used on corn seed in Canada. It is killing bees and must be banned!”

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. Bees are critical to our food supply. Seventy out of the top 100 crops that supply about 90 per cent of the world’s nutrition are pollinated by bees. The Canadian Press has noted, “Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller raised the alarm about the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides by farmers in his annual report released last month, calling it the biggest threat to ecological integrity since DDT which was banned in Canada in 1972.”

Today, the Globe and Mail reports, “The Ontario government plans to restrict the use of a class of agricultural pesticides linked to the widespread declines in honeybees and other pollinators. …The province said on Tuesday it wants to reduce the acreage planted with neonic-treated seeds by 80 per cent within two years. To do so, the government is proposing to restrict the sale of corn and soybean seeds treated with neonics to farmers who can show their fields are susceptible to pests… [Although the] Ontario plan covers only corn and soybean, which are grown for animal feed or biofuels [it] would become the first province or state in North America to regulate the pesticides, which are halfway through a two-year moratorium in Europe amid concerns over environmental impacts.” The new measures will be in place by July 1, 2015.

In December 2013, Toronto-based Council of Canadians organizer Michael Butler wrote, “Ontario’s bees are in unprecedented peril. In the past two years alone, Ontario has seen a 35 per cent decline in honey bees. The Friends of Pollinators Action Coalition and The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association are asking for your help right now [with a petition] to convince the provincial government to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that have been linked to the recent massive honey bee die-offs.”

His action alert Save Ontario’s Bees: Ban The Use Of Neonicotinoid Pesticides was intended to help the two groups collect 50,000 signatures to submit to Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne to ask her to take action on this. In May 2014, our blog Barlow calls for a ban on neonicotinoid insecticides again encouraged people to sign that petition to Wynne.

While we supported the call for an immediate ban on neonicotinoids rather than a phased in restriction of its use, we are pleased that the measures introduced by the government have been described (by those who support the use of the pesticide) as ‘effectively banning’ the product.

We congratulate the organizations (notably the Friends of Pollinators Action Coalition and the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association) that took the lead on this campaign and thank everyone (especially Council of Canadians supporters) who signed the petition asking Premier Wynne to take action. The Council of Canadians also supports the demand for a cross-country ban on neonicotinoids and will continue to call on the Harper government and Health Canada to take federal action against these insecticides.