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Ontario County, Canada, Takes Stand Against Pesticides Linked to Bee Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, June 4, 2014) A county in southern Ontario has become the first Canadian municipality, according to reports, to temporarily ban a controversial class of insecticides linked to be bee deaths in Canada and around the world. Last week, officials in Prince Edward County passed a motion prohibiting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on municipal lands, effective immediately.

The rural county, nestled in the heart of Ontario’s agricultural heartland, also wants the federal and provincial government to “declare a moratorium surrounding the use of neonicotinoid crop treatments, as soon as possible, pending further study.” The motion requires letters to be sent to several federal and provincial ministers –including the Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, and Health Minister Rona Ambrose– outlining the county’s position.

Mounting science has documented the neonicotinoid class of pesticides as a major factor in bee decline. Neonicotinoids have been shown, even a low levels, to impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to point of making them susceptible to pathogens and disease. Read: No Longer a Big Mystery. These chemicals are also systemic, meaning they contaminate the entire plant, including pollen and nectar, leading to contamination of the entire colony, including juvenile bees, when pollen is taken back to the hive. More recent research is even finding that neonicotinoids persist for long periods of time in the environment, contaminating soil and water, and adversely affecting other non-target organisms. New research from Harvard University’s School of Public Health confirms the role of these insecticides in bee decline. Harvard researchers found the slightest exposure to neonicotinoids would cause a colony to collapse and die. The pesticides, the study said, also impede a bee’s ability to survive the winter.

Neonicotinoids, like imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, have already been given a two year moratorium in the European Union (EU). Despite calls for similar action from beekeepers and environmentalists, Canadian officials, and their counterparts in the U.S., have refused to follow suit. Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, and beekeepers filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2013 calling for a ban on clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which are used extensively on corn, soybean and canola seeds, even though a recent report finds that this use pattern provides no additional benefit to agriculture.

In September 2013, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) –responsible for regulating pesticides in Canada– discovered neonicotinoid contaminated dust had caused severe bee mortality in Ontario and Quebec. A final report is expected in 2015. In the U.S., a government-sponsored survey reports preliminary findings that bee declines continue to be above average during the 2013/2014 winter. Last summer, thousands of dead bees were found in Oregon after the application of a neonicotinoid pesticide. This prompted local action on neonicotinoids, with the city of Eugene, Oregon becoming the first community in the U.S. to ban the chemicals earlier this year. In response to growing concern over neonicotinoids, Minnesota passed legislation prohibiting treated plants from being labeled as bee-friendly.

The Canadian motion also highlighted the concerning trend that non-treated seed are unavailable to farmers wanting to stay away from using neonicotinoids. Non-treated seed are not readily available. It is estimated that 92 to 95 per cent of corn acreage in Canada and the U.S. are planted in seed coated in neonicotinoids. “We urge seed companies to make adequate supplies [of non-treated seed] available,” the motion reads. Farmers, meanwhile, are encouraged to “order seed not treated with insecticide for the 2015 growing season.”

Prince Edward County is one of the highest producing agriculture regions in Ontario, Canada. A hub for dairy, poultry and hog production, the region is famous for its major cheese festival and local wines.

The plight of bees and other pollinators is an important one for all to be concerned. One third of the foods we eat are dependent on pollination services, which contribute $20-30 billion to the agricultural economy. The reliance on toxic, systemic inputs that dominate our agricultural systems and how we manage pests, is being found to have more environmental costs than benefits. The time for action is now.

Take Action: Join the BEE Protective Campaign

Source: Ipolitics


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