TORONTO -- Ontario is looking at restricting the use of a pesticide that may pose a risk to honey bees, rather than banning it temporarily as recommended by a government-appointed panel.
The governing Liberals say they'll start consultations on a potential system where permits would be required to use plant seeds treated with neonicotinoids.
One of the recommendations of their working group on bee deaths was a temporary ban on the use of neonicotinoids on field crops of corn and soybeans until the federal government completed its re-evalution of the pesticide.
According to the Canadian Honey Council, the bee population in Canada has dropped by an estimated 35 per cent in the past three years.A Health Canada report has suggested that seeds treated with the insecticide contributed to the majority of the bee deaths in Ontario and Quebec in 2012, likely due to exposure of the pesticide-laced dust during planting.
Many fear that the decline will have a severe impact on the pollination of many plants and the global food supply.
"We'll be looking at a very balanced approach based on sound science," said Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal.
"The licensing regimen is just one of the options that may be put on the table."
During the June 12 election campaign, Premier Kathleen Wynne promised an insurance program to help Ontario beekeepers "recover acute bee losses" from this spring.
Beekeepers must have at least 10 registered hives to be eligible for the program, among other requirements. Those who have lost more than 40 per cent of their active hives may be eligible for a payment.
Leal said the weather may also have played a role in bee deaths this year.
"This is a harsh winter that was particularly rough and it had an impact on our bees," he said.
No date has been set for a decision on what steps the government will take to mitigate bee deaths, but Leal says he'd like to have a system in place by the 2015 planting season