Health Canada wants to hear what people think about its plans to combat sharp die-offs of honeybee populations, which authorities attribute to neonicotinoid pesticide used on corn and soybean seeds.
Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency in 2012 started receiving a spike in reports of bee deaths and that they were in areas mainly where corn was grown. Seventy percent of the dead bees tested had residues of neonicotinoid insecticides used to treat corn seeds.
The regulator concluded neonicotinoid insecticides were to blame, “likely through exposure to contaminated dust generated during the planting of treated corn seed.”
It was a dry season in 2012 and so the agency recommended best planting practices, like early morning planting, to keep dust down. But more deaths in significant numbers were reported this year from both corn and soybean growing regions of Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba.
“Consequently, we have concluded that current agricultural practices related to the use of neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed are not sustainable,” says the agency's notice of intent to take action to deal with the problem in 2014. Public input on the plans is being accepted until Dec. 12.
To e-mail input to the federal pest management agency, see www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pest/part/consultations/_noi2013-01/noi2013-01-eng.php
Its requirements next year will include safer dust-reducing seed lubricants, adherence to safer seed planting practices, new pesticide and seed package labels with enhanced warnings, and updated reasons why the pesticide has to be used all of the time on corn seed and 50% of the time for soybeans.
“Bee health is a complex issue that goes beyond the incidents in 2012 and 2013 and may involve a number of additional factors, including parasites, disease and climate,” the agency allowed.
The regulatory agency is speeding up its re-evaluation of the use of all neonicotinoid insecticides, along with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, as part of work being done with international partners.
The Ontario Beekeepers' Association's position paper calls for regulators to reassess the bee safety of all neonicotinoid pesticide products and suspend all new product registrations with it until ways to manage the risk the beekeepers believe they pose to bees and other pollinators are known.
It calls for compensation for the devastating bee colony losses in 2012 attributed to neonicotinoid pesticides and independent research into the long-term implications to soil, water and pollinator toxicity and whether following best practices can eliminate the problems.
“They will not prevent toxic build up in the soil. Nor will they prevent the spread of a water soluble NNIs to ponds or other sources of water that bees access during the spring and summer,” the beekeepers note on their website.
An informal OBA survey found “popular corn seed varieties are not available as untreated seed,” leaving farmers with little alternative about what to plant.
The beekeepers recommend best practices including crop rotation, use of untreated seeds where possible and other steps to minimization use of the pesticide.
The beekeepers also called for more Ontario research into neonicotinoids, which they call a “relatively new pesticide,” including to show whether corn yields are affected by the use of treated seeds compared with untreated seeds where there is no infestation attacking the crop. Read