THUNDER BAY - The loss of bees in Canada and around the world is a puzzle with huge implications. The Thunder Bay Beekeepers’ Association, representing beekeepers in the district, have invited the two Thunder Bay MP’s, John Rafferty and Bruce Hyer, to their September 10th meeting to discuss Canada’s slow response to concerns about the widespread use of neonicotinoids in Canadian agriculture. Additionally, contact has been made with Greg Rickford, Member of Parliament for Kenora, the Minister of State for Science and Technology by the TBBA.
Across North America, beekeepers are experiencing loss of bee colonies thought to be due to the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture. Bees and other pollinators are responsible for ensuring most fruit and vegetable crops around the world mature into food. Bloomberg Business Week estimates bee pollination affects ‘$200 billion worth of crops annually’.
Neonicotinoids are synthetic copies of natural nicotine, which is very toxic to nearly all invertebrates. The problem according to Chris Carolan the President of the Thunder Bay Beekeepers Association is that “We are at a crossroads”.
Carolan says that between weather, mites, and neonicotinoids, the risk to our food supply is massive.
Even this year, Carolan says “The impact on his honey production is that instead of a normal crop of 300 pounds of honey, he will be fortunate if this year generates 100 pounds of honey”.
“The insecticide is on the seed and the seed is buried in the soil, so it is supposed to be inaccessible to the bees”, says Pierre Petelle, a spokesperson for CropLife Canada, a trade association. But as corn-planting season began last spring, the bees in some parts of Canada began dying in record numbers. When the dead bees were collected and tested by Health Canada, 70 per cent were found to have traces of neonicotinoids on them.
A big part of the problem is that efforts to produce genetically modified foods is not getting the depth of study really needed according to Carolan.
He explained how once the genetic box is opened, it can’t be closed.
An example he shared is the ‘African Killer Bees’ which was an experiment in Brazil to increase its honey production. The result was a new genetically modified bee that is a poor pollinator and has caused widespread problems.
The European Union has announced in June 2013 that it would go ahead with a partial two-year ban on three kinds of neonicotinoid pesticides that have been linked to bee deaths. Dan Davidson, president of the Ontario Beekepers’ Association, is calling for the use of the neonicotinoid pesticides to be restricted in Canada also.
“I think the best for beekeepers would be a ban. We have to call for replacement of these chemicals. We won’t be able to keep going on if they continue to be used at the rates they’re being used now,” stated Davidson.
The Thunder Bay Beekeepers in a media statement say, “In a letter to Health Canada, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has asked the federal government to ‘speed up their re-evaluation, in order to use the conclusion of that research to make decisions on how to address bee mortalities”.
The Beekeepers state that Premier Wynne’s move comes as two camps of Ontario farmers are asking for government action on the insecticides.
The Ontario Beekeepers Association are requesting a ban on neonicotinoid insecticides on field crop seeds in time for the 2014 spring planting.
Davidson says instead of sending out postcards asking members to talk to politicians, Grain Farmers should recommend its members educate themselves about these insecticides. “If everyone knows how bad they are, no one would be using them.”