An open letter from an OBA member

Re: An Open Letter to Ontarians: Getting the Facts Straight on Honey Bees (ad published in the Globe and Mail on Saturday January 31, 2015)

It would indeed be a good idea to get the facts straight on honey bees. But this ad, purporting to represent all Ontario farmers, does the opposite.

The ad fails to mention that neonicotinoids are used on almost 100% of corn crops in the province and 60% of soybean crops and that these two crops alone make up more than two-thirds of farm acreage in Ontario. Neonicotinoids are used not only in corn and soybean production but increasingly on wheat, canola, potatoes, fruit and other trees, and on ornamental plants sold for home gardens. The ad fails to mention that with each application of neonicotinoids, plant pollen and nectar become toxic to pollinators, soil concentrations rise and the pesticides enter our surface water and ground water systems, affecting not only honey bees but other beneficial insects and amphibians. The ad fails to mention the Worldwide Integrated Assessment of systemic insecticides, a huge research effort involving dozens of scientists from 10 countries that analyzed more than 800 scientific papers and concluded that neonicotinoids were responsible for a major decline in pollinators around the world. The ad fails to mention that 58% of Ontario’s bee hives failed to survive the winter last year; that’s 58,000 colonies that died in one year alone. This compares to the 15% of hives that failed to overwinter in less contaminated times.

The sponsors of the ad claim to represent 28,000 farm families in Ontario. They do not. They don’t represent my son, who is a farmer in Grey County, nor many of the other farmers in his neighbourhood, who are growing vegetables, fruit, grains, beans and other crops without the use of pesticides. They don’t represent those farmers who belong to the National Farmers Union, which supports the Ontario government proposals to restrict the use of neonicotinoids. They do not represent beekeepers in the province, many of whom produce honey and other food products on their farms. They don’t represent those farmers whose crops are dependent on pollination by bees.

It is no surprise that the organizations that have signed onto this letter include CropLife, lobbyist for the pesticide industry. Or the Canadian Seed Trade Association, whose members include Bayer, the world’s largest neonicotinoid manufacturer, Dow, Dupont, Monsanto, and Syngenta, all chemical companies deeply invested in neonicotinoids and other toxic pesticide systems.

Let’s get real here. There are big players behind this ad, players who have the bucks to take out a full page ad in national newspapers and who also a big stake in neonicotinoids continuing to be used in Ontario. They are going to do everything they can to avoid regulations that reduce the use of these pesticides, including “open letters” like this one to lull readers into thinking that these toxic chemicals are harmless.

Jennifer Penney