CropLife Canada out of touch with beekeepers: Waterloo Region Record

Waterloo Region Record

I have a few comments on the June 20 letter from Pierre Petelle, the vice-president of chemistry at CropLife Canada ("Neonicotinoids a convenient scapegoat").

The underlying neural problems that neonicotinoids (or neonics) cause in insects and small creatures are that they make them weaker by changing their behaviour and lowering productivity.

It does not always kill them outright in natural settings unless the exposure is high to dust and pollen containing neonics.

Petelle rightly states that disease, weather, nutrition, habitat, genetic diversity and beekeeping practices impact bee health — they always have. Beekeepers are equipped to handle all of these natural issues.

These issues contribute to 10 to 20 per cent of our losses naturally and the bee industry and wild populations can survive with those numbers as they have for 40 million years.

Neonics is the game changer. It is the only possible root cause of our 58 per cent loss last year.

Species weakened through neural disruption from neonics are carried off naturally by disease, the environment and predators. The weak are taken under the laws of nature.

In Petelle's list there is only one unnatural factor: pesticides. Saying the Ontario government is out of step with collaborative approaches is laughable.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario walked out of collaborative meetings that the Ontario government held across the province.

The Ontario Beekeepers Association has among its members some of the leading apiarists in the world who are rightly alarmed at the state of bees. The University of Guelph is a global centre for bee studies and consults the government on bee-related issues.

Who are these unidentified people using collaborative approaches to bee health that Ontario is not practising?

New scientific studies arise regularly showing the danger of neonics when they are used without controls. All beekeepers want are controls on dangerous pesticides. What is wrong with that?

Petelle's organization, CropLife Canada, supports and funds the Ontario Grain Farmers, who seem to be the only ones who oppose licensing and controlling neonics.

Corn and soy beans have neonics in them whether they are needed or not. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency say neonics are not needed in soy and that 80 per cent of corn in Ontario does not need them. That is why we need these controls.

Who is "out of step" here?

There is no "attack on agriculture." Beekeepers are farmers. There is no ban on neonics, just controls and use only where needed. What could be wrong with that?

I suggest that Petelle is using sensationalism when he says we are putting huge risks on the backs of farmers. All we are asking is that we wisely use our agricultural products and resources. 

Bees are responsible for $18 billion annually in agriculture and related fields in North America. We need to do everything we can to protect them, and that means controlling our pesticides.


David Bowen is president of the Haldimand Norfolk Beekeepers’ Association in Simcoe.

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