Coffee, strawberries, cocoa and popular types of cooking oil – these are just a few items from the massive list of goods that we enjoy thanks to the work of honeybees. Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops are pollinated by these busy little creatures, which means our current way of life as we know it relies on their well-being. And yet for years beekeepers have noticed massive death rates in their bee yards with little information about the cause – a phenomenon known as “Colony Collapse Disorder.”
Research now shows that pesticides are one of the key contributing factors to the pollinator deaths beekeepers have been troubled by. This research is the basis for Ontario’s current proposal to make regulatory amendments to the Pesticide Act. The proposed changes include reducing the number of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 80 percent by 2017. Currently, 99 percent of corn seeds in Ontario are treated with the pesticide, as well as 60 percent of soy seeds.
The effects of neonics on honeybees is devastating. Beekeepers and researchers have noted disoriented behavior mimicking drunkenness in bees that have been in contact with the pesticide. Unable to complete the essential work that colonies need to survive, bees are perishing in massive numbers. Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, told Global News last week, “We’re already into eight years of significant high bee death, accumulating last year with a 58 percent loss of bee population. At this point we’re seeing catastrophic loss.”
The Ontario Beekeepers Association responded to the draft regulations to restrict neonics in a press release.
“We are pleased the government is moving forward with a rigorous regulatory approach to reducing the use of neonicotinoids,” said OBA president Tibor Szabo. “However, with a few minor changes we can ensure pollinator health remains a priority and our beekeeping industry is protected from further damage.”
Some of the changes suggested by the OBA include monitoring dosage/concentration levels of neonics on seeds and removing an exemption on sweet corn, which bees are attracted to.
Under the proposed phased-in scenario, honey bees and beekeepers will not be protected under the full weight of the regulations until the 2020 planting season, so the OBA also recommended that heavy corn and soy planting areas be given first priority and that full implementation be completed before the 2018 growing season.
The regulatory amendments to the Pesticide Act are currently under a public review and commenting period until May 7. To learn more about the proposed changes or make a comment, you can visit Ontario’s Environmental Registry at http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ and search for ‘Ontario Pollinator Health’.