Ontario Report on Bee Health a Missed Opportunity, says NFU

(March 20, 2014, St. Marys, ON) - The recently released Ontario Bee Health Working Group Report is another case of "corporate profits trumping ecological needs," according to National Farmers Union (NFU) Vice President of Policy and Ontario farmer, Ann Slater.
 
"Given the composition of the Bee Health Working Group, which was weighted with representatives of chemical companies and field crop growers, it is not surprising this report essentially recommends that the use of neonicotinoid treated seed continue as usual," says Slater.  "This approach will allow chemical and seed companies to continue to sell farmers seed treated with neonicotinoid insecticides but will do little to protect bees or our natural and agricultural ecosystems." 
 
"The report is a missed opportunity to promote the use of more ecological farm practices such as complex crop rotations, as well as to show a real commitment to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, which recommends that pesticides be used only when there is a demonstrated pest problem instead of as routine practice," states Slater.  "Using more ecological farm practices and IPM saves farmers money while protecting bees, our environment and biodiversity. However, widespread use of such farming practices is not in the interests of the corporate agribusinesses that make money selling farmers chemicals such as neonicotinoids whether they actually need them or not."
 
In its submission to the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) in December 2013, the NFU called for a precautionary five-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments for field crops and for independent research to be done during that period.  The NFU submission noted that such a moratorium would provide time for independent, third-party studies on the impacts of neonicotinoid insecticides on pollinators and natural ecosystems as well as time to fully explore alternatives to neonicotinoid seed treatments, including non-chemical alternatives.
 
The NFU's Acting Region 3 (Ontario) Coordinator and Denfield area farmer, Karen Eatwell stated, "Only through a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments will we be able to fully understand the role neonicotinoids are playing in the loss of honeybees and other pollinators.  The Ontario government has indicated any action on neonicotinoids will be guided by the best scientific data available. To be credible, this scientific data must come from independent, publicly-funded research – not only from research undertaken and paid for by the companies manufacturing and selling these insecticides. If necessary, Ontario should fund such studies to ensure unbiased data is available to guide policy."
 
Eatwell went on to say that the NFU is glad to see Minister of Agriculture and Food, Hon. Kathleen Wynne's commitment to establish a new Ontario Pollinator Health Working Group with an expanded focus beyond bees.  “This indicates some understanding on the part of Premier Wynne that the implications of neonicotinoids have broader ecological implications,” said Eatwell.  “I encourage the Premier to give a greater role to ecological and organic farmers along with bee keepers in the new working group and to limit the involvement of Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and organizations representing multinational chemical and seed companies.  This new group must be able to recommend actions that put the health of pollinators and our natural and agricultural ecosystems first.”
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For more information contact:
 
Ann Slater, NFU Vice President (Policy) 519-349-2448, aslater@quadro.net
Karen Eatwell, NFU Acting Region 3 (Ontario) Coordinator, 519-232-4105, president@nfuontario.ca