Beekeepers are waiting anxiously as governments try to figure out what – if any – role pesticide covered corn and soybean seed should play in Ontario’s fields.
For the past two years, beekeepers have been raising concerns about neonicotinoids which seed companies introduced several years ago. The pesticide-covered seed is designed to reduce the amount of pests affecting corn and soybeans, however beekeepers believe it is killing bees by the millions and putting their industry in jeopardy.
Ontario’s new agriculture minister weighed in on the issue saying he wants the province’s farmers to move away from the “wide-spread indiscriminate use” of neonicotinoids.
But the Conference Board of Canada voiced concern saying that could cost Ontario farmers $630 million. That, they say could cost individual farmers up to $90,000 in lost yield. Some, the board says, might get out of farming because of it.
Davis Bryans of Munro Honey in Alvinston says the conference board study – which was done for the Grain Farmers of Ontario – is overstating the problem adding there is no data showing the treated grain actually increases yield.
A US researcher “doesn’t see any benefits to the neonics, only on certain types of soil,” says Bryans.
The beekeeper says his industry has on the other hand; the dead bees to prove the neonics are a problem. This winter was particularly bad.
“Before the neonics were used around here (loses were) five to seven to 10 percent – 10 percent winter loss was high,” says Bryans. “Now it’s 30 to 50 percent loss,” he says adding Munro lost about 50 percent of its bees this winter.
Bryans doubts when the dust settles that neonicotinoids will be banned outright, but he believes there needs to be restrictions. “I don’t believe there is a need for 100 percent of the seed to be treated with these chemicals and they’re developing stronger pest with these chemicals.
“Where’s the limit? Do you just keep adding and throwing more pesticide on it…hit it where it is causing problems and let the natural predators deal with it.”