Beekeepers blame bee deaths on controversial pesticide

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

Debora Van Brenk, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Farmers have this one year to limit the effect a controversial pesticide is having on bee health, a leading agriculture researcher says.

"The bottom line is, if we mess this up, we're going to lose neonics (approval), I'm convinced of that," said Art Schaafsma of the University of Guelph, who co-led a new Ontario field study of a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids.

Beekeepers blame mass bee die-offs in the past two years on neonic coatings used on corn and soybean seeds. But some farm groups say there's not enough information to prove cause and effect.

It's become a hot-button issue worldwide and the European Union has banned their use.

Schaafsma said this will be a pivotal year here and farmers need to be part of the solution. "The eyes are on us. If the (bee mortality) numbers go up on this, like they did in 2013, the Pest Management Review Agency is going to be forced into a corner."

He challenged farmers at the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association to plant a bag of treated seed and a bag of untreated seed so researchers can expand on a study he and Agriculture Ministry entomologist Tracey Baute have just released.

Ontario beekeepers, frustrated by what they say is an unabated threat to their livelihoods, will get the facetime they've requested with Premier Kathleen Wynne.

"We're looking at our earliest opportunity to meet with them," likely this month, said Mark Cripps, spokesperson for Wynne, who is also agriculture minister.

"We're probably doing more than any province on the bee health file," he said.

Toxicology reports show almost all the bees that died in Ontario in 2012 and 2013 had some level of neonicotinoid in them, likely from foraging or from drinking contaminated water. But pesticide companies maintain that neonicotinoids have replaced previous, toxic pesticide treatments and don't pose a threat to the environment.

Most farmers ordered their seed months ago for the coming year and beekeepers worry it's too late for most to order uncoated seed.

deb.vanbrenk@sunmedia.ca


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