OTTAWA – Today the National Farmers Union (NFU) appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry to provide Senators with the organization’s analysis and recommendations regarding the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments on field crops in Canada. The Senate Committee is currently studying the importance of bees and bee health in the production of honey, food and seed in Canada.
“It has been little more than a decade since the product was introduced and already neonicotinoids are being used across Canada at an unprecedented scale, resulting in significant harm to bees and likely to wild pollinators and natural ecosystems as well,” said Ann Slater, NFU Vice-President, Policy. “We recognize that neonicotinoid insecticides are used on many crops as both seed treatments and foliar sprays, however, they are now applied as preventative treatments on seed for nearly all corn, soy, canola and some wheat fields without regard to whether the seed treatments provide farmers with a benefit in terms of yield and insect control.”
Slater explained that through its democratic policy development process the NFU has taken the position that immediate action must be taken to greatly reduce the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments in field crops, starting with a five-year moratorium in all field crops.
“The Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has already determined that neonicotinoid seed treatments in corn and soybeans in Ontario and Quebec were the major contributor to bee deaths in 2012 and again in 2013,” noted Slater. “It concluded that the current use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed is not sustainable, but continues to accommodate the sale and use of these insecticides without requiring chemical and seed companies to accept responsibility for the harm they are causing to bees and native pollinators. We believe that the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry must recommend that Health Canada take immediate action to protect bees and pollinators. It is time for the Canadian government and Canadian regulatory agencies to act in the public interest.”
The NFU’s recommendations include:
- A five-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments in all field crops (if necessary, beginning with a five-year moratorium on their use on corn and soybeans in Ontario and Quebec) that will come into effect on January 1, 2015;
- Allow farmers to apply for one-time use of a neonicotinoid seed treatment only if they can demonstrate through a soil test or monitoring program that their crop will be threatened by pest pressure AND demonstrate that there are no alternative control options;
- Require permits to purchase neonicotinoid seed treatments, that the seed treatments be purchased separately from seed and that the cost of the seed and the treatment be listed separately when one-time use applications are approved;
- Research and widely promote alternative and ecological farming practices which do not depend on the use of chemical pesticides; and
- Undertake publicly funded programs in the public interest to assess yields of field crops produced with various pest control agents and practices, including non-chemical alternatives and to monitor pollinator population counts before and after a moratorium is implemented.
For the NFU’s full submission, including all recommendations, please visit http://www.nfu.ca/story/importance-bees-and-bee-health