Grain Farmers of Ontario appreciates the concerns expressed in your publication by members of the community and would like to provide some further information around the topic of bee health.
Grain Farmers of Ontario cares a great deal about bees and recognizes the importance of bees to the overall viability of agriculture and the food chain. That’s why Grain Farmers of Ontario is actively working to enhance bee protection, while also working to ensure the viability of corn, soybean, and wheat farming in Ontario.
The decline of the bee population is a complex issue. Numerous risk factors to bee health have been identified, including varroa mites, poor nutrition/lack of forage, drought, winter-kill, and diseases. There is also concern that a class of pesticides used widely in agriculture, known as neonicotinoids, could be adversely affecting bees. Neonicotinoids were introduced in the late 1990s and were widely adopted as the safest seed treatment with excellent results by 2003. We feel it is important to note that the major decline in bee population took place in 2012.
Last year, Ontario farmers faced unusual and extreme weather conditions that adversely affected many aspects of agriculture. Since the anomaly of 2012, Grain Farmers of Ontario has been actively involved in several initiatives to enhance bee protection. These include helping farmers implement best management practices and working with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ontario Ministry of Rural Affairs, the University of Guelph, and the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus to support research into pollinator health. We are currently involved in a research project about mitigating corn dust during planting and our work to date can be found at gfo.ca/ProtectingPollinators.
In Canada, pesticides are regulated by the Federal Government through the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) – a world renowned, rigorous, science-based system. In June 2012, the PMRA launched a re-evaluation of neonicotinoids and there continues to be emerging science on this class of pesticides and their potential effects on pollinators. The PMRA is collaborating with international regulatory partners to discuss further data requirements and in the development of enhanced risk assessment methodologies and risk mitigation measures for pollinators. The PMRA is committed to only registering pest control products that meet stringent health and environmental standards and do not pose unacceptable risks. Details about this evaluation can be found at: http://goo.gl/bro0f9.
Grain Farmers of Ontario recognizes the importance of bees and we want to work with all stakeholders and the government to determine a path forward based on scientific evidence. We are actively involved in the government mandated working group on bee health and look forward to finding solutions that ensure a sustainable future for both the bee populations and grain farming in Ontario.
Henry Van Ankum
Chair, Grain Farmers of Ontario
Henry Van Ankum