(TORONTO, ON) – Starting July 1, Ontario will be the first jurisdiction in North America to protect bees and other pollinators through new rules to reduce the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds. The goal is to lower the acreage by 80 per cent by 2017.
To support this goal, new requirements will be put in place for the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed that will help ensure treated seed is only used when there is evidence of a pest problem. Reducing neonicotinoid use in these two crops presents the greatest potential to reduce pollinator exposure to the neurotoxic insecticide.
Neonicotinoid-treated seeds are widely used in agriculture. Close to 100 per cent of corn seed and 60 per cent of soybean seed sold in the province is treated with neonicotinoid insecticides.
“Friends of the Earth is pleased and impressed by Ontario’s leadership in finalizing this first permanent reduction in the use of neonicotinoids in Canada,” said Beatrice Olivastri, the CEO of Friends of the Earth Canada. “With its new pesticide regulation, Ontario is delivering important benefits for nature including honey bees, native bees and other vulnerable species.”
Pollinators, including bees, birds, and butterflies, play a crucial role in agriculture and our ecosystem. Over the last eight years, Ontario beekeepers have experienced unusually high over-winter losses of honey bees, reaching 58 per cent following the winter of 2013-14.
The level of over-winter losses considered to be acceptable and sustainable by most apiculturists is 15 per cent.
There are more than 400 pollinator species in Ontario and bees are the most common pollinator. Bees and other pollinators are responsible for pollinating roughly 13 per cent of agricultural crops in Ontario, worth about $897 million, and support $26 million annually in honey production.
“Doctors are delighted Ontario will be North America’s first jurisdiction to introduce regulatory restrictions on bee-killing neonic pesticides,” said Gideon Forman, the executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “Assuming Ontario hits its target of an 80% reduction by 2017, this will be the most important pollinator-protection policy on the continent, and a major contributor to food security.”
The new rules are one part of Ontario’s strategy to improve pollinator health. The province will also develop a pollinator health action plan in consultation with the public and experts to address other stressors that affect pollinators.