THUNDER BAY – Protecting bee colonies protects agriculture, and protects life on our planet. Ontario is taking action to strengthen bird, bee, butterfly and other pollinator health to ensure healthy ecosystems, a productive agricultural sector, and a strong economy. “Improving pollinator health is not a luxury but a necessity. Pollinators play a key role in our ecosystem and without them, much of the food we eat would not be here.Taking strong action now to reduce the use of neurotoxic pesticides and protecting pollinator health is a positive step for our environment and our economy,” commented Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.
Pollinators play an important role in Ontario’s agricultural productivity. Crops such as apples, cherries, peaches, plums, cucumbers, asparagus, squash, pumpkins, and melons need help from pollinators to grow.
The federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency has found a link between planting corn and soybean seeds treated with neonicotinoids — an agricultural insecticide — and bee deaths in Ontario. The province’s approach will help keep crops healthy and improve the environment by:
- Working towards a goal of 80 per cent reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 2017
- Reducing the over-winter honeybee mortality rate to 15 per cent by 2020
- Establishing a comprehensive Pollinator Health Action Plan
The province will consult on a proposal to reduce the use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed. If approved, new rules on the use of neonicotinoids will be in place by July 1, 2015, in time for the 2016 agricultural planting season.
Ensuring a strong and healthy agricultural sector is part of the government’s economic plan for Ontario. The four part plan is building Ontario up by investing in people’s talents and skills, building new public infrastructure like roads and transit, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives, and building a secure savings plan so everyone can afford to retire.
“Our agricultural industry depends on safe, healthy lands to be productive.This is why Ontario farmers have taken significant action to reduce pesticide use, reducing overall usage by some 45 per cent in the past three decades. We know there is more that can be done, and we will work with farmers to protect the environment and grow the agricultural sector,” stated Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Talking Bees with Dan Fulton – Urban Greenscapes
- Ontario has released a discussion paper on pollinator health for comment over 60 days on Ontario’s Environmental and Regulatory Registries. Consultation sessions will be held in December 2014 and January 2015 to seek input from industry, researchers, organizations and individuals.
- According to the Ontario Provincial Winter Loss Survey, in 2013-14, bee deaths in Ontario reached their highest recorded level at 58 per cent.
- Scientific evidence shows that neonicotinoids harm bees by disrupting their ability to feed, navigate and reproduce, making them more succeptible to bacterium, virus, or other microorganisms that can cause disease.
- Bees and other pollinators are responsible for pollinating roughly 13 per cent of agricultural crops in Ontario (crops worth about $897 million), and support $26 million annually in honey production.
- In Ontario we have both wild and managed bee populations. Both make a significant contribution to Ontario’s agriculture and environment. In addition to bees, wild pollinators include butterflies, flies, beetles, and other insects.
- Ontario’s agri-food sector employs 760,000 individuals and contributes $34 billion each year to the province’s economy.