Ontario Law Attempts to Cut Neonicotinoids- Help Bee Populations

Dan Charles noted recently at National Public Radio Online that, “Nobody loves pesticides, exactly. But one kind of pesticide, called neonicotinoids, is provoking a particularly bitter debate right now between environmentalists and farmers. The chemicals are highly toxic to bees. Some scientists think they are partly to blame for the decline in pollinators.

“For the past year, the province of Ontario, in Canada, has responded to the controversy with a novel experiment. Ontario’s government is asking farmers to prove that they actually need neonicotinoids, often called neonics. It turns out that ‘need‘ is a word that’s hard to define.”

The NPR item indicated that, “In 2015, Ontario’s government passed a law that aims to cut the use of neonics by 80 percent. Under this law, farmers cannot use neonic-coated seeds unless those pesticides are truly needed to protect a farmer’s crop.

“It sounds sensible. There’s just one problem. Need is hard to define.”

Mr. Charles added that, “So Ontario came up with a test. If farmers want to use neonic-treated seeds, they first have to go out to each of their fields, dig some holes, and drop in some insect bait — typically grain or rolled oats that have been soaked in water.

“It’s meant to attract the pests. If they can find just one insect for every hole they dig, they can order neonic treated seed.

“This leads to a paradoxical situation. Most farmers are hoping to find the pests, because they really want neonics on their seed. Greg Hannam, for instance: ‘I hope that I find enough wireworms and grubs that demonstrates the need, so I can use [the seed treatments],’ he says.”

“According to the farmers and seed dealers interviewed [by Dan Charles], farmers in Ontario are reporting that their bait traps show they need neonics in most of their fields,” the NPR article said.

“Dale Cowan, with the company Agris, a seed dealer in Ontario, says that ‘probably this year, between 75 and 85 percent of corn seed went out the door with neonic seed treatment on it.'”

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