Today the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario weighs in on the neonicitinoid debate. Here is this week’s guest commentary from Nathan Stevens.
There are well-known and growing concerns about the impact that the use of neonicitinoid (neonic) pesticides are having on commercial honey producers. However, there has been a lot less consideration for the impact on wild pollinators. The Friends of the Earth recently brought Dr. David Ghoulson of the University of Sussex in England to learn from this bumble bee expert. The CFFO seized this opportunity to meet with Dr. Goulson to Dr. Goulson to discuss the various factors that are impacting wild pollinators within the European context within the European context. Europe has taken stronger action on the use of neonicitinoid pesticides than North America to date including a two year suspension of the use of neonicitinoids on particular products where the risk of exposure to pollinators has been deemed to be high.
As CFFO learns more about this issue, it appears that there are three major factors that need to be considered for wild pollinators hives to be resilient and healthy. The first is ensuring that there is suitable habitat for the bees with plentiful food supplies available throughout the portion of the year they are active. The second is the impact that prophylactic use of neonic pesticides is having in building up the persistent presence of neonics in the environment that may not necessarily be lethal if everything else is positive. The third are disease pressures from a variety of sources. Note that for commercial honey bees, the CFFO also believes that beneficial management practices are a relevant factor. From our perspective, it appears that it is worthy of investigating whether one of these factors being a problem is sufficient to seriously harm or kill off a hive, or if whether two or more factors have to be poor is a necessary condition to create a serious problem.
As responsible stewards of the creation, farmers need to consider the impact that evolving farming practices may be having on bio-diversity. While CFFO does not currently support a suspension of neonic use, we do want farmers to carefully consider their business decisions. Two of the three factors for wild pollinators are things that farmers can influence. In terms of land use decisions, the huge shift towards row crops from pasture has impacted habitat availability in Ontario. Setting aside some land for natural habitat, whether it is a small woodlot, a buffer strip or a perennial grass crop of some sort could potentially improve one of key factors. The other is to opt out of having neonic pesticide treatment applied to the seed they purchase unless they know that there are genuine pest issues that need to battled, rather than opting for it “just in case”.
The CFFO recognizes that this complex issue is far from resolved and that a great deal of research is still being worked on today across Europe and North America. However, there are key factors that have been strongly identified, and farmers need to consider if there are actions they can factor into their business plans that work more harmoniously with the natural world they ultimately rely on for their livelihoods in the long-term.