Restrictions on use of bee-harming neo-nicotinoids would cover non-agriculture uses
In his presentation to regional council last month George Scott of the Niagara Beeway said the non-farm use of neo-nicotinoid pesticides represents a looming human health concern.
Grimsby Lincoln News
By Steve Henschel
NIAGARA — It’s not the farmers, at least not entirely.
The Niagara Region currently investigating a proposed ban on the non-farm use neo-nicotinoids, a pesticide that has recently been attributed to the collapse of bee colonies worldwide.
The regional integrated community planning committee heard input from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) in January.
“I want to stress not only the importance of the uses of these neo-nicotinoid insecticides to growers but also our strong support for the bee industry,” said OFVGA’s expert advisor Craig Hunter while speaking before council.
The class of pesticides is critical to fruit and vegetable farmers, he added.
“We depend on their efficacy,” said Hunter, explaining the chemicals are considered “less toxic” than chemicals previously banned for use.
Hunter for the most part urged the Region to not ban the class of chemicals for farmers, yet wait for further research.
The Region is not considering a ban for farmers. The proposed ban would only affect non-farm use for household flea treatments, pest control and other uses.
Hunter noted farmers support further research especially in light of declining bee populations, which they lean on for pollination of their crops.
“The irony is not lost on us that without a healthy bee population our growers face serious crop loss, while, without the use of this family of insecticides we also face serious crop damage,” said Hunter.
Niagara Beeway’s George Scott, who first requested the ban from the Region, said farmers are not the principal concern in reference to neo-nicotinoids.
He said farmers are more responsible when using the chemicals and aren’t the leading consumer in Niagara.
Scott estimates 77 per cent of the chemicals are used for non-farming purposes.
“Farmers are blamed for the environmental destruction and yet they are clearly the ‘B’ contributors in this particular issue,” said Scott, who believes further research will push farmers to alternatives.
“It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when,” said Scott, who has done extensive research on the impact of chemicals on bees.
Proponents of the chemical family often point out a ban imposed by the European Union on neo-nicotinoids has not saved Europe’s bee populations, according Scott.
That specific ban applies to farm uses. In Europe the chemicals are still being used for commercial and residential applications and are thus still reaching bees, added Scott.
While the pesticide is lethal to bee populations as it becomes concentrated in water sources, Scott said the concern goes far beyond honey and pollination.
“We need to take bees out of the equation. This isn’t about bees, this isn’t about spots on apples … this is about human health issues,” he said, noting the bees may be an early indicator of the effects of these pesticides.
He said as of right now, the effects on humans aren’t entirely clear.
“Let’s err on the side of caution,” said Scott.
The Beeway program director found runoff water with a concentration of four parts per million in Wainfleet, nearly twice the amount required to kill an insect such as a bee.
While that may not kill a human being, it may have an impact on the fetal development of babies.
“At one particular point of your life you were the size of a bee,” said Scott.
In December, the National Farmers Union requested a five-year moratorium on neo-nicotinoid use until research can be conducted further into the health effects.
As the Region eyes the ban, Scott and the Beeway are hoping to undertake further investigation into the prevalence of the pesticides in food and water.
The Beeway is currently offering independent analysis for food, water and even umbilical chord blood.
Testing food will measure how concentrated the pesticides are in products, said Scott.
Currently, there is little knowledge regarding whether the systemic pesticide, which is present throughout the plant, concentrates or dilutes as it is processed into food.
“Between now and June we will know the answer,” said Scott.