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Pesticides linked to bee deaths pose ‘massive’ ecological threat, watchdog warns

The widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides by Ontario farmers, which has been linked to the deaths of bees, could have a “massive impact” on our ecological system, the province’s environment watchdog warned Tuesday.

“All the science is not done, but everything that I have before me … suggests to me that this is the biggest threat to the structure and ecological integrity of the ecosystem that I have ever encountered in my life, bigger than DDT, ” said Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller as he released his annual report.

Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane was banned in Canada in 1972 because of environmental and safety concerns, and even Environment Minister Glen Murray admitted the neonicotinoid class of pesticides is “much more toxic” than DDT.

“It is persistent in the environment and stays there for years. About 94 per cent of it doesn’t go into the plants, it goes into the soil,” said Murray.

“It is impacting not just colonizing bees, but wild bees, birds, soil health as well as frogs and other invertebrate aquatic life.”

Miller called bees the “canary in the coal mine” on neonicotinoids, and said the impact of the pesticides is “clearly more wide scale” in the ecosystem.

“They’re affecting the food supply to our insect-eating birds, but we just don’t know the full magnitude of that, and one of the recommendations of this report is that the Ontario government do some effective monitoring of the soil, the water and the wild plants to see how big that impact is,” he said. “I’m very concerned.”

It’s too late to stop farmers from planting seeds coated in neonicotinoids next spring, said Murray, but the government is looking at ways to mitigate the impact of the pesticides by 2016.

“We have to have a corn crop next year and we have to have soy crops next year,” he said.

The Ontario Beekeepers Association said the province lost 58 per cent of its hives last winter, and complained the government did not act on many previous warnings about neonicotinoids and should immediately outlaw the pesticides.

“We need Ontarians to stand up and push the government to ban neonicotinoids, which are destroying the whole ecosystem,” said David Schuit of Saugeen Country Honey near Hanover. “We can’t sustain this. It’s going to put us out of business.”

An emotional Schuit warned “we’re going to go hungry” if the government doesn’t take steps now to protect the environment, and the food chain, from neonicotinoids.

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said Premier Kathleen Wynne spent a lot of time talking about neonicotinoids, especially when she also served as agriculture minister, but the Liberal government has done nothing to address the problem.

“The Green Party called for a ban on ‘neonics’ last spring so we could preplan for next spring’s planting season, but now they’re saying it’s too late again,” said Schreiner.

“Our entire food system is threatened because of neonicotinoid seeds, which the premier wants to talk about but not take action on.”

Full article at CTV News (Source Link)