Suzuki: Bees matter, so restricting neonics is the right thing to do


Suzuki- Bees matter, so restricting neonics is the right thing to do

No matter how you feel about Ontario’s proposal to restrict use of neonicotinoid insecticides on corn and soybean crops, we can all agree: bees matter. But as important as bees are, there’s more at stake. Neonics are poisoning our soil and water. This problematic class of pesticides needs to be phased out globally to protect Earth’s ecosystems. By implementing restrictions now (the first in North America), Ontario will have a head start in the transition to safer alternatives.

Pesticide industry stung by proposed regulations

Not surprisingly, Ontario’s proposal has drawn the ire of the pesticide industry.

Neonics have only been around for a couple of decades, but annual global sales now top $2.6 billion. They were initially embraced because they are less directly toxic to humans than older pesticides and are effective at low levels, reducing the volume used. They can be applied to seeds and are absorbed into the plant, which then becomes toxic to insect pests, reducing the need to spray.

We now know these characteristics are the problem. These chemicals are nerve poisons that are toxic even at very low doses and persist in plants and the environment. They affect the information-processing abilities of invertebrates, including some of our most important pollinators.

Bee die-offs related to neonics: federal agency

Bees have borne the brunt of our unfortunate, uncontrolled experiment with neonics. Beekeepers report unusually high bee death rates in recent years, particularly in corn-growing areas of Ontario and Quebec. Virtually all corn and about 60 per cent of soybean seeds planted in Ontario are treated with neonics. A federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency investigation concluded that planting neonic-treated seeds contributed to the bee die-offs.

Europe reached a similar conclusion and placed a moratorium on the use of neonics on bee-attractive crops, which took effect last year.

Critics emphasize that other factors — including climate change, habitat loss and disease — affect pollinator health. But these factors are not entirely independent; for example, chronic exposure to neonics may increase vulnerability to disease. A comprehensive pollinator health action plan should address all these factors, and scaling back the use of neonics is a good place to start.

Neonics threaten other species

Apart from the immediate and lethal effects on bees, neonics represent a more subtle threat to a wide range of species. The 2014 Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impacts of Systemic Pesticides, the most comprehensive review of the scientific literature on neonics, pointed to effects on smell and memory, reproduction, feeding behaviour, flight and ability to fight disease. Jean‐Marc Bonmatin, one of the lead authors, summarized the conclusions:

[quote]The evidence is very clear. We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment equivalent to that posed by organophosphates or DDT. Far from protecting food production the use of neonics is threatening the very infrastructure which enables it, imperilling the pollinators, habitat engineers and natural pest controllers at the heart of a functioning ecosystem.[/quote]

Precautionary Principle should apply

Is there some uncertainty involved in calculating these risks? Absolutely. Uncertainty is at the heart of scientific inquiry. The precautionary principle requires that where there is threat of serious or irreversible harm to human health or the environment, the absence of complete scientific certainty or consensus must not be used as an excuse to delay action. In the case of neonics, the weight of evidence clearly supports precautionary action to reduce — or even eliminate — them.

Ontario proposal is common sense

Ontario’s proposal to restrict the use of neonic-treated corn and soybean seed, starting next year, is far from radical. The idea is to move away from routinely planting neonic-treated seeds and use neonics only in situations where crops are highly vulnerable to targeted pests. The government expects this will reduce the uses of neonic-treated corn and soybean seed by 80 per cent by 2017.

It’s no surprise that the pesticide industry and its associates oppose even this modest proposal and are running expensive PR campaigns to obscure the evidence of harm. The industry’s objection to restrictions on neonics is eerily similar to big-budget advertising campaigns to create a smokescreen thick enough to delay regulatory responses to the obvious harm caused by cigarettes.

Let’s hope today’s decision-makers have a better grasp of the precautionary principle and a stronger commitment to protecting the public good, because bees really do matter.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Ontario and Northern Canada Director-General Faisal Moola.


About Dr. David Suzuki

David Suzuki, Co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is renowned for his radio and television programs that explain the complexities of the natural sciences in a compelling, easily understood way.

11 thoughts on “Suzuki: Bees matter, so restricting neonics is the right thing to do

  1. Non confidence
    Please tell me you’re not one of those valiant enemies of free speech who prowls sites like this to keeps comments within
    allowed parameters by use of strawman/ad hominem attacks.
    While pontificating from your lofty perch and claiming to speak for “the rest of us.”

    1. I dont speak for anyone but myself.
      As for the “strawman” analogy.
      BORING! Been used a thousand times before. Try something different that you may have learned in Bee Keeping school. Oh hivemaster extrodinaire…..
      Like .” Your paperwasp attacks dont amount to a hive of honey.” Or
      “You’ve been huffing too much burlap smoke while extracting the supers from the hive”. Or
      “You’ve been stung too many times in the reasoning side of your brain cradle”

      You know. Something a tad more inventive than that tired old Strawman drivel.


  2. As someone who has kept bees for over fifteen years or so in an area with little pesticide and no neonics I would agree that climate change is a problem.

    But I believe it is the man made climate change called geo engineering assisted by all those planes dumping tons of shit all over the world, that Mr (gate keeper?) Suzuki doesn’t believe in, that are causing the weather madness.

    Also missing from Suzuki’s view on reality is the huge effect that the recent roll out of wireless toys including routers and the unnecessary smart meters is having on all living things. Where’s the precautionary principle there David?

    Birds and bees are particularly susceptible to this pollution as they have magnetite in their bodies and depend on the earths 7 mhz frequency to navigate. They become disoriented and weakened in this sea of invisible electro smog. Humans with their tiny but vital electric fields are also being negatively effected.. Without their informed consent.

    Want to do something real to help nature and yourself ?
    Throw your cell phone and router in the garbage. Use hard wire for your internet and phone connections whenever possible. Take Suzuki and his sponsors with a large grain of salt.

    1. Mooney
      When you refer to “geoengineering assisted by all those planes….”
      Please tell me you’re not one of those conspiracy theorists that constantly allude to “seeding programs by the govt to control our thoughts”
      Jets run on a fuel so close to kerosene its almost the same. The “trails” you see are moisture vapour forming after superheated gas exits the engine.
      But you believe what you want the rest of us will believe the truth.

      As for the radio frequencies affecting bees and humans…..maybe but the proof is still out there.
      Neonics affects are proven.
      Lets stick with what we know until the scientists(not internet conspiracy theorists) prove otherwise.

      1. . nonconfidencevote, when you refer to conspiracy theorists please assure me that you are not one of those agents that infest websites like this making disparaging comments to insure that commenters stay within the allowed parameters of discussion.
        Straw man/ ad hominem attacks and branding those who don’t suck up the government’s pap as conspiracy theorists, as well as claiming to speak for the majority instead of adding to the discussion, is the calling card of paid help.

        1. Sorry Mooney (or should I call you “Moody”?)

          I didnt mean to upset you but… did start the ball rolling with your remark about ( and I quote) ,
          “geo engineering assisted by all those planes dumping tons of shit all over the world,….”

          Sounds like the looney “jet trail weather control theory” to me!
          As for being an “agent that infest websites like this”……wow!
          Or “branding those who don’t suck up the government’s pap as conspiracy theorists”

          So its ok for YOU to make unsubstaiated comments but its not ok for anyone else to comment on them.
          Busy little world in there.
          Try this observation about your comments on for size.

          Paranoia : mental illness characterized by delusions of persecution: unjustified suspicion; mistrust of others

          Perhaps its time to stop playing with honeybees and seek professional help?

          Strawman attack back to vous :)-

          1. There’s a difference between having an opinion and just posting rambling personal attacks, and questioning other people’s sanity.

            Perhaps you should get some bees, and see what they’re actually up against. Might do you some good..

            1. Nah I;m too busy trolling the internet for conspiracy theorists spewing ridiculous drivel without proof.

              1. Mmmmmm Hmmmmmm every time is see jet trail in the sky, I wonder ” where are those tourists going”
                YOU, on the other hand, wonder what evil govt is poisoning your air with mind control gas….
                Proof please.( and not the internet conspiracy drivel)

                A song for Mooney sung to the tune of “Rawhide”
                Trollin , trollin, trollin keep them conspiracies rollin.
                In all kinds of weather… the conspiracies keep paranoids a lather.
                Trollin trollin trollin keep them conspiracies rollin
                Jet trails a flyin , bees are a dyin,
                Troll them in internet wiiiiiiiiiiiide.

                A gift to Moonybeam
                No need to thank me.

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