Ontario is moving to take the sting out of pesticides that are killing bees.
On July 1, the province will become the first jurisdiction in North America to begin reducing the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-coated corn and soybean seeds.
Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal said by 2017, the new rules should curb the acreage planted with such seeds by 80 per cent.
“Farmers are environmental stewards of their land and this regulation will enable our province’s farmers to strengthen their approach to protecting their crops,” Leal said in a statement Tuesday.
The pesticide hinders the ability of bees — and 400 other pollinator species like birds and butterflies — to navigate, feed, or reproduce. It’s also blamed for making them more susceptible to illness.
In the winter of 2013-14, Ontario beekeepers lost a staggering 58 per cent of the province’s honey bees — well above the 15 per cent depletion considered sustainable.
As of July, new rules will be in place to track the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds.
For next year’s planting season, farmers will be allowed to use the seeds on up to 50 per cent of their corn and soybean fields with exceptions being granted only to those who can provide evidence of pest problems.
In 2017, all farmers wanting to use any neonicotinoid-treated seeds will have to prove they have pests.
Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Don McCabe said farmers “worked closely” with the province to ensure the rules work for everyone.
Tibor Szabo, president of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, said “while the new regs may not be perfect, in the end, the Ontario government did the right thing.”
“Our bees continue to die from the overuse of neonicotinoids,” said Szabo.
CropLife Canada, an industry group representing manufacturers of neonicotinoids, has maintained their product is “one of the safest insecticides ever developed.”