More than honey, indeed

 More than honey, indeed.


Driving through the Annapolis Valley in the summer, one passes acre upon acre of shiny green corn fields. While these fields may look like the picture of health, these crops contain a darker truth. Recent research shows that corn-growing practices in Canada are harming our bees, one of our most precious pollinators.

Albert Einstein once said, “If bees were to disappear from the globe, mankind would have only four years left to live.”

It’s safe to say, without bees, we would be in big trouble. Bees pollinate more than a third of our food supply, but, for many years, their populations have been plummeting in a massive global die-off that has been dubbed “Beemageddon.” In Canada alone, the bee population has dropped by an estimated 35 per cent in the past three years.

For years, the disappearance of bees was a mystery that baffled scientists, farmers, and government agencies. Scientific research is finally shedding light on what’s killing the bees and a growing number of studies point to the use of agricultural pesticides. Some of these, a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, are particularly deadly to bees. This past spring, beekeepers in Ontario lost millions of bees in the period coinciding with the corn and soy planting season there. In a report published this September, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency finally acknowledged “the majority of pollinator mortalities were a result of exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides.” Adding, “current agricultural practices related to the use of neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed are not sustainable.”

In Nova Scotia, we can be thankful our bee populations are relatively healthy and have not experienced the dramatic die-offs seen in Ontario. However, given the mounting scientific evidence against  neonicotinoids and other pesticides, and ast, aside from hay, corn is the valley’s largest crop, is the current “wait and see” approach really in our best interest as an agricultural community? It should be noted 90 per cent of the field corn grown here in the valley is from genetically engineered and neonicotinoid-treated seed. Meanwhile, the European Union has issued a two-year ban on neonicotinoids based on the scientific research. While we pride ourselves on taking a science-based approach to regulating pesticide use, more than 30 studies have shown the link between neonicotinoids and declining bee populations. How long will we ignore the science?

This is not just an agricultural issue. We all eat, therefore we are all interconnected to the plight of bees, whether we realize it or not. Perhaps it’s time we bring out the mightiest tool we have in our democratic toolbox: our voices. We can follow the EU’s lead and join the call for a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides. We can vote with our dollars by supporting farming practices that avoid the use of bee-harming chemicals. This one is a battle worth fighting for – for the bees and for ourselves.

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