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Ontario Targets Honeybee Killing Pesticides

Neonicotinoids (NNIs) are the most widely used insecticides in the world. In theory, they are the perfect pesticide, coating the seeds of a crop so the growing plant is seeped in their poison, killing any munching marauder. No sloppy spraying, no residue, no toxic runoff into nearby streams - according to the marketing speak. In truth, however, NNIs are much less precise than advertised. They are persistent and water-soluble, so they do wash into streams and they target more than nibbling pests. The chemical is a threat to the wellbeing of honeybees, birds as well as other pollinators and make pollinators more susceptible to disease.

On July 1, the province of Ontario will become the first jurisdiction in North America to reduce 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. Europe is already in the middle of a two-year ban on the controversial pesticide. Great news right? Yes it is, but let's not celebrate yet.

These new regulations may be a good first step, they are baby steps at best. NNIs are only one chemical group in a long line of pesticides that have been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and in dietary illnesses in our kids. Unfortunately, the alternatives that are being proposed are no less questionable.

In truth, the agrochemical industry is valued at over $42 billion. The industry operates with impunity while over 355,000 people die from pesticide poisoning every year, and hundreds of thousands more are made ill - many of whom are children.

Sobering stats on agricultural pesticides:

  • Each year, around 2.5 million tons (2,500,000 tons = 5 billion pounds) of pesticide are dumped on the crops. [2]
  • In 2002, an estimated 69,000 children were poisoned by pesticides in the US [3]
  • The World Health Organization reports 220,000 people die every year worldwide because of pesticide poisoning. [2]
  • Although most pesticides (80%) are used in the rich countries, most of the poisonings are in poor countries because safety standards are poor. [2]
  • Pesticide residues in food are often higher in poor countries. [2]
  • Farmers who use pesticides have a 'significantly higher rate of cancer incidence' than non-farmers. [2]
  • In the US, nearly one in ten of about 3 billion kilograms (that's 6,613,800,000 pounds) of toxic chemicals released per year is known to be capable of causing cancer (in other animals as well as people). [2]
  • 1. US EPA Pesticide Market Estimates; 2. Public health risks associated with pesticides and natural toxins in foods, David Pimentel et al., College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA; 3. US EPA fact sheet.