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Pesticide Ban a Big Win for Italian Honey Bees

I began worrying the other day about my last story on this topic "Are Pesticide Regulators on the Take?".

In it I raised some hard questions about the behaviour of those who are supposed to protect you, me and our environment from harmful pesticides in Canada.

A mounting body of evidence shows several such products are killing valuable pollinating insects like bees, essential to the production of many of our food crops.

Their populations are crashing alarmingly in many regions of the world, including Canada.

Yet our politicians and "regulators" party on, allowing bee-killing poisons to continue in heavy use, as if none of this was going on.

Still, I worried, had I been too harsh? Too provocative?
Bee photo by I.P.
Then, the other day, I read something which made me wonder if I had been harsh enough!

According to The European Media Research Centre (EMRC), both the health and numbers of honey bees in Italy rebounded dramatically last year. It was the very first year the Italian government suspended the use of a particularly nasty family of pesticides (neonicotinoids), used to treat corn seed. In contrast, oceanic amounts continue to be used with reckless abandon in Canada ("the true North strong and free").

The EMRC describes itself as an independent, non-profit organization which provides journalistic content for many TV stations. It researched and published the story a-year-ago this summer. True to form, our "industry-friendly" media here in North America apparently saw fit not to report it widely, if at all, on this side of the ocean!

I then contacted both the President of the National Union of Beekeepers in Italy, Francesco Panella and Greatti Moreno of the University of Udine, to verify the accuracy of the story. (Both were quoted in it.)

Panella confirmed that in Piedmont, his region of northern Italy, the bees developed "very well" in the spring of 2009 and this past spring, too. There, only "neonic-free" corn seed was planted.

Pesticide can dump in western MB. Photo I.P.
Despite lawsuits from the chemical industry, the Italian government has prevailed and kept the suspension in place.

And, Panella added, industry warnings that the suspension would result in drastically reduced yields, have not materialized.

He says there were modest losses to pests, but only in areas where mono cropping was common. In places where crop rotations were used, "there was no damage, and no need for chemicals!"

For his part, Greatti Morena told me, "In North Italy, where the corn is the most important crop, the bees did not die in 2009, and the same thing happened this year (second year of ban)."

So, just how much longer can Ag Canada and Health Canada keep their heads buried in the sand, ignoring this mounting evidence?

Keep in mind, the Government of Manitoba also has the power to suspend the use of pesticides, if it had the political will. Obviously, it does not, choosing instead to act as an agent for rich and powerful corporations like Bayer Crop Sciences, the brains behind neonicotinoids.

How much longer are we prepared to let these government agencies act as handmaidens to the chemical industry instead of protecting the interest of we, the people like they are supposed to?

Contributed by: Larry Powell
City: Manitoba
Country: Canada
Date: July 12, 2010