Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry
Issue 7 - Evidence - Meeting of March 25, 2014
OTTAWA, Tuesday, March 25, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at
5:35 p.m. to study the importance of bees and bee health in the production of
honey, food and seed in Canada.
Senator Percy Mockler (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, I declare the meeting in session. I
welcome you to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and
Forestry. To the witnesses, thank you for accepting our invitation.
My name is Percy Mockler, senator from New Brunswick, and I would like at
this time to ask all the senators to introduce themselves, and then we will
proceed to the order of reference.
Senator Tardif: Good afternoon. Welcome. Senator Claudette Tardif from
Senator Robichaud: Fernand Robichaud, St-Louis-de-Kent, New Brunswick.
Senator Rivard: Michel Rivard, The Laurentides, province of Quebec.
Senator Buth: JoAnne Buth from Manitoba.
Senator Ogilvie: Kenneth Ogilvie from Nova Scotia.
The Chair: Thank you.
To the witnesses, the committee is continuing its study on the importance of
bees and bee health in the production of honey, food and seed in Canada.
The committee is continuing its study authorized by the Senate of Canada to
examine and report on the importance of bees and bee health in the production of
honey, food and seed in Canada. In particular, the committee has been charged
with studying the following topics:
(a) the importance of bees in pollination to produce food,
especially fruit and vegetables, seed for crop production and honey
production in Canada;
(b) the current state of native pollinators, leafcutter and
honeybees in Canada;
(c) also the factors affecting honeybee health, including disease,
parasites and pesticides in Canada and globally;
(d) strategies for governments, producers and industry to ensure bee
health . . .
Honourable senators, we welcome today four witnesses. I will start by
introducing Ms. Anne Fowlie, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian
Horticultural Council, CHC.
Mr. Michel-Antoine Renaud, Managing Director, Canadian Ornamental
Horticulture Alliance, or COHA.
Also Mr. Cary Gates, Pest Management Director, Flowers Canada Growers. And
also the fourth witness, Dr. Derek Lynch, Associate Professor and Canada
Research Chair in Organic Agriculture from Dalhousie University.
To the witnesses, we will ask that you make your presentations, and then we
will have a question-and-answer session. I have been informed by the clerk, Mr.
Pitman, that the first presenter will be Ms. Fowlie, to be followed by Mr.
Renaud, to be followed by Mr. Gates, and to be concluded by Dr. Lynch.
Ms. Fowlie, please make your presentation.
Anne Fowlie, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Horticultural Council:
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thanks also to the members.
We appreciate very much the opportunity to appear before you today to speak
within the context of your order of reference. It's no secret that the
agricultural industry relies heavily on both crop protection products and
pollinators like bees. The horticultural sector, we believe, is an exemplary
model of coexistence between farmers, production and a robust pollinator
population. This coexistence is an absolute must: no bees, no food; conversely,
no crop management tools or products, no food.
Apples, blueberries and cherries are particularly striking examples of this.
The blueberry industry, for example, is very dependent on pollination, and
according to Gary Brown, who is with Oxford Frozen Foods, as he notes: ``We
average about 100 million blooms per acre, so bees are very, very important in
getting our crop pollinated.''
I am not a scientist, so my comments will not be scientific in nature.
We firmly believe, though, in a science-based approach to issues such as the
one you are currently addressing. We rely on research, innovation and a
conducive regulatory environment to bring forward new technologies and
During the course of your work, I note that you entertained a number of
excellent presentations, including from one of our members, Oxford Frozen Foods
Limited, who are true practitioners of the commitment to invest in and manage
pollinators. Their success, and the success of others, cannot be achieved
without this commitment, and it is a commitment which must be practised and
embraced by all.
The Canadian Horticultural Council represents producers across Canada
primarily involved in the production and packing of over 100 fruit and vegetable
crops, literally apples to zucchini. Members include provincial and national
horticultural commodity organizations, as well as allied and service
organizations, provincial governments and individual producers.
We represent members on a number of key issues such as crop protection,
access to a consistent supply of farm labour, food safety and traceability, fair
access to markets, research and innovation and risk management. Our mission is
clear and very important. It is to ensure a more innovative, profitable and
sustainable horticulture industry for future generations. Horticulture producers
are committed to ensuring that strong Canadian farms will continue to be able to
provide safe, secure and healthy food for families in Canada and around the
I believe that we have a demonstrable record of success in this regard. Some
of the accomplishments include the establishment of the Seasonal Agricultural
Worker Program, established over 40 years ago due to the vision and leadership
from this sector. It is in addition to providing much needed labour on our
farms. I believe it's a great success story and one of Canada's most important
and compelling foreign aid successes. CHC was integral to the establishment of
the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Pest Management Centre, and, in fact, the
CHC prior to that was recognized as ``IR-4 North'' as Canadian trials were
coordinated through CHC. The CHC also developed and established CanadaGAP, the
on-farm food safety program for fruit and vegetables grown in Canada, the first
food safety program benchmarked to the Global Food Safety Initiative.
We also led a collaborative initiative, which included the World Wildlife
Fund, to develop an integrated fruit production program. We are also a proud
founding member of the Grow Canada Initiative.
With a primary production value of over $5 billion and after packing or
processing value of $10 billion, we are one of the largest agricultural
production sectors. Our exports are significant — over $3 billion. We are an
engineer for economic growth and can and will be a foundation for continuing job
growth. It's a growth industry overall, and horticultural production has doubled
in the last 25 years.
Again, you have heard some of these success stories, most notably, blueberry
production in Eastern Canada. Of course, there are other examples, other crops
across Canada. Last year, Minister Ritz and the Market Access Secretariat team
were successful in opening the Chinese market for Canadian cherries, and there
are other good news stories waiting to happen.
Many things factor into success, not the least of which is good production,
management and stewardship practices at the farm level, and, of course, the
They're an important part of agricultural success, and, as noted, Canada's
horticultural sector is an exemplary model of that coexistence. High numbers
have significantly increased over the last 20 years and are the highest they
have been, according to Statistics Canada. Today, there are over 8,000
beekeepers in Canada, keeping over 600,000 hives. Again, that's an approximately
24 per cent increase since 2000. There are statistics and studies which show
that global honeybee populations are also increasing.
Recently, there have been reports that show declines in honeybee and other
pollinator populations, and, of course, that has generated considerable
scientific and public interest. Although a number of factors are seen as
potential contributors to the declines, no single factor has been identified as
the main cause.
Neonicotinoids have become an important pest management tool in horticulture,
including their use in integrated pest management programs. They represent an
effective means to control targeted pests during the crop production season.
Experts agree that over the last number of years, concerns have been raised both
in Canada and around the world about long-term pollinator health. But Canadian
bee researchers overwhelmingly agree that the main stressors to bees are pests
and parasites, diseases, inadequate diet and weather concerns. In some respects,
I guess that is not unlike you and me. When we're run down, tired, et cetera, we
are more susceptible to catch anything going.
The international research community has been working to determine and
characterize the impact of all of these factors. For an industry that already
struggles with a limited number of crop protection products, an outright ban on
any product would be devastating.
Both bees and pesticides play a critical role in agriculture. Bees pollinate
many important crops, while pesticides protect crops from pest and disease
damage. As such, the plant science industry is committed to ensuring that both
bees and agriculture coexist and thrive. Coexistence is possible through
increased communication. Last year, perhaps growers weren't always necessarily
aware of all the steps they could take. Through the winter, with heightened
awareness on this issue, growers have become aware of practical steps they can
take in their fields. A number of study groups have been in place.
Health concerns in managed bee populations are not unique to Ontario or any
other particular area. Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency is also
working with a range of organizations, including the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, the European Food Safety Authority, and the OECD, on
different pollinator working groups and strategies to manage.
Agriculture Canada, of course, is also involved in looking at different
things. In fact, there was a major bee workshop today held here in Ottawa, and
we were a participant in that workshop.
Senator Robichaud: In the workshop?
Ms. Fowlie: Yes, it was today, at Agriculture Canada.
Pollinator health is a complex issue that is impacted by multiple factors,
but by focusing exclusively on pesticides, the potential to understand the
impact of other contributing factors is often overlooked.
Farmers understand that pollinators are essential to having healthy crops.
More than half of the bee colonies in Canada contribute to pollination of canola
each year, and pollinators are also needed for the production of other key
crops. I mentioned apples, blueberries and cherries. There are many.
A recent article — I think it was a cover article in Time magazine —
put the critical importance of honeybees and other pollinators into varying
meaningful every day context: ``You can thank the . . . Western honeybee for 1
in every 3 mouthfuls you'll eat today.''
Canadian horticultural producers know there is a need for both crop
protection products and pollinators. The loss of either one could have
devastating consequences not only for industry but for all of us as consumers.
Some of our members are the biggest clients of commercial beekeepers in the
country. In fact, one of the big issues, particularly for horticulture, is the
lack of available bees for pollination.
One thing is clear: Both beekeepers and horticulture producers, and other
stakeholders, are working together to find a fair and reasonable solution that
meets the needs and protects the interests of all parties affected. Our sector
is fully committed to doing so.
In closing, there are growth opportunities ahead for both producers and
beekeepers. I have no doubt that the commitment from each, as well as from other
relevant stakeholders, will ensure that these opportunities are realized.
Successful coexistence and solutions are not optional. They have to happen.
Michel-Antoine Renaud, Managing Director, Canadian Ornamental Horticulture
Alliance: Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the committee for listening to
our presentations and taking them into consideration. First, I will present an
overview of the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance, or COHA, and then Mr.
Gates will speak to you about more technical topics that have to do with bees.
The Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance brings together three Canadian
associations representing greenhouse flower growers, nursery growers,
landscapers, landscape architects and, in fact, the entire ornamental
horticulture value chain across the country.
It is an alliance of three associations, the Canadian Landscape Nursery
Association, or CLNA, Flowers Canada Growers and the Fédération
interdisciplinaire de l'horticulture ornementale du Québec. These three
associations formed an alliance to speak with one voice on subjects of national
significance in Canada.
Its mission is to offer a unified voice that represents and promotes
sustainable priorities for Canadian ornamental horticulture. As regards the
issue of bee and pollinator health, we believe we have a potential solution to
offer. In both urban and rural areas, ornamental horticulture, flowers and
plants are very important and can offer solutions for their health.
I will share some numbers with you to give you an idea of the size of this
industry. The total value of Canadian farm gate, nursery and greenhouse sales is
$1.75 billion. This industry has an economic impact of more than $14.5 billion,
employing more than 200,000 Canadians, of which 38,000 are involved in primary
Production for exportation accounts for $266 million, with over 2,000 acres
of greenhouses, just under 60,000 acres of nurseries and over 60,000 acres of
sod farms. Canada has approximately 350 commercial greenhouse growers, which
produce $1.13 billion in cut flowers, potted plants and bedding plants —
basically, everything you use in your gardens every summer, to beautify your
homes, cities, parks and botanical gardens.
For nurseries and sod farms, there are approximately 3,500 nurseries and 400
sod farms. Among the four broad themes that you are addressing as a committee,
two in particular are relevant to ornamental horticulture. The first involves
the factors affecting honeybee health, including disease, parasites and
pesticides in Canada and globally, and the other point concerns strategies for
governments, producers and industry to ensure bee health.
Ornamental horticulture has the advantage of bringing together a wide
selection of crops. Introducing a wide variety of flowers and plants also
provides a wide variety of food options for bees that, as it happens, keeps them
healthier. There are Canadian and international studies on urban bee health that
link the variety of food sources offered by ornamental horticulture to bee
health. As part of ornamental horticulture, there is also the greening of urban
and rural landscapes as a result of cultivating flowering plants. This is
another way that bees are offered a wider variety of foods.
Ornamental horticulture also has other unique advantages. It filters out
pollutants, produces oxygen and acts as a CO2 sink. It provides
shade, reduces urban heat islands, reduces soil erosion and protects water
I could go on about other advantages of ornamental horticulture, but I would
like to talk about the advantages for pollinators. Ornamentals give them a
habitat and also increase the number of beekeeping zones in urban areas. There
is a recent trend of bringing beekeeping into urban areas, setting up hives for
producing honey. Studies have shown that the honey is not the same quality; in
fact, the quality of honey produced in urban areas is often higher, because of
the wider variety of plants and flowers that are being pollinated.
The second part pertains to production in greenhouses and nurseries. The
flowers for resale or export have to be perfect. You have all bought flowers for
a special occasion. You know that there can be no missing petals or little
imperfections, and that is what the producers have to provide to their
wholesalers and retailers.
To do so, the ornamental horticulture industry in Canada became a leader
internationally in terms of integrated pest management, because pesticide
registration is very limited in Canada and the number of tools available is
quite limited. It is important to have many options available for controlling
insects and pests. Given the limited number of pesticides we have access to,
biopesticides and bioinsecticides have become very important in the fight
against pests. However, we need products such as neonicotinoids in our arsenal
for certain situations.
It is important to remember that science is what decides these issues. We are
interested in participating in discussion groups because it is a very important
topic. We can offer a solution for pollinator and bee health. Our participation
can be positive, and it is important for us to participate.
I will now turn it over to my colleague Cary Gates, who will talk to you
about the technical aspects of pest control.
Cary Gates, Pest Management Director, Flowers Canada Growers: Thank
you. It's an honour and a privilege to speak to this group today. Thank you for
I wanted to speak more specifically to some of the production practices that
are involved in the cultivation of ornamental plants, and to follow up on some
of the comments my colleague Michel-Antoine has made.
Typically, consumers of many agricultural commodities have little tolerance
for aesthetically imperfect products. That's an important distinction that needs
to be made. It holds true in conventional agricultural production as well.
Consumers really do demand products that are flawless, be they a flower or a
shrub, and will tolerate little damage. As a result, pesticides and other pest
management tools are really a critical part of their production.
That being said, it is important to appreciate that pesticides are applied by
professionals, by legally licensed applicators, who utilize the legal labels
that are approved by Health Canada and follow strict IPM practices. Flowers
Canada Growers and COHA — the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance — have
considerable faith in the regulatory systems in place with Health Canada and
through Agriculture Canada as well.
I mentioned that we do rely on pesticides, but that is not the primary
approach that growers would utilize. The primary strategies growers would
utilize would be biological control agents. We conducted a survey two to three
years ago and determined that approximately 90 per cent of growers were
utilizing biological control agents in some capacity, be they biopesticides or
That being said, there are other strategies that need to be utilized.
Cultural controls such as environmental conditioning are also employed, as well
as chemical controls.
It has to be said, though, that many farmers prefer not to use pesticides.
They are costly and are a last resort when utilized in production. When
threatened by disease or insect pests, the farmer's livelihood often requires of
necessity chemical controls.
I know that part of the mandate of this group is to look at some strategies
to ensure bee health. We looked at this internally ourselves and determined that
there are roles to play for many players. We felt that there was a role for
government to play in the ability to ensure bee health. I think that the
continued monitoring and research of the issues surrounding bees and pollinators
generally need to continue. I think the support of Health Canada and its
mandates, domestic and international, needs to continue in a serious way,
alongside Agriculture Canada, the NAFTA Technical Working Group on Pesticides,
the US EPA's efforts in this regard. I think government also needs to continue
to use a science-based review of all the contributors to the decline of
pollinators and the issues that surround that.
Communication with stakeholders is critical. Opportunities like this are a
real example of that commitment to a transparent process.
Furthermore, thorough consideration of the decisions that are made, be they
at the federal, provincial or municipal level, needs to be taken into account,
and how the impacts of those decisions can be felt truly at the farm level.
Producers have a role to play as well. Producers, farmers, need to continue
to be responsible stewards of the land. Strategic pesticide use is a critical
part of that, but the increased use of cultural controls and biological controls
is important as well.
Producers need to embrace the adoption of new approaches, technologies such
as sprayer technologies and the way that pesticides are applied, as well as the
design of structures that could be growing ornamental plants or crops such as
I think growers need to continue to support Health Canada and Agriculture
Canada in their efforts to delve into this issue. I also think that farmers have
an ability to communicate directly with the public. That is a role they need to
play in terms of getting a transparent understanding to the public, the
purchasers of crops, be they ornamental or otherwise. It really needs to happen.
The industry needs to play a part in this as well. They have obviously
benefited financially from the sales of pest management tools. Some of these
activities continue to occur, but I think research endeavours need to be
expanded into some of the sources of the decline in bee populations.
I think collaborations need to continue with interested parties, beekeepers,
regulators and farmers. Industry also needs to continue to support the
integration of new application technologies, as I mentioned before. That would
include also releasing newer targeted pest management tools.
Finally, industry needs to continue to promote the further use of biological
control agents as well as biorational products.
Generally, the public — all parties — need to commit to a solution that will
satisfy everyone and not just their own individual industries. I think we need
to continue to monitor factual trends worldwide. We need to commit to research
activities that explore the full scope of this issue, and we need to maintain
professional and respectful communication among all stakeholders.
Some final thoughts on this issue: I think the pollinator decline issue is
highly complex and extremely difficult to attribute to one specific cause. There
has been considerable discussion on neonicotinoid pesticides. It's important to
remember that those tools can be used responsibly and have been used responsibly
in the past, and for our industry specifically are used, as an example, for
quarantinable pests of ornamental products that are shipped to the U.S. If we
were to lose them, for example, we could lose our ability to market some of our
products to one of our largest trading partners.
With that, I will say thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Gates. We will move for the final
presentation to Dr. Lynch from Dalhousie University.
Derek Lynch, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Organic
Agriculture, Dalhousie University: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. On behalf
of myself and my colleagues at the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada at
Dalhousie University, I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to
speak on this critical topic of bee health. Also, I'm going to talk mostly about
the potential role of farming systems and farming practices in support of wild
bee populations in particular.
This is a complex issue with increasing research focused on identifying the
role of pesticides and persistent pesticides versus the role of habitat,
fragmentation or loss of habitat, and even issues such as potential pathogen
spillover from commercial bumblebees to native bumblebee species.
I know the committee has had presentations on organic farming before that
would prohibit the use of the neonicotinoids and persistent pesticides, and that
has been the focus of ongoing and necessary research on their impact on bee
health. I'm not going to focus on those at all. I'm going to talk about what
other aspects of the farming system might actually promote beneficial practices
that might actually promote and support wild pollinators and bee communities,
and whether organic farming in and of itself may be specifically beneficial in
this regard, what is known from the research in Canada, in particular.
A bit of background on organic: the Canadian organic standards, which were
published five years ago and are referenced within federal regulations in
Canada, are similar to organic farming standards around the world. If you look
at page 1 of the Canadian organic standards, the primary principles actually
refer to the environmental benefits of the farming system itself. There is no
claim around the product; it's about the nature of the farming system.
A number of those goals refer to issues such as preserving biodiversity on
the farm. It's an ongoing question whether that is achieved, but the goal is to
preserve biodiversity on the farm. In that sense, organic farming can be
considered a form of agro-ecology, which seeks to optimize yield but at the same
time maintain biodiversity and ecosystem services within the farming system.
My own research and colleagues have, over the last 10 years increasingly in
Canada, looked at aspects of this, such as nutrient intensity, nitrogen and
phosphorous loading, energy use in organic farming, soil and organic matter
quality and quantity, biologic activity in the soil looking at various
below-ground biodiversity, and soil health. Generally, perhaps unsurprisingly,
most research will confirm that organic farming is inherently less intensive,
almost by definition, and tends to be more variable or spatially complex in
terms of the rotations and the type of crops on the farms, at least in terms of
However, to date, with perhaps Europe as an exception, there has been little
research to link this difference, if it is a big difference in farming system,
to benefits to pollinators. Especially in North America, there has been very
little research. I will touch on the few published papers of interest that do
try to draw a link between farming practices or the farming system and support
of native bee populations.
We don't really know the relative influence of avoidance of pesticides.
What's the relative influence of reducing nutrient intensity? What's the
relative influence of habitat diversity on support of native pollinators?
What is the contribution of non-crop areas on the farm? Does the complexity
of the surrounding landscape matter in terms of the influence of the farm itself
or even the farming system? The landscape complexity may dominate.
This committee, of course, is here because of the urgency and importance of
this issue of pollination as an ecosystem service, serving 800 cultivated crops
globally, it is estimated, and 35 per cent of the global food supply.
Agricultural intensification and loss of habitat is also our biggest challenge
internationally. The UNEP, FAO and other bodies recognize that we have an issue
of loss of biodiversity because of agricultural intensification.
Wild bee populations require suitable nesting sites within close proximity of
a diversity of floral resources for both nectar and pollen, so they are
particularly sensitive to agricultural intensification, and loss of plant
diversity is the primary driver of loss of pollinators in agro-ecosystems.
For example, bumblebee nest density has been shown to be linked to floral
resources within a kilometre of their sampling sites, and studies out of Europe,
such as one I cite, Le Féon, looked at the relationship, across four European
countries, of agricultural intensity, and they used the indices of nitrogen
input, livestock density and pesticide use and found a negative effect on
species' richness, abundance and diversity of wild bees. Half of those were
On the other hand, having some permanent grassland in the landscape really
moderated that effect and offset the effect and enhanced species' richness.
We know that high nitrogen inputs can reduce floral resources, both in field
and sometimes in field margins. Excellent work by ecologists in Ontario has
shown that, even in field margins, herbicide drift, at very low dosage levels,
over time does influence the vegetative diversity and the floral diversity in
the field margin.
In Ontario, recent studies by York University and others demonstrated a
dramatic decrease in bumblebee community abundance and species' richness over
the past 35 years.
Switching away from cropland to grassland and pastures, it's kind of the same
story in terms of increasing intensity of nutrient use. Nitrogen and phosphorous
do shift vegetative complexity and reduce floral diversity in grasslands.
Studies in Ireland with pastures have shown a link with pollinators on organic
dairy farms benefiting from greater floral diversity. Organic livestock
production requires pastures and forage production in particular. That is often
permanent grassland with lower nutrient intensity use.
There has been lots of research and reviews from Europe over the last 20
years. If there is one thing they have shown about organic farming systems, it
is that they tend to have higher vegetative diversity. When I tell that to
organic farmers, they say, ``We sure do. We have lots of weeds.'' We are not
necessarily talking about weeds. Let me give an example from a wonderful study
by an ecologist, Celine Boutin, a series of papers in 30 farms in eastern
Ontario back from late 2008 on. I always admire the work of ecologists because
it is so comprehensive. They looked at vegetative diversity and native and
exotic flowers, both in field and in hedgerows on paired farms — organic and
conventional farms. Consistent with the reviews and studies elsewhere around the
world, the vegetative diversity was always higher on the organic farms, but it
wasn't necessarily weeds that would be of concern to crop production. We are
talking about sometimes exotic forest species, often quite rare ones, that were
more abundant in the hedgerows and also the habitat diversity. So it wasn't just
the crop management. The habitat diversity, particularly in the hedgerows, was
higher on the organic farms. Organic farms, if you look at the organic
standards, are often required to maintain buffer strips of up to eight metres
wide between the crop area and the adjacent crop area of a non-organic farm.
These are very often hedgerows and windbreaks, and we have almost no data on the
vegetative diversity of these mandatory non- crop strips, which may be providing
this ecosystem service from coast to coast.
In Germany, the links between vegetative diversity and actual pollinators and
pollination on organic farms have been demonstrated, but there are few Canadian
studies that have explored the farming system and the influence of landscape and
of complexity on pollinators and wild bee community diversity.
One series of studies in northern Alberta, by Morandin and other authors, did
look at native wild bee abundance and what they called ``pollination deficit.''
How far short of 100 per cent seed set was achieved in canola that was either
genetically modified, conventional canola — non-modified — and organic canola.
They found almost 100 per cent seed set in the organic field, and it dropped off
to a 16 per cent deficit pollination deficit in the conventional field and 22
per cent deficit — lack of seed set — in the GM field. It was directly linked to
a corresponding decrease in in-field floral diversity and support for wild
pollinators across the different farming systems.
However, again, this issue is influenced by landscape. The same researchers
looked at the following: What if there were pastures or permanent grassland
within a kilometre or so of these fields as well? That aspect again, just like
in Europe, compensated for what was going on in the field. So having some
permanent grassland in the immediate vicinity no doubt provided habitat and
floral resources as well.
They actually did a cost-benefit analysis, which I will not go into here, of
seed loss versus having more landscape complexity, which is a very useful study.
Other work back in Alberta, a study by James et al., found that the
semi-natural habitat was more abundant on organic farms and supported more
bumblebees. So they were suggesting that organic farms should perhaps be used as
a refuge in the landscape, especially if we are talking about intensively
In Europe, they've been asking that question a little longer, and there's
something of a controversy in the literature. In some cases in Europe they are
saying, ``We shouldn't put organic farms as a refuge in the landscape in
intensively managed agricultural land, but we should do that in less intensive
agricultural land where the yield trade-off is not so high.''
Finally, I am talking mostly about diversity on the landscape, in the farm
and in the field margins as major influences on wild pollinator support. That is
undoubtedly influenced as well by the rotation design in field cropping. If you
have a more complex rotation, you end up with a more complex landscape. Organic
farms are almost unavoidably required to have longer and more complex rotations.
They have to build up the fertility biologically using legumes and other crops.
Having these longer rotations, there is little research on whether or not that
directly benefits pollinators, but we can infer that it probably does. Legumes
are a mass flowering crop, very attractive to pollinators. Having legumes in
rotation by itself is a benefit. Even that one-year break in soil disturbance in
the field — less tillage — has been shown in studies in Europe and elsewhere to
benefit bumblebees and ground nesting pollinators.
In summary, organic farming and livestock production through enhanced
provision of both habitat and floral resources very likely contributes to the
maintenance of wild bee populations. I say ``very likely'' because we have two
studies in Canada to hint at this. This is likely due to increased spatial and
temporal complexity on organic farms, avoidance of herbicides and herbicide
drift into field margins, the lack of GMO crops, reduced intensity of nitrogen
and phosphorous use, and reduced livestock density and enhanced habitat
diversity associated with hedgerows, windbreak and pastures generally. However,
I would not be a researcher if I did not say this: More research is needed
within Canada — however it truly is on this topic — to improve our understanding
of both habitat and floral resource biodiversity at the field, farm and
landscape scale and the interplay of those, as affected by farming system, in
providing this key ecosystem service.
Can organic farms be promoted as biodiversity reservoirs and help with
ecological intensification of agro- ecosystems? It will probably vary across
systems and landscapes in Canada. Perhaps all we need to do is an aspect of
farmscaping and build in non-crop habitat and it is not an issue of farming
system; it is more a farming practice issue. Long-term studies that looked at
the entire rotation would be beneficial as well. Thank you very much.
Senator Tardif: Thank you for your excellent presentations.
Dr. Lynch, you presented an eloquent case for organic farming in Canada and
its effect on promoting pollinator health. How can governments promote organic
farming in Canada? What is being done currently, and how should governments
broaden their policies? What can be done to incorporate this organic farming so
as to encourage more crop rotation, crop diversity and changing the farming
Mr. Lynch: I would qualify that. I am not sure on this issue that I am
exclusively promoting organic farming. I am promoting perhaps an agro-ecological
approach, and organic farming may be one method of developing that.
As in many aspects of my research, I found it is often the farming practice
that tends to be found on organic farms, but it is not exclusive to organic
farms that it is beneficial, if you understand what I mean.
Senator Tardif: Yes, I do.
Mr. Lynch: The second part of your question on what is being done
currently, it is quite a lot. The organic standard that I mentioned and the
revisions to that organic standard are an important task currently being
undertaken; that is being funded by the federal government. Additional funding
is going to the organic trade sector for promotion of the organic sector and
international trade issues.
Within the production of organic farming, in particular, there is the federal
science cluster program funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. We just
finished the previous round of the organic science cluster and are hopeful we
will be into a second round over the next three or four years, funding a
diversity of research programs across the country.
However, it is an industry partnership program, and you can probably guess
what I am going to get at. This issue tends to fall between the cracks: Which
industry partner should take the lead in championing landscape diversity and
vegetative diversity? It is more a broad public benefit we are talking about,
especially when we are talking about wild pollinators. Some specific sectors
aside — clearly blueberries were mentioned — have a strong vested interest in
looking at research like this.
For broader field crops, it is not obvious as to who the industry partner
would be. I think there is a role for more agro-ecosystem-type funding. They
have recognized that in other jurisdictions, particularly in Europe. They have
had 10 or 20 years now of seeing the benefits of modifying specific aspects of
the agriculture ecosystem, not always promoting organic farming. It is varied by
region. If you look at the research now, they are seeing the benefits of the
slowing down of loss of bumblebee diversity.
We do not have to reinvent the wheel, but this is a crosscutting issue that
we would need some particular funding for.
Senator Tardif: Mr. Renaud, would you like to add something?
Mr. Renaud: In fact, I agree with Mr. Lynch as regards how to
determine who should play a leadership role. It is a pretty grey area. The
Canadian Horticultural Council and the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance
applied to the same Agriculture Canada research cluster program with projects
funded by public-private partnerships. We are all waiting to hear back. The
situation is the same; it is falling through the cracks. It is a matter of
public concern, a general question that affects so many areas that it ends up
back in the hands of Agriculture Canada for research funding. It might be a good
idea to establish a chair on the study of pollinator health in Canada so this
information can be obtained from one point or so research can be focused in one
place. That way, each of the industry players could work with the chair.
Senator Tardif: Thank you very much for your excellent suggestion. Mr.
Chair, I will come back to this during the second round of questions.
Senator Buth: Thank you very much for being here this evening. Ms.
Fowlie, you made a comment that we need to look for a fair and reasonable
solution to protect bees and crops.
Do you have a sense of what that solution might be?
Ms. Fowlie: In many regards, a lot of it has been evolving and is
either currently under way or coming into play.
There are so many partnerships, whether it is with the manufacturers,
producer groups our regulatory bodies, be they in Canada or elsewhere. There are
a lot of partnerships and information exchange going on.
Comments were made about producers and management practices and recognizing
roles and responsibilities for all. Certainly many things are going on there.
You've heard in previous testimony — I did mention Oxford, and certainly there
are a number of others — where clearly those kinds of commitments have been made
to manage the pollinator aspects of those operations, as well as a real
commitment to understanding the differences between managing for pollination or
bees for honey.
There's a tremendous will among all of the players in the industry to share
that kind of information. Again, it is roles and responsibilities for everyone,
regardless of the size of operation, because good management practices and
advancing and adopting and learning about a number of those practices are
applicable to all.
Senator Buth: You made the comment that you were at a workshop today.
Do you have strong linkages with some of the beekeeping organizations, like the
Canadian Honey Council?
Ms. Fowlie: I was not there; one of our team was. Yes, we do have
linkages, either directly through our organization or through our members. In
the last five weeks, I've met with the Canadian Honey Council, with the Alberta
beekeepers, so we have a number of those linkages.
Certainly, there was a lot of dialogue among various partners at our recent
annual meeting a few weeks ago. A number of those players were present. Again,
it was a forum for people to have dialogue and exchange information: What are
you doing? What's this group doing? Where is the PMRA? Where is Agriculture
Senator Buth: There are calls for PMRA to ban the neonics. What would
be your comment on that?
Ms. Fowlie: We do not support that.
Senator Buth: Why?
Ms. Fowlie: As I said, we do believe in science and science-based
approaches. I'm not a scientist, but I don't believe, based on some of what
we're seeing, that the rationale for doing that is justified. We need to look at
the unintended consequences that can come from taking those kinds of actions.
Everybody acknowledges it's a very complicated issue, and it will take
everyone to successfully manage it. There are so many opportunities for growth
of the sector, and that includes all the beekeepers and the pollinators. There
are tremendous opportunities for them as well; they also want to be positioned
to take advantage of them.
Senator Buth: Mr. Gates, you made a comment towards the end of your
presentation that I'm not sure I understood. I didn't write the whole thing
down, but it was about the loss of products in terms of exports to the U.S.
Mr. Gates: There's a quarantinable pest that if detected on entry to
the United States on a plant, for example, could result in the closing of that
border to some of those ornamental products. Japanese beetle, Popillia
japonica, is the common name of the pest. Neonicotinoids are used to control
that pest in Canada.
If we were to lose those products, we may lose the ability to control the
pest. If there was an interception at the border, we might lose access to an
extremely valuable market, resulting in financial hardship for Canadian farmers.
Senator Buth: What types of products would be going into the U.S.?
Mr. Gates: Typically nursery products, amongst others.
Senator Robichaud: Ms. Fowlie, I believe I understood from your
presentation that, at a certain time, there were not enough bees for
pollinating. Could this inhibit the growth of your industry?
Ms. Fowlie: It is true that it is a challenge. There are ways to
stimulate industry growth, but it also takes bees to sustain this growth.
Senator Robichaud: Has it come to that yet?
Ms. Fowlie: Stakeholders are very aware of the possibilities and the
challenges for addressing the problems that have been identified. I firmly
believe that all the stakeholders are working to ensure that it does not become
a more serious problem that would impact growth.
Senator Robichaud: Everyone says that we need to rely on science when
it comes to pesticides and all crop-related matters, but I am sure you would
agree that the science needs to be cutting edge. The studies we are relying on
are already quite a few years old. They are being reviewed right now, and you
are supporting these efforts, is that not right?
Ms. Fowlie: Definitely, science must follow progress closely, but Mr.
Lynch also said that more research could always be done to support our efforts.
We will have to wait to see what will happen after and what the findings will be
from the various research and working groups in place, whether in Canada, the
United States or other countries.
Senator Robichaud: Dr. Lynch, how much do we know about wild
Mr. Lynch: Not enough. I'm not an entomologist, but I enjoy talking
with them, and my reading of the topic. I'm an agronomist who is drawn into
agro-ecology, but I'm not an entomologist.
The bumblebees are a very important wild pollinator and seem to dominate in
many ecosystems. I'm reading recent studies where we're benchmarking changes in
species decline only within the last few years and only within Ontario and other
regions. From my understanding, we have a lot to do in terms of increasing our
understanding of what we have in terms of wild pollinators, but more
importantly, their differences in habitat and landscape need, their sensitivity
to agriculture, and how we can support them. Of course, we can target the
dominant ones first. That's my reading of our current understanding.
Senator Robichaud: You said they are very important and ``they seem to
be.'' It's just assumptions we are making at this moment?
Mr. Lynch: The bumblebee decline?
Senator Robichaud: Yes.
Mr. Lynch: The study by Colla from York University, I believe, was
fairly extensive and looked at about 14 species of bumblebees. While some had
actually increased, and they had data from 35 years previously from the same
sites in Ontario, and, amazingly, they were able to go back and monitor the same
sites and they found that for some species they couldn't find them anymore.
We've lost the richness, the range of diversity, according to that one study.
Again, it varies. We may have shifted the landscape so some species can adapt
and aren't as sensitive. Some species require season-long nectar supply and
would be very sensitive, if we have just one crop flowering for two weeks. You
can imagine how this is ongoing. There seems to be a lack of benchmark for many
of these wild pollinators.
Senator Robichaud: Would you agree with the suggestion that was made
that there should be one authority, a chair established somewhere that would
sort of channel all the efforts into the study of pollinators?
Mr. Lynch: I think that's a very good suggestion, and I definitely
think there's a need for that.
Senator Robichaud: Are you thanking me?
The Chair: I will reiterate what the doctor said: It was a good
Senator Rivard: Senator Buth asked Ms. Fowlie several questions about
neonicotinoids. I do not think I heard your answer. Is the Canadian
Horticultural Alliance for or against the use of neonicotinoids?
Ms. Fowlie: We are in favour of their use.
Senator Rivard: You know the European Union has declared a two-year
moratorium on neonicotinoids, even though there is no proof that they are
harmful. It is my understanding that you do not think Canada should impose a
Ms. Fowlie: That is correct.
Senator Rivard: I would like to hear more about your strategic plan.
You want the alliance to be known as the voice of the Canadian industry. In
addition to the federal government, most provinces have their own ministries of
agriculture. Are you consulted, heard or listened to about your activities? Your
only link is with the federal government.
Mr. Renaud: That is the strategic plan of the Canadian Ornamental
Horticulture Alliance. They are two separate organizations.
Senator Rivard: As regards COHA, that is you?
Mr. Renaud: Yes.
Senator Rivard: Do you consult only with the federal government, or do
you have relationships with some of the provincial ministries of agriculture?
Most provinces have their own ministry.
Mr. Renaud: We also have relationships at the provincial level. In
fact, the structure is quite similar to that of the Canadian Horticultural
Council. The Canadian alliance acts at the federal level. It is an alliance of
associations that, in turn, have provincial or regional mandates. The alliance
itself does not have any relationships except at the federal level. However, its
members have relationships at the provincial level.
Senator Rivard: As far as research and innovation goes, do you have an
idea of the funding envelope the federal government invests in this area? Are we
talking about tens of millions of dollars? You will probably say that the amount
is insufficient. However, what is the actual amount you receive from the federal
government for research?
Mr. Renaud: We are talking about approximately $1 million a year.
Compared with what we received some 20 years ago, we have lost about 90 per cent
of our research dollars in ornamental horticulture. At this time, most of the
research funds are distributed through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research
clusters. The cluster that just came to an end, for a three-year period, was
worth just under three million dollars.
Senator Rivard: In your brief, you mention that exports are worth $266
Mr. Renaud: Yes.
Senator Rivard: Does this mean the primary market is the United
States, or do you export around the world?
Mr. Renaud: Ninety-eight percent of the Canadian ornamental
horticulture export market is to the United States. Phytosanitary risks are
involved in exporting plants because of the soil. Research is being done, for
example, on exporting bare-root trees. Markets like Asia, Europe, Russia and
Germany are particularly interested in garden roses and larger trees, but in the
bare-root varieties, without any soil.
Senator Rivard: I understand that we export a lot more than we import.
Some countries export to Canada. I am thinking of Holland, not necessarily for
tulips, but other countries, for Japanese plants, for example. I am under the
impression that we have a deficit in this area, where we are importing more than
we are exporting?
Mr. Renaud: We import more than we export, but only in the last
several years. In 2004-05, we set the record for exporting Canadian ornamental
horticulture. We exported half a billion to the United States. Today, we are
sitting at around a quarter of a billion. There has been an increase in imports,
especially thanks to the free-trade agreement with Colombia. This country
produces a very high volume of flowers. So there is an ever-increasing volume of
Colombian flowers being imported. We have come back to our commercial base and
we are in a deficit by about 100 million.
Senator Cordy: I'm not a regular member of the committee, but it's
certainly a fascinating study and very interesting.
You spoke earlier in response to a question about dealing with the provincial
and federal governments. What are the challenges of industry? You're dealing
with Health Canada, Agriculture Canada, and provincial departments.
Municipalities have also gotten into banning pesticides and other kinds of
How challenging is it to be dealing with different levels of government?
Mr. Renaud: Do you want the candid answer?
Senator Cordy: Yes, I do.
Mr. Renaud: I'll give you the candid answer. There is a dramatic shift
of moving the responsibility of all those tasks onto the private sector. What
industry associations have been doing is picking up basically that
responsibility. Agriculture Canada, CFIA and PMRA used to have quite a lot of
staff that would support information, the research to register new pesticides
and the research in order to do exports or just do scientific research. That has
been shifted towards the private, where we, as associations, have been investing
our association dollars into all of this. Our teams have been growing, where we
have now experts on those files. We have trade experts, pesticide experts,
research experts, et cetera. We are starting now to manage a lot of those files.
It is challenging because the resources in terms of the dollars we get from
our producers aren't really changing. The amount of money they have allotted in
their budget to support their industry association isn't changing from year to
year. Yet the federal government has been transferring responsibility to those
associations. It's challenging. We have to wear a lot of hats at the same time.
Ms. Fowlie: Exactly. He makes good points. Certainly, resources are
limited everywhere. I think we recognize and are respectful of all the fiscal
constraints that go on everywhere.
At the end of the day, commitments to food and agriculture are basic to
society, so there are definitely some concerns there.
As for the communication piece, it's most important, and probably a lot of
times it's one of those things that are always on the side of the desk, and
maybe there isn't as much attention paid to it as should be.
On this particular issue, with what we're seeing with provincial working
groups and some of the initiatives that are now going on federally and the
linkages through national associations, and as Michel-Antoine says, we are both
associations of associations, so it's very important that we're communicating
with our members as well regarding what is going on in the different provinces.
There are opportunities for folks to speak with each other.
Again, the commitments to agriculture and food are so important. We can't
always be comparing ourselves to other countries or what's going on with our
competitors, but certainly there are quite some disparities between us and some
of our competitors.
Senator Cordy: This committee will be looking, obviously, from the
federal perspective. Where would you like to see federal leadership coming in
terms of helping the industry and helping the healthy pollinators, which is what
the committee is looking at? A couple of you mentioned that scientific research
is extremely important as well as communication.
Mr. Gates, you spoke about involving stakeholders. What would you like to
have as the best role of the federal agencies in terms of industry and research?
Mr. Gates: I really like the idea of a pollinator chair. I think that
would be a very helpful endeavour to take on. There's a lot of scientific
evidence out there from a lot of different sources, some with biases that may or
may not be reflective of the actual practices on the ground. I think having
someone to sift through what is being reported out there is very important.
There's a lot of miscommunication that is translated. Having an impartial
evaluator would be extremely valuable.
Senator Cordy: Dr. Lynch, you spoke about a lack of benchmarks for
comparing whether or not we actually have healthy pollinators, whether the
numbers are going up or down. Would you expand on that a little bit?
Mr. Lynch: I should mention that some national studies have recently
been completed. My colleague, Dr. Chris Cutler, and I believe he spoke to a
committee a few months ago, was part of that CANPOLIN study. I think there's
probably other research, very recent, that may contribute to our understanding.
I hope I'm not being too quick in saying, but it's fair to say there's a lot we
don't understand about the basic ecology of native pollinators. It's not just a
question of their abundance or whether the abundance is going up or down. It's
their basic requirements in terms of habitat and flower resources and how we can
Even their contribution to different crops really varies. Our understanding
of their contribution to hugely important crops is still very recent, which is
astonishing, really, because this free ecosystem service is hugely important.
You see estimates that widely vary from the U.S. and elsewhere as to the
financial value of the native pollinators. Probably it's true, as we move into
more extensive landscapes and field crops, that's probably where they're
contributing the most, we can guess, and we know the least about, compared to
intensively managed fruit and vegetable crops where we can perhaps do things in
a more targeted way.
I think there's a real need for fundamental ecology and entomology work, but
then there are obviously very specific short-term things that have to be
addressed as well — I think a targeted effort.
I was thinking of this today. I sometimes think this issue is like where we
were 40 years ago, before the advent of integrated pest management, and we
thought we could manage pests with inputs in a simplistic way. Then we realized
there's a trade-off at some point between the ecosystem and we need a more
sophisticated approach and we need everybody involved — entomologists,
ecologists and people who know pest management and crop managers and everybody
else. This is an even larger ecosystem service in terms of pollination, and
we're in a simplistic mode of bringing in honeybees. I'm probably being unfair
to those who manage these crops, but in a way there is an analogy. Now we look
back and IPM is standard practice. We take a much more subtle approach. It's
crop-specific and region- specific, depending on native predators, et cetera.
Now we need to do the same thing with pollination: Get to know what's there,
what's helping us, be sensitive to them, find out what they need and then
supplement that, if need be. We have to do the same decades of work around IPM,
except with pollination. I think that's a good analogy.
Senator Eaton: Professor Lynch, we're kind of caught between a rock
and a hard place, aren't we? If 9 billion people are going to live on the globe
in 2050, we have to keep intensifying our agriculture, but at the same time we
need our pollinators. To respond to Senator Tardif's question, should there be a
huge push on education?
I'm sure you remember, as I do, that in Britain they did away with their
hedgerows for a long time, the big field, the big machinery. But isn't that
slowly changing? We've heard from many witnesses now from Western Canada where
they're coming back, and in Ontario, too. They're coming back to the idea of
indigenous strips of land, indigenous plants, strips of land between fields.
Have you noticed that? Has that come up in your research, that it's more
Mr. Lynch: I think that's true. There are some specific programs. I
know there was the program in Quebec by MAPAQ, the Ministry of Agriculture in
Quebec, that may still be going on that was sponsoring hedgerow support planting
in Quebec and multi-functionality, i.e., looking at diversity.
In Britain, I think they have turned the corner in terms of at least stopping
the collapse of bumblebees, and much of it is due to 20 years of agro-ecosystem
service programs, EU programs, where farmers are being sponsored to maintain
their hedgerows. I've been in farms in Britain where they have been asked to
hesitate to cut the first cut of the pasture field so you can have wildflowers
for pollinators. It's a bit like the industry question: Who pays and who
supports? Where do we start in developing?
Senator Eaton: That comes down to economics, doesn't it? Are you
hopeful that economics will drive farmers to encourage indigenous grasslands,
indigenous flowers, strips of land, hedgerows? When they see that the
pollinators are becoming more and more expensive, do you think economics will
drive this? Are you hopeful about that or not?
Mr. Lynch: We don't have to look all the way to Europe. Some of this
has been adopted as standard practice in intensive horticultural systems in
California. There's been work for quite a while on managed floral strips in
those farming systems.
Senator Eaton: Are you talking about maybe in the almond orchards?
Mr. Lynch: Not just in the almond orchards, but I think in fruit and
intensive vegetable production, fundamental work showing the added benefit of
provisioning for pollinators. I think we can do that on a crop-by-crop basis to
some degree, look at the cost-benefit.
Senator Eaton: I know that Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centre in
Austin, Texas, started the whole movement of making sure you didn't cut the
grass along the verges in the highways. She wanted to do that.
Mr. Lynch: Right. It doesn't necessarily have to be hedgerows.
Senator Eaton: It can be along our roads.
Mr. Lynch: Right. I was trying to get across the point that landscape
and landscape complexity add to the complexity of this issue, because sometimes
you have perhaps all you need in the surrounding landscape. It's not necessarily
all back to the farmer and the crop and offsetting yield. It may be just
maintaining that landscape diversity.
Senator Eaton: At Dalhousie University, are you promoting that to your
students? Do you go out and talk about that?
Mr. Lynch: Yes, and look at issues. We'll see weed levels, and some of
them are worried about weed levels. We try to make them think about economic
thresholds of weeds and floral diversity, what the trade-offs are. Few studies
have actually looked at the cost-benefit analysis. The study in canola did look
at the cost-benefit analysis of the loss of seeds versus putting land into
grassland, 10 or 20 per cent of the surrounding landscape, and looked at that
There's some extensive work in Europe on literally these kinds of analyses of
offsetting crop yield versus maintenance of biodiversity. Again, it may be there
in the landscape and we just need to sustain it. We don't necessarily have to
target the farmer with having to make these choices.
Senator Eaton: No. There are other places.
Mr. Lynch: Yes.
Senator Eaton: Thank you. Do you have any idea, garden centres, tree
farms, how good their pesticide management practices are on the whole?
Mr. Gates: I would say very good, generally.
Senator Eaton: I understand because I had a very tiny greenhouse once.
You want to produce the perfect plant. You want to sell a rose that doesn't have
a leaf half eaten. I understand that completely and sympathize with you.
However, are people using the most progressive management systems, as far as you
Mr. Gates: If we think about a garden centre as hundreds of crops or
maybe 100 crops that they are selling, you have to be able to manage pests on a
level for each crop. In order to do that effectively, you have to really
understand the biology of the crop and of the pest and how to control those
crops and those environments. No one pesticide will solve that problem, so it is
a very holistic approach, in some respects. That is why many growers have turned
to using biological control agents, as opposed to pesticides, especially in
Senator Eaton: Are bees less attracted to hybrid plants over native
Mr. Gates: I don't have an answer to that.
Mr. Renaud: I don't have an answer either, but my guess would be this:
Why would the bee see the difference in a flower?
Senator Eaton: They have butterfly-friendly plants. Birds like
stronger colours than others. That all has an effect.
Mr. Renaud: But the production variety that is provided by the
industry is actually giving quite a range of colours.
To continue on your question on economics and using pesticides, there is a
section of cost there for the nursery or for the greenhouse.
Senator Eaton: I guess I meant it the other way around. What I meant
was, will the cost of not having pollinators drive people to adopt better
farming systems, farming practices, greenhouse practices? I meant it the other
Mr. Renaud: That really depends on the sector. In ornamental
horticulture, we don't need pollinated plants. We don't produce the fruit, but,
in edible horticulture, it is a completely different world, right?
Senator Dagenais: Mr. Renaud, I know your organization plays an
important role in developing a sustainable and cost-effective growth policy for
the agricultural industry. I also know that your industry is essential for
providing food for bees. You mentioned that you use products so that we can have
nearly perfect blooms that are used in various situations.
We know that bees are particularly sensitive to pesticides; this has been
proven by many witnesses who have appeared before the committee previously. What
impact do these pesticides have on bee health? I imagine it must have an impact,
even if you use pesticides that cause the least amount of damage.
Mr. Renaud: The basic concept is to use the least amount possible for
various reasons. The first one is not for bee health, but for the health of the
people who work on the farms and in the greenhouses. No matter what product it
is, it is always preferable not to spray it and not to use it.
As for the specific impact of pesticides on bee health, since I am not a
scientist, I cannot answer this question in detail. It is known that not all
products affect bee health the same way. Some products can have a different
impact, but the studies taken as a whole are not very convincing.
In the ornamental horticulture industry, especially greenhouse production,
biological elements — like insects that eat other insects — are used in 90 per
cent of farms, according to surveys that were carried out. That means that nine
greenhouses out of ten in Canada focus their pest control efforts on using
biological elements, and the use of chemicals is a distant second, even though
chemicals are still necessary.
Senator Dagenais: Mr. Gates, do you have any comments to make?
Mr. Gates: I will echo that in greenhouse production, when you are
relying so heavily on biological mechanisms, like biological control agents, to
control pests, you don't want to use any pesticides because you could harm that
program, which is effectively controlling it. That pesticides are an absolute
last resort is the take-home message in terms of that.
The Chair: We will conclude with Senator Robichaud, on the second
round, for the last question.
Senator Robichaud: Dr. Lynch, if I were to tell you, ``Let's not worry
about wild pollinators; we can manage with honeybees,'' how would you take that
Mr. Lynch: I think there would obviously be some challenges in that
regard, partly because we do not know the extent to which we are getting the
benefits from wild pollinators, particularly for some extensive crops.
Also, we run the risk of relying on a narrow pool of pollinators. This issue
is not only an issue of agricultural production; it is a broader ecological
issue. There is a strong relationship between the pollinator presence and the
vegetative diversity. It works both ways. We call it ``mutualism.'' If we lose
the pollinators, we lose a lot of the floral diversity that we like to see. That
is an important aspect of land value, depending on where you are, and
aesthetics. To narrow our pollinator base would not be a direction I think we
should go in for reasons we don't even know at this point.
Senator Robichaud: So we need research?
Mr. Lynch: I'm afraid so.
Senator Robichaud: I should say more research because there is
Mr. Lynch: But not just for the sake of research. Again, if I draw the
analogy of the IPM period, the advent of IPM took complex research, but there
was so much at stake. This has perhaps even more at stake in terms of such a
fundamental issue, so we don't have any choice.
The Chair: As we have concluded this round, I would like, as chair, to
bring to the attention of the witnesses that your presentations and answers have
been educational, informative and enlightening vis-à-vis our order of reference
in the Senate of Canada, as given to the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry.
With that, thank you very much. I declare the meeting adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)