Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry
Issue 8 - Evidence - Meeting of April 1, 2014
OTTAWA, Tuesday, April 1, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at
6:07 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: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and
Forestry. I thank the witnesses for accepting our invitation.
My name is Percy Mockler, Senator from New Brunswick and chair of the
committee. At this time, honourable senators, I would like you to introduce
Senator Mercer: Terry Mercer from Nova Scotia, deputy chair of the
Senator Merchant: Pana Merchant from Saskatchewan. Thank you for your
patience with us.
Senator Tardif: Good evening. I am Senator Claudette Tardif from the
province of Alberta.
Senator Robichaud: Good evening. I am Senator Fernand Robichaud from
Saint-Louis-de-Kent, New Brunswick.
Senator Maltais: Good evening. I am Senator Ghislain Maltais from
Senator Dagenais: Good evening, I am Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais from
Senator Buth: JoAnne Buth from Manitoba.
Senator Ogilvie: Kelvin Ogilvie from Nova Scotia.
The Chair: Thank you.
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 Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry has received an order of
reference authorizing it to study and report on the importance of bees and bee
health in the production of honey, food and seed in Canada.
More specifically, the committee is authorized to study the following topics:
(a) the importance of bees in pollination to produce food,
especially fruits and vegetables, seed for crop production and honey
production in Canada;
(b) the current state of the native pollinators, leafcutter and
honeybees in Canada;
(c) 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, today we have the honour of receiving three witnesses:
Ms. Kimberley Fellows, Pollinator Outreach Coordinator, Pollination Canada; Mr.
John Bennett, National Campaign Director, Sierra Club Canada; and Ms. Gwen
Barlee, Policy Director of the Wilderness Committee.
Thank you for accepting our invitation to be here so that you can share with
us your ideas, recommendations and thoughts. I invite the witnesses to make
their presentations. I remind honourable senators, as per instructions
previously given to the witnesses, that their presentations should not exceed
more than seven minutes. Following the presentations, a question-and-answer
session will take place. Each senator will be given five minutes to ask
questions before the chair recognizes another senator. There will be as many
rounds of questioning as time allows. During the question-and-answer session, I
would ask senators to be succinct and to the point when asking their questions;
and I would ask the witnesses to do the same when answering.
The first presenter will be Ms. Kimberley Fellows, to be followed by Mr. John
Bennett and Ms. Gwen Barlee.
Ms. Fellows, you have the floor.
Kimberley Fellows, Pollinator Outreach Coordinator, Pollination Canada:
Good evening, honourable senators, fellow panelists and all present in the room.
It is a pleasure to be here. Your clerk, Mr. Kevin Pittman, informed me that a
PowerPoint presentation was not possible, but he let me know that the slides
could be printed and distributed to each of you, so you have them for your
reference, although they're not in pretty colours.
I'm going to lead you through the basics of pollination and then look into
the world of native pollinators — the squash bee in particular. We are going to
review the known reasons for bee declines, focusing on neonicotinoid pesticides,
and finish by looking at the status of native bees. We hope this will help you
understand our three main recommendations: putting a moratorium on
neonicotinoids for a minimum of five years; lending support for farm agencies
that encourage the principles of ecology and integrated pest management; and
lending support for the independent research on all aspects of pollinator
health, with a special emphasis on agrochemicals.
As you know, in order for plants to produce seeds or develop into food,
pollen grains from the male parts of the flower must make their way to the
female parts of the flower. Once the pollen lands on the female parts, other
steps lead to the fertilization of seeds and food development. It is this
transfer of pollen grains that is termed "pollination."
Of all living creatures, bees outperform the rest by performing 70 per cent
of pollination services in our ecosystems. They don't know they're doing it;
they're just carrying on, nourishing themselves and their young, by collecting
the nectar and pollen.
That covers our pollination basics. Let's have a closer look at the bees.
Maybe you were picturing this beautiful honeybee when I said the word "bee."
This particular one has been very busy, if you notice the yellow pollen she has
been collecting on her legs. The European honeybee arrived on the shores of
Virginia with the colonists around 400 years ago.
Aside from bumblebees, most people are surprised to learn that there are
hundreds of native bees in Canada, over 800 of them: mason bees, carpenter bees,
leafcutting bees, sweat bees, miner bees and squash bees, to name but a few.
They have evolved to fit all kinds of nooks and crannies. They are designed for
different flowers, different pollen, different temperatures and flight
distances, among other factors. This incredible diversity of native species is
crucial, not just for food system resiliency but ecosystem balance. The
advantage of being aware of these native bees is that if a grower encourages
their presence, they will benefit from natural, free pollination services.
Now we're going to take a closer look at one of our wild bees, the squash
bee. Here you are looking at a male squash bee in a pumpkin blossom. Here we're
looking at a cornfield that was a pumpkin field the year previous. Pumpkins,
cucumbers, squash, melons and zucchini are all part of the Cucurbit family, and
the squash bee only eats pollen and nectar of Cucurbit crops.
Up to 70 per cent of native bees nest in the ground, and that includes the
squash bee. Here you see the squash bees nesting very close. Sometimes they will
nest under the crop they are pollinating, although in this case they are not
pollinating corn. I don't mean to confuse you. All the orange flags you see here
are marking a nest entrance, the details of which are shown on this inset. You
can see a female squash bee with a lot of pollen on her, and she's about to go
into her nest.
Another interesting note about our native bees is that most of them are
solitary. This means that they are not social like a honeybee colony that lives
and works together for the common good. Instead, a native solitary female bee is
responsible for tunneling her own nest, as well as collecting and providing the
food for herself and her young.
This schematic is showing you what a squash bee nest looks like underground.
The female squash bee collects nectar and pollen. She rolls it up into a ball,
sometimes called "bee bread," laying an egg on top of that. Then she will seal
the cell with soil and move on to the next one. The egg will develop a couple
stages further, nourished by the bee bread, and will remain in this stage
underground until the following growing season.
The squash bee rises very early, concurrent with the crop blossoms opening.
The bees race around collecting pollen and nectar. By at least noon, all the
flowers will wilt and close, having done their job; and a new crop of blossoms
will occur the next day. You'll find the females in the afternoon busy in their
nests, but if you carefully unfold and peek into a squash blossom, you will find
some male bees snoozing comfortably. They have spent the morning chasing the
girls and drinking nectar, and they're tired and not allowed in the nest. This
is a great way to see bees up close because you can even gently put the bee into
your hand and watch it wake up, and there's no fear of being stung because the
stinging is only done by females; it's an adaptation of the egg-laying
In contrast to this squash bee's behaviour, honeybees don't begin to forage
for at least an hour after the squash bee rises. Honeybees, given the choice,
will shun squash pollen. They don't like it. Squash bees' bodies are better
suited for pollinating the squash blossom.
In Ohio, in 2007, a survey of growers found that less than 1 per cent were
aware of this native bee that could pollinate squash and pumpkins, and none had
heard of the squash bee. However, with outreach and extension, farmers can take
advantage of the squash bee's free pollination services.
With that brief glimpse into the world of squash bees, let's look at the
reason why we are gathered here and review the multiple stressors that
contribute to the decline so prevalent in the honeybee industry. What are the
Habitat loss has two prongs. Habitat loss decreases the diversity of flowers
available. Monoculture is the term for large acreages of one crop, but bees need
a continuous variety of floral nutrition throughout the growing season, just
like humans need a variety of minerals and vitamins from a rainbow of fresh
Habitat destruction also leads to a loss of nesting and mating sites. If a
cornfield is sown right to the margins and there are no field margins left,
there's no habitat for the bees to live in. If you didn't already, you now
realize that soil tillage can destroy native bees' nests and larvae.
Chemical use contributes to bee declines. We will look more closely at this
in a minute.
These above factors, then, act to suppress the immunity of the bees, making
them more susceptible to pests and disease predation.
Along with this are climatic shifts. They will take a toll, especially
disrupting that timing of the emergence of the blossoms and the bees in the
People like to call this a perfect storm for the bees.
The Chair: Ms. Fellows, I will need to ask you to complete in about 20
seconds because we're overdue. Since we have the documents, the senators have
had time to look at it. Would you please conclude in 20 seconds?
Ms. Fellows: Sure. Our three main recommendations are putting a
moratorium on neonicotinoids for a minimum of five years; lending support for
farm agencies that encourage the principles of ecology and integrated pest
management; and, finally, lending support for the independent objective research
on all aspects of pollinator health, with a special emphasis on agrochemicals.
The Chair: Ms. Fellows, thank you very much.
Now we will hear Mr. John Bennett, National Campaign Director, Sierra Club
Mr. Bennett, please, the floor is yours.
John Bennett, National Campaign Director, Sierra Club Canada: Mr.
Chairman, honourable senators, I want to thank you for the opportunity to
participate in your investigation into bee health.
Sierra Club Canada is one of Canada's oldest environmental organizations. We
trace our roots back to the birth of conservation in North America in 1892. We
have members and supporters in every province and territory of Canada.
Our organization has been concerned about the use of pesticides for a very
long time. We recall Rachel Carson's groundbreaking book, Silent Spring,
which alerted us to the perils of putting pesticides to widespread use before we
understand their long-term implications. We believed that our society had
advanced to a place where we put proper controls there to prevent this ever
happening again, but now I have to ask you: Have we?
I've been following your investigation, so I'll be brief and try not to
repeat the things you've heard before. I just want to say that we echo the
Ontario Beekeepers' Association in calling for a moratorium on the use of
neonicotinoid pesticides, similar to the action taken about a year ago by the
It's our understanding of the precautionary principle that government has a
responsibility to act when it's clear that a substance may have a negative
impact on the environment and that it should prevent a substance from being
introduced to the environment when the impact of that substance is not fully
In the case of neonicotinoid pesticides, neither has been done.
The Pest Management Regulatory Agency has been issuing licences to
manufacturers of these pesticides without all of the necessary chronic toxicity
data and has failed to enforce the Pest Control Products Act, in that it has
failed to prevent unacceptable risks to the environment.
Specifically, I want to call your attention to the lack of studies on the
chronic toxicity to bees. I have with me today, in my presentation, a list of
what are called section 12 notices — and these are issued by the Pest Management
Regulatory Agency — in which they have the right to ask for more information.
They've been issued and they give conditions for licensing pesticides. There are
31 of these documents that we have uncovered so far. All of them state that more
studies need to be done and that more data needs to be provided as a condition
of licensing of neonicotinoids.
These studies date back 10 years, and they're still on the market and are
still being renewed on a conditional basis. We fail to understand how it is
possible that companies can have pesticides licensed without providing all of
the toxicity information that's required and then have them renewed, despite the
fact that they have not provided those studies yet.
They are all similar to the one I'm going to cite now, which is:
Actara 25WG Insecticide Registration Number 28408 . . .
9.2, Non-Target Terrestrial Invertebrates . . .
Field Studies Details: A study of toxicity . . . to honeybees, including
from systemic residues, under field conditions, (monitoring study) is
That was asked of this pesticide company in 2004.
Last week, we held a press conference with a number of other groups to
publicize our objection to issuing licences for clothianidin because almost the
same language is used in saying they need toxicity studies for bees.
My question to you is: How is this possible? How is it possible that we can
have a pesticide on the market for 10 years and never see the toxicity studies
that are required by law? I would ask you to ask that question of the government
in the course of your study. Why are these neonicotinoids still on the market
when they fail to provide the basic studies that are required to determine
whether or not they're a viable thing to put into the environment?
I'll reiterate: We would hope that in your report you will ask the government
to put a ban on the use of neonicotinoids, or at least a moratorium, but,
ultimately, these things should be removed from the market until we ultimately
know what they do. We should never again put a pesticide on the market on a
conditional basis, especially not for an entire decade. Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Bennett.
Gwen Barlee, Policy Director, Wilderness Committee: Thank you very
much for inviting the Wilderness Committee, honourable senators, to present on
bees. We do have a paper that you should all have before you. I apologize that
it is not in French.
One of the things that I'll be concentrating on is neonicotinoids and their
impact on bees, but, first, I'll tell you a little bit about the Wilderness
Committee. The Wilderness Committee is an environmental organization that was
founded in 1980 in British Columbia. We've grown to 30,000 members and another
30,000 supporters right across Canada. Our members and supporters, like many
people in Canada, are extremely concerned about what is happening to bees and
other wild pollinators.
Some of my friends and people in our office have little gardens outside their
apartments or homes. In one case, in particular, they found the squash plant was
not being pollinated or bearing fruit. On a personal level, I actually had not
heard about neonicotinoids prior to two years ago. I really became concerned
about them when 55 flowering lindens were sprayed in a parking lot in
Wilsonville, Oregon. They were sprayed with Safari Insecticide. The key
ingredient is neonicotinoid. Within three days, there were 50,000 dead
bumblebees under those 55 flowering lindens. They had been killed by the
neonicotinoids. That shook me to the core.
It's a crisis when a pesticide can be toxic enough to wipe out so many
bumblebees just by spraying 55 trees. The incident was not isolated. We have
seen the lethal impacts on bees and wild pollinators in Ontario, Quebec,
Manitoba and across Canada. Tens of millions of bees were killed after nearby
fields were planted with corn seed treated with neonicotinoid pesticides. Health
Canada found that 75 per cent of the dead bees had detectable residues of
neonicotinoids insecticides that had been used to treat corn and soybean fields
It was also interesting to talk about how this issue really engages
Canadians. When I walked into the Senate building today, I talked to the
security guard at the front desk, a gentleman with a red beard. He has a friend
who is a beekeeper who lost 100 per cent of his bees in the last year. The
friend of the beekeeper, who also had hives, lost 54 per cent of his bees in the
Neonicotinoids are so toxic that by volume they are actually 10,000 times
more toxic than DDT. You can find that in the Journal of Applied Ecology
in 2013 in a paper by David Goulson. Clothianidin, one of the most toxic
neonicotinoids, has the lethal oral dose to give a 50 per cent chance of death
among an exposed group of adult honeybees with about 3 nanograms per bee, which
is 3 billionths of a gram. You ask: What is a gram? To give an idea of that,
this paper weighs 4.5 grams, one fourth of the weight of the paper in
neonicotinoids could kill millions of bees.
Another paper from Purdue University in Indiana shows that if a gram of talc,
which is used to coat corn seeds, contains 1 per cent clothianidin, it could
theoretically kill 1 million bees. Professor Greg Hunt, entomologist and
honeybee specialist at Purdue University, said:
Although there may be a pesticide more toxic to honeybees, I am not aware
Even though the acute lethal impacts of neonicotinoids are terrifying, the
sublethal impacts are very worrying. That is when the neonicotinoid exposure
doesn't kill the bee immediately. It becomes disoriented and has difficulty
returning to the hive, which is associated increasingly with colony collapse
disorder, and also has reduced foraging efficiency, impaired memory and
learning, failure to communicate with other bees in the colony, reduction of
breeding success, decrease in metabolic efficiency, and reduction in disease
resistance, which also makes bees much more vulnerable to infections.
There is also water table contamination and soil contamination. Most of the
neonicotinoids sprayed on plants end up in the soil. It happened recently that a
buckwheat crop Canada wanted to send to Japan was contaminated with
neonicotinoids and was not accepted by Japan.
There is a tremendous sense of urgency because the corn planting season in
Ontario and Eastern Canada is just weeks away. If we look back to 2012 and 2013,
we will see that nearly all corn seed was treated with neonicotinoids. We will
see millions of bees die with that planting and millions of wild pollinators,
like wild bumblebees who do not have human guardians. .
In my 14 years with the Wilderness Committee, I've never seen an issue that
resonated so strongly with people. People can see with their own eyes the
decline of bees and pollinators. I have people coming up to me and saying that
they're seeing fewer and fewer bees in their garden. People are looking to the
government and the Senate for leadership on this issue. The Wilderness Committee
is calling for neonicotinoids to be banned in Canada because of the profoundly
toxic impact they have on honeybees and other wild pollinators.
Senator Mercer: Thank you for your presentations. This is a very
important study for a very important industry. There are over 500,000 jobs at
stake in Canada in the agricultural sector. It's larger than the automobile
sector or any other sector in the economy, so it's not to be trifled with by any
We heard what you said, but I didn't hear a lot of scientific facts.
Theoretically, Ms. Barlee, one thing you said was that theoretically it could
kill 1 million bees. We need some science behind that to help us make
recommendations. With a moratorium for five years, how would we protect the
investments of farmers and the necessary yields farmers would have if we were to
ban the use of pesticides on the fields?
Ms. Barlee: Thank you for that question, Senator Mercer.
There are some very interesting studies and I would be happy to follow up
with the Senate at a later date. They show that yield increases associated with
neonicotinoids are very little and sometimes not at all.
Of course, the role that bees and pollinators play in a healthy ecosystem in
producing fresh fruits and vegetables cannot be understated. That's worth
billions and billions of dollars in Canada. We could move toward integrated pest
management and look at what the load is of pests in the fields and whether
neonicotinoids need to be used. We'd say they can't be used.
The impact on bees is why the European Union introduced a temporary ban
starting in December 2013. There is compelling scientific information that shows
how dangerous neonicotinoids are to bees and wild pollinators. The studies done
in Italy and Slovenia, I believe, looked at crops that were planted without
neonicotinoids and they saw no difference in yield.
Senator Mercer: The other issue we've heard from farmers, equipment
manufacturers, et cetera, is about better management and distribution of the
neonicotinoids — how they are sprayed and distributed. That includes deflectors
on the machines planting the seeds and better management of spraying. If a
farmer is going to spray, he could wait for a day when the wind is not blowing
or spray at night when the bees are in the hives.
Should we not study that as well as studying what the absence of
neonicotinoids would be altogether? We could look at a better management system
of spraying, distribution and hive management, because it's not just the farmer
that has a responsibility. The person with the bees or the hive owners need to
be involved in the management as well.
Mr. Bennett: We've been producing crops for thousands of years without
neonicotinoid pesticides. They've only been around for about a decade or so. To
suggest that we could not produce enough food without them doesn't make sense in
terms of history.
As for science, last summer a minister said that this decision would be based
on science in terms of Health Canada. I had an intern Google this and, within 20
minutes, came back with 20 scientific studies from peer-reviewed journals, all
concluding about the toxicity of neonicotinoids on bees.
The science is absolutely clear. This is the same argument as climate change:
the science is clear. This is a very toxic material; it kills bees. In fact, the
government has been asking the industry to provide more science for 10 years,
they have not provided it, and the government has allowed it to continue.
There are many ways to keep production going up, but we don't have to use
these pesticides prophylactically. They're sprayed on every single seed of corn
planted in Ontario. That's 1 million bags of corn seed planted every year, and
every single seed is coated.
I talked to a beekeeper a few weeks ago who is also a corn farmer, and he
made a special order to the seed company for non-treated seed. He was told two
weeks ago, "Sorry, we can't deliver non-treated seed; you'll have to accept the
seed treated with neonicotinoids."
How did we get to a point where a farmer has no choice? How did we get to
that point? Back a few years ago, when Rogers wanted to give you negative
billing and you had to opt out of a service in order not to pay for it, the
whole country got up in arms and the government got involved and made them stop.
The pesticide companies are doing exactly the same thing, giving a negative
option instead of a positive one. It should be an option that you can ask for,
not one you have to ask not to receive.
Ms. Fellows: The current agricultural practices are unsustainable, the
PMRA has admitted that in September, the way it is going on right now.
The other thing is that this science here is from Dave Goulson's 2013 paper,
and this explains the pathways that the neonicotinoids take. If you'll notice
the big, fat red arrow here, 96 per cent of them end up in the soil, and they
stay and persist there. They can persist there, according to Mr. Goulson, up to
Italy has actually had a ban for five years, and their farmers have not
suffered any economic hardship, but the reason likely is that there is so much
neonicotinoid in the soil right now that it's still offering protection.
This is a great window of opportunity. If you have a moratorium for at least
five years, then you can allow the independent, objective research to be done on
this. At the same time, basically you've still got crop protection in the soil
and yet that also allows a window of opportunity for farm agencies to get
outreach and extension on principles of agricultural ecology, as well as
integrated pest management.
Senator Buth: Thank you very much for being here this evening.
We've had a lot of varied opinions, let's put it this way, with science on
one side and science on the other side. We've had neonics in Canada for the past
15 years. They've been used for the past 15 years and yet we're seeing that
severe winter kills have only occurred within about the last seven years.
We have also heard from witnesses that Statistics Canada is reporting the
number of honeybee colonies has continued to increase and that for 2013 the
number of hives in Canada is the second highest in the past 25 years.
Can I get your comments in terms of the number of years we've had
neonicotinoids and essentially the increases that we've seen in terms of
Ms. Fellows: Certainly, I would love to answer that.
My guess on the reason for your only seeing these winter kills in the past
seven years is that it's the continued selling of the neonicotinoids, the seed
dressings, the treatments, on a prophylactic basis. So what happens is no one
goes out into the field and tests the threshold for pests that are there. I
should not say "no one," but it seems that this is not happening.
What's happening is that fear and anxiety allows the farmers to continue to
use these seeds when they don't need to. Again, this is toxic accumulation in
the soil. So now you're seeing a lot more of it, and each year it compounds.
Each year you get more and more, and I believe that increase would address the
Ms. Barlee: Following up on that, there are fairly good numbers in
regard to winter kills, and the winter kills across Canada have been in about
the 35 per cent range for the last three years, I believe. In some cases on
Vancouver Island, near where I am from in Vancouver, you have had kills of 80
per cent. What I think you're seeing, as scientists have shown, is that
neonicotinoids are accumulating in the environment and having a more toxic
effect on bees.
Because we have more honeybee colonies, I think you have honeybee producers
bringing in more bees to offset the bees that have been killed by these
pesticides. Our phone was ringing off the hook at the Wilderness Committee when
we put out this paper on neonicotinoids and bees. I had a honeybee operator
saying, "I lost 50 per cent of my bees last year," or, "I lost 80 per cent of my
bees last year." Or, like the security guard at the front door, his friend lost
100 per cent of bees last year.
Normally, for winter kills before 1995, you would have seen between 10 and 15
per cent and that was considered normal. But it's not normal to see bee kills of
35 per cent. And not only bee kills in the winter, but bee kills in the spring,
immediately after neonicotinoid-coated seeds have been planted.
Again, Health Canada is showing that over 75 per cent of the bees killed had
detectable residues of neonicotinoid insecticide on them. We know that
neonicotinoid insecticides are incredibly toxic. I think it's just a matter of
what we're going to do about it.
Senator Buth: Have any of your organizations done any research on
bees? You are quoting other studies, et cetera. Have you done any independent
research, essentially, on bees that has been published?
Ms. Barlee: The Wilderness Committee has mainly referenced studies
done by universities across North America and in Europe. We are planning on
doing some soil testing this year.
Mr. Bennett: We depend on independent research. We don't have the
capability to invest in that kind of research.
Ms. Fellows: Yes, that's the same case for us as well. We have close
ties with the former Canadian Pollination Initiative, CANPOLIN, but no studies
were undertaken on neonicotinoids.
Senator Buth: Thank you.
Senator Merchant: I thought that we had a witness or witnesses here
who said that you could have seed that was not treated if you wanted it.
Senator Tardif: They did.
Senator Merchant: Now, it may be that they are not producing enough
untreated seed if everyone were to come out and suddenly say, "We do not want to
use the treated seed," but we were told that was an option.
I am not arguing, I'm telling you another side of the coin. Somebody sat
there, they had the seeds here to show us, and they said farmers had the option
of taking one or the other, but they were mostly opting for the treated seed
because it seemed to have higher yields. We get a variety of pieces of
information, and in the end we have to weigh one against the other.
In Europe, where they brought forward these bans, I don't know if there is
any place where they have done away with the neonics outright, but are they
maybe not so involved in agriculture as we are here? I come from Saskatchewan
and agriculture is a big thing there. Do you think maybe they have a different
perspective and their economies are affected differently?
Ms. Barlee: From the studies that I read, in the European Union study
that caused the European Union to have a temporary two-year ban, they looked at
agriculture-intensive regions, whether it was Italy or other European Union
countries. It was from those studies that they said that they didn't see any
negative impact to yield with removing neonicotinoids from the system.
Senator Merchant: It seemed to me our canola farmers said that they
had seen a great increase in yield, so we have to weigh both sides.
Ms. Barlee: I'd be happy to follow up with studies on that because
there are numerous studies, especially coming out recently, within the last
couple of years when there has been such a concern about neonicotinoids, looking
at that very issue. Of course, that's how the pesticide companies sell the seed.
That's one of the big selling reasons they give to farmers, saying, "Your yield
will go way up." However, again, from the studies that I've reviewed, I've
either seen the yield not going up at all, or maybe going up 4 per cent. I would
definitely be happy to follow up.
Ms. Fellows: I understand that Pioneer only just recently made
untreated seed available, on a limited basis, for the spring planting this year.
I would say that the people that I know, for example, in the National Farmers
Union, do want untreated seed and just cannot find it in the quantities and
volumes they need. I think this is something that needs to be addressed as well.
Senator Dagenais: My thanks to our three witnesses for joining us. The
population of honeybees, also known as apis mellifera, has decreased by
30 per cent in about 15 years. This is attributed to various causes; one of them
is neonicotinoids, but there is also the decrease in flowering plants and the
use of chemicals. We have not talked much about the electromagnetic fields — the
high tension lines — that we hear a lot about, or about deadly parasites, or
competition from exotic bees. There are also substances that kill bees, often
pesticide residues, lying hidden in pools of water.
I have named several causes of bee mortality, but I would like to hear what
you have to say about corrective measures that could be put in place, if there
are any. If not, how do you see the future for bees? We hear a lot about
neonicotinoids, but there are a lot of other factors that we are perhaps
Ms. Barlee: Thank you for the question. I agree that there are many
other impacts, including climate change, that are affecting our bees and our
pollinators. That's definitely the case, but the neonicotinoids are a known
risk. The toxicity of neonicotinoids is so high that we know that, if we took it
out of the environment and had a moratorium in Canada, we would very likely
start to see increasing bee health.
We would start off with saying that we need to have a ban on neonicotinoids,
to enable farmers to buy seeds that are untreated with neonicotinoids and to
have multiple crop rotation — as Ms. Fellows was talking about earlier, that's
also good — to try to maintain habitat diversity and also to include integrated
pest management and promotion of organic farming. With integrated pest
management, they look at the load of whether it is aphids or potato beetles in
the field. If it is a low or medium load, they try not to use pesticides. If
it's a high load, they may choose to use pesticides. We'd say again, because
neonicotinoids are so extremely toxic to bees, they should not be used.
But it is also interesting that there is some very recent literature,
scientific studies that are coming out, showing a horrible synergy between
fungicides and neonicotinoids and the comparison between a fungicide and a
neonicotinoid pesticide. Neonicotinoid pesticides are dramatically more toxic to
bees and other pollinators.
Mr. Bennett: One of the factors you need to consider is that the
sublethal doses of these pesticides actually can affect the immune system of the
bees so that the other problems — the parasites and the viruses — become more
powerful because the bees are weaker. We can do something about damaging their
immune system by taking out the pesticide, and then we can get better health of
the bees there. So there are other factors, but neonicotinoids not only kill
them outright, they also exacerbate the other problems.
Ms. Fellows: I absolutely agree with what Ms. Barlee and Mr. Bennett
have said. I really have nothing else to add. These are very toxic, especially
the sublethal effects. It really affects their navigation and their ability to
collect pollen for their young. Therefore, that affects the next generation. We
see a lot of effects here.
Senator Tardif: Thank you for being here this evening. All three of
you have called for a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids. You've mentioned
that France has had a moratorium in affect for, I believe, the last few years
and that the European Union, as well, called for a moratorium, I believe, as of
July 2013, for a period of two years. It may be too soon to see what the results
are, but, based on the experience in France with the moratorium and in Italy, do
you know if the colonies have come back to a normal state of recovery? Are there
studies on that, and what is the situation?
Ms. Fellows: Yes, their bee populations have not been
experiencing the same level of mortality.
Senator Tardif: What level of mortality is there?
Ms. Fellows: I don't have the numbers.
Senator Tardif: You don't have those results?
Ms. Fellows: I have the names of the Italian researcher and a French
one who would be the people to speak to, and I believe that one of the
recommendations from the Ontario Bee Health Working Group, with the Ontario
Minister of Agriculture, who happens to be the premier, was to hold a forum,
invite those researchers here and find out what is going on.
Senator Tardif: Other comments? No, that's fine.
You mentioned, Ms. Fellows, that two of your recommendations were other than
putting a moratorium. They were lending support to farm agencies that used
integrated farm management approaches and supporting independent research in the
area, I believe, of agrochemicals. Is that correct?
Ms. Fellows: That's right.
Senator Tardif: Could you expand a bit more on those two
Ms. Fellows: Absolutely. Lending support for farm agencies that
encourage the principles of ecology and integrated pest management would include
programs that exist in Ontario, like, Alternative Land Use Services, ALUS.
There's also another agency, called Farms at Work, that operates in Peterborough
area with Sue Chan.
Alternative Land Use Services is really interesting. It's a program that
helps to switch marginal farmland to conservation practices, so farmers are
actually rewarded for providing food and living spaces for pollinators to the
tune of $150 per acre per year for three years. What we're seeing now is a lot
of areas that are being restored back to, say, tall grass prairie, which is a
mixture of plants that are amazingly friendly to bees but also have incredible
ecological benefits. They sequester carbon. They're very drought tolerant.
For example, Bryan Gilvesy, who is a farmer down in Norfolk County and who
won the Canadian Farmer-Rancher Pollinator Award, has been doing this and he
raises Texas longhorns. In the heat of the summer, the tall grass prairie
thrives and sends down long roots and, therefore, doesn't need the water. He
will graze his longhorns on that particular habitat, after growing hay in the
cooler season. Those are just a couple of examples there for the farm agencies.
May I address your second question?
Senator Tardif: Please, go ahead.
Ms. Fellows: Lending support for the independent objective research,
CANPOLIN was an excellent example of that. The Canadian Pollination Initiative
was a $5 million grant from NSERC. This was very much the impetus of another
esteemed witness that you brought here, Dr. Peter Kevan, and that was an
excellent collaboration among researchers and institutions across the country.
Those are the sorts of things that would be wonderful to have happen, more
centres of excellence. They could be independent, such as the Perimeter
Institute or CIGI that operate in Waterloo. They could be associated with
universities, or they could be at universities. Wilfrid Laurier University has a
new Centre for Sustainable Food Systems.
These are the sorts of things we'd like to see. We'd like to see that
research is independent and objective.
Senator Maltais: My comments are for Ms. Fellows. I am not sure what
your profession is, but you would make an excellent schoolteacher, with these
pictures of yours. Congratulations! I do not think that any Canadian children
know bees as well, now that you have explained them to us. Well done!
I am not going to talk to you about scientific studies, because a number of
scientists have come here and they have all told us the same thing, although in
different ways. They have told us that pesticides in the soil get into the water
and that you need a long time, almost forever, before they are absorbed into
nature. That is what they tell us and I am not arguing with them because I am
not a scientist.
Ms. Fellows, your explanation of solitary bees was excellent. It is mostly
that kind of bee that I have in my neck of the woods in northern Quebec.
Pesticide manufacturers have also come to see us. The last of them — whom I will
not name because we are not allowed to advertise — tried to convince us that
these new pesticides contain marvellous bacteria that get into the bees and do
them as much good as cod-liver oil does for our children. Is that true? I asked
them about it. They replied that there is proof that, with the pesticides, bees
were healthier than our children are with cod-liver oil.
I would like to know if you agree, or if you feel the same as I do, that
pesticides are not great for bees.
Ms. Barlee: I agree with your sentiment that pesticides aren't good
for bees, and science has proven that.
Something that's interesting, and maybe not surprising to the senators around
this table, is that studies that are funded by insecticide and pesticide
companies are invariably more favourable to the insecticide and pesticide. I
think it's important to look at who is funding the studies and to look carefully
at peer-reviewed, independent studies.
Senator Maltais: The scientists also told us — and again, I am not
going to argue — that a field that has not been treated with pesticides is as
productive as a field that has been. Do you agree with the scientists' theory?
Ms. Fellows: I need to make sure I've understood. He said that a field
that had never had neonicotinoids would not produce the same as one that did?
Ms. Barlee: Would. They would produce the same.
Ms. Fellows: I don't understand how that is possible when you are
killing a lot of micro-organisms that contribute to the whole balance of this
ecosystem. This doesn't make sense.
My answer would be this: That means we need the objective, independent
research, and let's come along and do the same study then.
Senator Maltais: I would like an answer about nitrogen. Do pesticides
Mr. Bennett: That is a different question than I was going to answer.
What I was going to say was that we have no economic interest in this; none of
us do. Those who have told you that these pesticides are necessary and that they
have a tremendous value all have an economic stake in this discussion, and we
don't have that.
I think, yes, it is very possible that we can produce the same amount of food
on a field if we manage it ecologically rather than if we just make it a
chemical farm the way we try to do most of them now.
Senator Maltais: I only have five minutes.
Senator Ogilvie: Thank you. You've all presented very balanced and
The underlying issue is relatively simple, that neonics are toxic to insects;
bees are insects. Neonics are toxic to bees, and they have a very low LD50
value. Those are established.
The question then, since insecticides are almost certain to be used in
agriculture for a fairly long time to come, the question really is, then: How
can things be appropriately managed in the overall system?
There are two questions I want to put to you specifically. In a previous
session I asked the question about accumulation in the soil over a 10-year
period, and I was told that the neonic levels reached a certain level in the
first and second years and didn't increase beyond that.
My question to you is this: Do you have any evidence to show that sustained
use of the same farming practice over a multi-year period leads to any increase
over time in the residue of neonics in the soil?
Ms. Fellows: Absolutely. Let's go back to the slide. This is Dave
Goulson's — he sent me this slide.
Senator Ogilvie: I understand the slide. My question is simple: Do you
have any reference that shows there is a measured accumulation over time, that
is, that it doesn't just reach a certain plateau and stay there, but increases
each year with sustained agricultural practice?
Ms. Fellows: I don't know of any study at the moment.
Ms. Barlee: I've read some preliminary studies, and it would depend on
the half-life of the neonicotinoid you're talking about. There are some
neonicotinoids that persist for well over a thousand days, and then you would
continue to see an increase in the soil. Other neonicotinoids don't have as long
Senator Ogilvie: Okay. You aren't able to answer the question, because
the issue — I understand accumulation. I understand all of those factors. I
understand they have different rates. We were told explicitly that it reached a
certain level and didn't go beyond that, didn't accumulate over time. My
question is: Is there any direct evidence to the contrary?
My second question is the following. You've all suggested a moratorium, but
given the reality of the world and the tremendous variability we are hearing in
terms of the agricultural practice, the particular seeds planted, whether it's
corn versus soybean, the farming practice in terms of the introduction of the
seed and the management of the crop, my question to you is: Are you asking for a
Canada-wide moratorium under all circumstances, or are you suggesting a
selective moratorium based on locale, type of plantation and so on?
Ms. Fellows: I would argue for a Canada-wide moratorium. The reason is
this. I quickly want to introduce you to one of the Bee Friendly Farmers. His
name is Paul. He lives in California. He farms nine acres. He has incredible
soil organic matter numbers. Down there, he has some numbers, soil management
practices. The Rodale Institute did the same tests over 23 years and were only
able to increase their soil organic matter a certain amount with organic
tillage. But at this farm, they've increased it a vast amount more. I have the
numbers here. I don't want to muddle it up.
In just four years, through no till practices for mixed vegetation
production, no tractors, no horses, no rototillers, nothing, just hand labour
and a knowledge-intensive system — that's what we call integrated pest
management, a knowledge-intensive system.
The other thing is that his system produces $65,000 per acre per year in
gross sales. The state average for similar direct market mixed vegetation farms
is only $9,000 and the UC Davis Experimental Farms top out at $17,000 per acre
In addition to this, he does all kinds of pollinator-friendly practices —
hedgerows, clean water, things like this. He's not alone. There are many farmers
who are doing this on a really sustainable level, sustainable scale. Jean-Martin
Fortier lives in Quebec, and he farms one and a half acres.
The Chair: If you can provide us with additional information through
the clerk, we would appreciate that.
Mr. Bennett, would you like to answer the question from Senator Ogilvie, and
Mr. Bennett: We would like to see the onus flipped around. Right now,
you have to make an exception to not use the pesticide. If there's going to be
an exception in the system, it should be to use it. There should be a
Also, we should not be giving conditional licences based on the need for
future studies. You can see it right back from 2004, the information wasn't
there and, if the information had been provided, would those licences have been
Why on earth are these chemicals on the market in the first place? We want an
out-and-out ban across the country. If a farmer can demonstrate a critical need
for it, then it would be up to the pest management agency to make a
determination, but the determination should be to use it, not to not use it.
Ms. Barlee: The Wilderness Committee does support a Canada-wide ban on
neonicotinoid pesticides, because of tens of millions of bees dying, whether it
was below flowering linden trees in Oregon or tens of millions of bees dying
after corn-treated neonicotinoid seeds were planted in Ontario.
We would particularly concentrate on the three neonicotinoids that have
already been heavily restricted in Europe, and that's imidacloprid, thiamethoxam
and clothianidin. Those are the three pesticides we would concentrate on.
Senator Robichaud: In your presentation, you mentioned that besides
bees there are a lot of other insects that do pollination. Have similar effects
been found on those other pollinators as you are saying with the bees?
Ms. Barlee: They haven't been as heavily studied as bees, but you have
had some very interesting studies come out within the last three years looking
at the impact on neonicotinoids on bumblebees. They found an 85 per cent
reduction in the queens being produced when they were in contact with
Again, there have been other studies done that show it even goes to
songbirds. If a songbird eats a seed that has been coated in a neonicotinoid, a
seed can kill the songbird. There is some conjecture — it hasn't been proven yet
— that the massive decline in songbirds that are insectivores could be linked to
neonicotinoid pesticides. Further research needs to be done, but there's a lot
of research already again showing honeybees, which are more intensively studied
because they have human guardians, being seriously impacted, but also
bumblebees, which saw a massive reduction in queens being produced.
Senator Robichaud: You mentioned a few examples of the bees that died
massively when they were spreading some insecticides on flowering trees.
Ms. Barlee: Yes.
Senator Robichaud: Toxicity has to do with the dosage. If they
overspray, they will kill everything around. That's why I'm questioning here the
example you are giving. You can find that in many places where people don't read
the labels. They have a pest problem. I sometimes use a bottle that will kill
hornets or whatever. When it comes toward me, I don't measure the amount that I
spray towards it.
This has an impact. What we've been told here is that when proper dosages and
best practices are being used by the people in the field, they considerably
reduce the toxicity to other insects or animals that visit those fields.
Ms. Barlee: It is important to read labels on everything.
Neonicotinoids are a unique pesticide. I'm going to quote Professor Greg Hunt,
an entomologist and honeybee specialist at Purdue University of Indiana. He
said, "Although there may be a pesticide more toxic to honeybees, I'm not aware
Again, clothianidin, which is a neonicotinoid that's particularly toxic to
honeybees — and this is again from Purdue University — is one of the most toxic
substances we know of for honeybees. The lethal oral dose to give a 50 per cent
chance of death amongst an exposed group of adult honeybees is about three
nanograms per bee. That's three billionth of a gram. Again, neonicotinoids by
volume are 10,000 times more toxic than DDT. That's in a paper in the Journal
of Applied Ecology, 2013, and the title of it is "An Overview of the
Environmental Risks Posed by Neonicotinoid Insecticides." They're a unique class
of pesticides in that they are highly toxic, not only to nuisance insects but to
Senator Robichaud: We understand that part of it.
Mr. Bennett: Let me try. The farming practices suggested by the PMRA
and the EPA may help in reducing the initial kill in the spring. If that was the
only time bees encountered the neonicotinoids and suffered losses, that might be
one of the solutions, but it does not explain that last year in Ontario there
was a second die-off of bees at the end of July, when the corn came into flower.
It doesn't explain the overwintering problem with the weakening of the hives
over winter. It only deals with that initial "let's not spray too much."
The other point is that, unlike the can of hornet spray, the farmer doesn't
get a jar of neonicotinoids. He gets a couple of tonnes of seeds that are
already coated. Whatever is on the label is irrelevant. The advice to him to
plant when it's not windy, when it's not dusty —
Senator Robichaud: Like we're being told now.
Mr. Bennett: That's the way it is. It comes on the seeds. The farmers
are not applying it.
Senator Robichaud: It comes on the seeds, so they are obliged to read
Mr. Bennett: They're obliged to read the labels, but it's already on
the seed. The planting equipment was built whenever it was built. They can't
modify or change that equipment.
Senator Robichaud: But they are.
Mr. Bennett: They're recommending the production of new equipment. But
also I sat through a presentation last summer from John Deere, and they said
that the modification concept of going back and dealing with the tens of
thousands of corn planters is not going to work. The systems are very precise.
They have to plant 35,000 seeds per acre. They have to be exactly the right
distance apart. If you put a filter on the exhaust, then you interfere with the
pressure system that actually works it. So those changes aren't going to happen.
Maybe a generation is how long it would take to replace all the planting
equipment, and do we have a generation to wait?
Ms. Barlee: That was a very interesting question. One of the problems
is when neonicotinoids are applied to plants or seed treatment, the vast
majority of the neonicotinoid pesticide, which is a poison, doesn't end up on
the plant; it ends up on the ground and then it leaches into our water systems
and contaminates other plants and species.
Senator Rivard: According to Statistics Canada, the number of colonies
of domestic bees is constantly increasing, to the point that it is at its
highest level in the last 25 years. However, Health Canada conducted a study on
bees in three provinces: Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba. Their conclusion is quite
the opposite. Health Canada claims that there is a clear decrease. Who is
telling the truth?
Mr. Bennett: I think what you're seeing is the faith of beekeepers to
continue investing. Each year they buy more bees from areas that aren't treated
with these pesticides, in an attempt to keep in business. For a while, we will
probably see that continuing investment. But as their ability to gain income
from selling honey declines, that ability to invest will decline and so the
number of colonies will drop. I believe the statistics in 2013 in Ontario will
show that the production of honey has actually dropped.
Each beekeeper goes out and buys bees every year to replace those that are
lost in the winter the year before. If you've lost money this year, you'll
probably buy extra hives next year to try to gain back what you've lost. That's
why you're seeing so many hives coming into production.
Senator Rivard: Thank you for the clarifications.
Senator Oh: Welcome to the Senate standing committee. My question is
simple. From your newspaper, Ms. Barlee, you claim that in Elmwood, Ontario, 37
million honeybees were killed in 2012. That's a lot of bees. How were these
numbers kept track of?
Ms. Barlee: It was widely reported. Of course, after fields were
planted with corn seeds that were treated with neonicotinoids, there was a
massive honeybee die-off. Indeed, you hear that the Pest Management Regulatory
Agency of Canada, with Health Canada, has said that current agricultural
practices related to the use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed are
Then, they go on to list the massive amount of affected hives. In Ontario, in
2012, it went from 4,500 to 5,890 affected hives. In Quebec, it was less; it was
788. Then, in 2013, they said the hives that were affected were from 3,789 to
6,639. It's a massive amount of bee yards. It's not unusual, millions of bees
dying from neonicotinoid poisoning. That's becoming normal and that's what's
scaring us so badly.
Senator Oh: How many bees in a colony? Do you have any idea?
Ms. Barlee: No, I don't know.
Ms. Fellows: There are 20,000 to 30,000 in the off-season, and in peak
season it can reach 50,000 to 60,000 honeybees in a hive. Dave Schuit, in
Elmwood, lost 600 hives. Therefore, that's how they got that number of 37
million. That happened in June, and that was after the corn planting. There was
a "Canada AM" TV clip, a morning show, and he described how they died with their
legs and wings paralyzed. Their tongues were sticking out, venom was dripping
from their abdomens, and he was watching them and he was in tears. These are his
livestock, his employees.
The other thing he has related is how difficult it is to keep his queen bees
alive for a mere three months, when they used to live for five years. He sees
the bigger picture here. He says the bee deaths are heralding a warning, much
like canaries in a coal mine, and I would agree.
Senator Mercer: I'm not unsympathetic to the case you're putting
forward, but I also understand that we're one of the few countries in the world
that can increase our production of food. By 2050, there will be 9 billion
people on this planet. We couldn't feed them under current circumstances, so
we've got to find a way to do this. If we have to continue to produce more bees,
and more bees need to be sacrificed — there's a balance needed.
The poor beekeeper is watching his bees die. It is not fun, I'm sure, for him
and it is costing him money, but somehow we've got to be able to manage
agriculture, or somebody needs to be able to manage agriculture to produce more
food, in a timely fashion, to feed the billions of extra people we're going to
have on this planet. Some of this will have to involve chemicals of some sort to
help manage pesticides.
Mr. Bennett, you said that we've been able to feed ourselves without
neonicotinoids for a long time. Yes, but we've employed other chemicals to help
us do that and other types of management of agriculture. How do you propose that
we take care of these 9 billion people?
Mr. Bennett: Well, as Ms. Fellows pointed out, there are ways to
produce massive amounts of food organically and successfully, but we certainly
need to be producing more food. When we refer to the corn crop, the corn crop is
not necessarily only producing food; it's producing fuel and other things that
we probably could be better off without.
It's a complex issue, but the neonicotinoids are not the one single solution,
especially if in the long run they actually impair our ability to produce food.
If we lose the pollinating capabilities of insects in addition to the honeybees,
then we will lose the capability to produce food. It may give us a bump in the
production, although the numbers don't really bear that out.
As for the suggestion that neonicotinoids are essential to produce food,
there just isn't research to prove that. There is research to suggest that we
can produce just as much food without them, but it's the long-term impact of
these pesticides that we need to be concerned with because 40 per cent of the
food on your plate is dependent upon pollination by an insect. If we're killing
off the pollinators, it's the pollinators that aren't honeybees that are really
most important to think about here. We don't exactly know the devastation that's
happened to them because we don't husband them. There is nobody out of pocket
because we're killing them and so we don't have a lot of information on them
yet, but we do know that it kills them. In the long term, we'd be better off
being much smarter in how we use chemicals than we are today.
Ms. Barlee: I would say one of very worst things we can do for food
production is to kill bees. Bees are responsible for roughly one third to 40 per
cent of every bite we eat and, again, neonicotinoids are über-toxic to bees.
They are profoundly, wildly more toxic than other types of pesticides and we've
seen that in the honeybee die-offs with over 25 million bees at one farm. We've
seen that with the bumblebee die-offs.
We can be smarter; we can be better; we can continue to produce food and
start producing food in a sustainable manner, but, again, the very worst thing
we can do for food production is kill bees.
Ms. Fellows: We've got away from the natural balance that's in the
earth. Neonicotinoids don't need to be in our soil and chemicals don't need to
be there either. The principles of agro-ecology absolutely do support the notion
that we can feed people in 2050 and the examples I've used are from Paul Kaiser,
Jean-Martin Fortier, there's even Daniel Brisebois also in Quebec. The idea is
that you're working smarter and not harder; you're working with nature. All the
answers are already there in nature. Joel Salatin is included in these people.
It's not just talk. They're actually doing it. The other people are just talking
and saying that this will be and it's not necessarily the case.
Senator Tardif: I believe I already know your answer to this question,
but I will ask it just to hear it once again.
Do you believe that Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency is
functioning well in regard to bee health and colony mortality?
Mr. Bennett: Absolutely not. They have given conditional licences and
then extended those licences after the companies didn't meet the conditions of
those licences. They've asked them for more information; they've not received
it, yet they continue to rubber-stamp the licences. Their job should not be one
of facilitating the profits of the pesticide industry; it should be protecting
us and protecting our environment. That should be their first and only mandate,
and they're doing the opposite right now.
Ms. Barlee: I think Health Canada has done a very poor job in terms of
regulating neonicotinoids, particularly after catastrophic losses of tens of
millions of bees that were directly linked to neonicotinoid poisoning.
We have a crisis situation with our bees, again, with certain hives being
wiped out completely, with overwintering losses of around 35 per cent of bees
over the last three years in Canada. That's reaching crisis proportions and I'm
looking to Health Canada to do the right thing and act on the science which
shows that neonicotinoids are killing bees by the tens of millions.
Senator Robichaud: I might not look like I am, but I'm on your side. I
would like you to give me convincing science-based facts.
I had a group of people representing agriculture from all over Canada in my
office this morning. They always give you the line that whatever we recommend or
whatever is being done in agriculture should be on a science-based application.
If you ask them, "Should we ban neonics?" they will say "Oh, no, we will not
Have you tried working with the agricultural community to ban those neonics?
Ms. Barlee: I can address the first portion of the question in regard
to science. Here you have the paper from the European Union that led to the
banning of neonicotinoids, or very strict restrictions on neonicotinoids, in
Europe starting last December. You will see in this paper that there are
multiple scientific studies that the European Union references for implementing
that very harsh restriction.
There are more studies right here: "ImmuneSuppression by Neonicotinoid
Insecticides at the Root of Global Wildlife Declines." That came out of the
University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. Here is an excellent report called
"Pesticides and Honey Bees: State of the Science" that goes through multiple
scientific, peer-reviewed papers that show the incredible toxicity of
neonicotinoids to bees and other wild pollinators.
The science is there. We just need to act on it.
Ms. Fellows: You asked if we were working with farmers. Yes, the
National Farmers Union. I have submitted their resolutions that were drafted in
response to the PMRA's comments in December. This document was voted on at their
annual national convention last November and approved by farmer members in
attendance. I am submitting their highly detailed resolutions. Mr. Pittman
already has them. They are being translated, which is why they weren't
I also mentioned ALUS, the Alternative Land Use Services, which is a
farmer-to-farmer agency. What ends up happening is that those people who are
participating in that program where farmers are rewarded for providing
pollinator habitat, they become spokespeople and they go to other farmers and
this is really valuable.
Senator Robichaud: I'm not convinced that we have made the case to the
Mr. Bennett: Well, I hate to be negative to that, but they haven't
made the case to us that these things are safe. Here's the list of studies for
different versions of neonicotinoids that the PMRA has asked for and not yet
received, yet they allow the stuff to be on the market. I don't think it's up to
us to prove that they're bad; it's up to them to prove that they're safe and
they haven't done it yet.
Senator Robichaud: Mr. Chairman, it's a good debate here. You can
The Chair: Senator Robichaud, if you permit me, looking at the time,
Mr. Bennett, Ms. Barlee and Ms. Fellows, if you have additional information and
documents that you want to send to the committee, please do so. Ms. Barlee, you
intervened earlier when you said that it was ten times more toxic than DTT.
Ms. Barlee: No, 10,000.
The Chair: Could you provide us with that information? The reason I
say this is that scientists on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations don't have the same figure that you have.
Ms. Barlee: I have the paper right now.
The Chair: Please provide this and, believe you me, you have generated
a lot of interest, and the other witnesses, too. It's our committee that will
make recommendations to stakeholders and governments. You can rest assured that
Senator Robichaud: To go back to what you were saying there, you say
you have nothing to gain by whatever you're doing, but the stakeholders have a
lot to lose if they can't produce. It does not matter that we say tell them they
will get the same production; it's what they believe because their livelihood
depends on it. This is why I say we have to make a pretty strong case to get
them looking in that direction.
Ms. Barlee: I'd love to speak to that.
The pesticide companies have been very successful in trying to pit farmers
against beekeepers, and that's sad because this is really about pesticide
companies putting big profits and big money over the health of bees in Canada
and across the world.
Mr. Bennett: I just want to say one last time that they have not yet
proved that they are safe. They've been asked for information and they have not
delivered, and yet they're on the market and we're the ones calling for action.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Bennett.
Ms. Fellows: I fully support what Mr. Bennett and Ms. Barlee are
The Chair: Thank you for accepting our invitation to be here. We've
had witnesses before and we have the power to ask them to come back. There is no
doubt that, with the sharing of information this evening, it will permit the
committee to look at the real range of the mandate, the order of reference that
we have from the Senate, in order to make sure that we make recommendations that
all stakeholders will have a role to play. Thank you.
Honourable senators, I now declare the meeting adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)