Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry
Issue 7 - Evidence - Meeting of March 27, 2014
OTTAWA, Thursday, March 27, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at 8
a.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: I welcome you to the meeting of the Standing Senate
Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. To the witnesses, thank you for accepting
My name is Percy Mockler, senator from New Brunswick and chair of the
committee. At this time I would like senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Tardif: Good morning. I am Senator Claudette Tardif from
Senator Robichaud: Fernand Robichaud from Saint-Louis-de-Kent, in New
Senator Oh: Victor Oh, Toronto, Ontario.
Senator Dagenais: Jean-Guy Dagenais from Quebec.
Senator Eaton: Nicky Eaton, Ontario.
Senator Buth: JoAnne Buth, Manitoba.
Senator Ogilvie: Kelvin Ogilvie, Nova Scotia.
The Chair: 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. In particular, the Committee shall be authorized to
examine this topic within the context of:
(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 honey
bees in Canada;
(c) the factors affecting honey bee health, including disease,
parasites and pesticides in Canada and globally;
And finally, the strategies governments, producers and industry can adopt to
ensure bee health in Canada.
Honourable senators, we have this morning four witnesses. To the witnesses,
on behalf of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, thank
you very much for accepting our invitation to come and share with us your
knowledge, your recommendations and your vision. On this, we have Scott Horner,
General Manager, Hytech Production Ltd; Dr. Brian K. Treacy, Vice-President,
Regulatory Affairs, Monsanto Canada; Dave Harwood, Technical Services Manager,
Pioneer Hi-Bred; and Dr. Paul Hoekstra, Regulatory and Science Stewardship
Manager, Syngenta Canada.
We will commence with a presentation from each of the witnesses, to be
followed by questions from the senators. I am informed by the clerk, Mr.
Pittman, that the first presenter will be Mr. Horner, followed by Dr. Treacy,
followed by Mr. Harwood, and ending with Dr. Hoekstra.
Mr. Horner, the floor is yours. Please make your presentation.
Scott Horner, General Manager, Hytech Production Ltd: Good morning,
honourable senators of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and
Forestry. I am the general manager and part owner of Hytech Production, an
independent seed production company based in Lethbridge, Alberta. The focus of
our business is hybrid canola seed production. As such, the scope of submission
will be limited to the relationship between seed companies that provide hybrid
canola seed and beekeepers who provide pollination services to those companies.
You have heard from Curtis Rempel, Vice-President of Crop Production and
Innovation at the Canola Council of Canada, that the Canadian canola industry is
composed of 43,000 canola growers who plant more than 20 million acres of
commercial canola annually. That commercial crop contributes $19.3 billion to
the Canadian economy and supports 249,000 jobs in Canada.
The first step in this valuable supply chain is pedigreed seed production,
that is, producing the certified canola seed that farmers purchase to plant the
20-million-acre commercial canola crop. My company is one of six companies
responsible for producing that certified hybrid canola seed. These six companies
plant approximately 60,000 acres of seed production in southern Alberta
annually, producing roughly 45,000 metric tonnes of seed that we then harvest,
clean, treat and package, and sell to farmers across Canada so that they can
plant the next 20-million-acre crop.
Pollination is a critical component of hybrid canola seed production and
access to healthy honeybees and leafcutter bees is key to the success of the
industry. Approximately 70,000 honeybee colonies and an additional 70,000
leafcutter bees gallons are required annually for pollination. Beekeepers from
as far away as the Peace River region of northern Alberta deliver bees to
southern Alberta to provide pollination services. Seed companies pay beekeepers
more than $25 million in annual fees to have them deliver bees to the field when
the canola starts flowering and remove them when the canola finishes flowering.
Bee pollination is critical to ensuring good yield and quality in the
certified seed crop, and pollination is the single greatest expense the seed
company has after paying the seed grower for all of the management activities.
Given how critical bees are to successful seed production, you can imagine that
the seed company is very motivated to ensure that bees are healthy and
relationships with beekeepers are sound.
You have heard how the number of bee colonies in Alberta has grown to record
numbers and that Alberta is the leading producer of honey in Canada. This
success is a direct result of the growth of certified hybrid canola seed
production and a successful relationship between seed companies and beekeepers.
Two keys to the success of this relationship are communication and
collaboration. Communication between seed companies, the seed growers we
contract to grow the seed, and beekeepers is very important to ensure awareness
of needs, risks and expectations. This leads to the most productive
In the field, seed companies and growers use best management practices to
ensure activities don't put bees at risk. Neonicotinoid seed treatments are used
to control flea beetles in 100 per cent of our production fields. Bees are
placed for pollination in all of these fields, and over all the years and the
hundreds of thousands of bee colonies using canola as their primary food source,
I am not aware of a single bee health issue related to neonicotinoid seed
Collaboration occurs between beekeepers, seed companies and the Alberta
government. Together these groups dialogue, determine priorities and invest in
bee research to ensure the sustainability of our industry.
Recently, this collaboration has resulted in the hiring of Dr. Shelley
Hoover, Apiculture Research Scientist with Alberta Agriculture based in
Lethbridge, and the initiation of some ambitious and valuable research on bee
health, bee habitat, colony pollination efficiency and, interestingly, the
effect that placement in canola pollination has on a colony versus that of a
colony that doesn't move from the overwintering yard and remains in honey
production for the entire summer season.
Communication and collaboration between seed companies and beekeepers have
been key in building the success of both the certified hybrid canola seed
industry and the pollination industry in Alberta.
Finally, in preparing for this event, talking with stakeholders and working
with beekeepers over the years, I have come to the conclusion that there are
three factors needed to help ensure the long-term health and sustainability of
the pollination industry and honey production in Canada. Those three factors are
the development of bee habitat, long- term bee research funding, and investment
and extension to educate beekeepers, farmers and the general public on bee
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to your questions.
Brian K. Treacy, PhD., Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs, Monsanto
Canada: Good morning. Mr. Chair and honourable members of the committee,
thank you for the opportunity this morning to appear before you on the important
topic of bees and bee health. My name is Brian Treacy. I am vice-president of
government affairs, Monsanto, Canada, based here in Ottawa.
Monsanto Canada employs roughly 300 employees at 15 locations across Canada,
including our Canadian head office located in Winnipeg, our eastern business
office located in Guelph, and our government and regulatory affairs office based
here in Ottawa. Monsanto spends $3.8 million a day in research globally. Here in
Canada, we are investing about $23 million annually in corn, soybean and canola
research, all aimed at giving farmers the tools they need to be successful.
In 2008, Monsanto made a global commitment to sustainable agriculture. What
does that mean? The company pledged to double yields in major crops by 2030 with
less inputs — so, less water, less fertilizer and less pesticides — and improve
the lives of farmers along the way.
Major crops include corn, cotton, soybean and canola. You can see that Canada
is a major component of this global strategy for three of the four crops.
We are best known for our advances in biotechnology and, since 1996, farmers
in Canada have used our biotech herbicide tolerant and insect-resistant seeds to
increase yield in important crops, such as corn, soybean, canola and sugar beet,
but biotechnology is only part of what we do. We are truly committed to a
systems approach to enhance crop yields, an approach than utilizes genetics,
traits and good agronomic practices to give farmers the best opportunity to
produce a healthy high yielding crop. These technologies also need to be
protected and that points to the discussion today around the benefits of seed
In terms of bee health, one third of the food we eat depends upon
pollination. The honeybee, therefore, has an important role in contributing a
service that helps provide us with variety and more nutritious foods.
But why is this important to Monsanto? Well, Monsanto spends $1 million
annually to rent bees for pollination services on vegetables and canola. In
other words, Monsanto has a stake in what happens to bee health, as do a lot of
agricultural companies. Farmers are facing the challenge of providing more food
for a growing population, and the honeybee population has been facing its own
challenges. The research to date confirms there are many causes that compromise
bee health, including pathogens, viral and fungal diseases, poor nutrition,
genetics, weather and pesticides. In short, it is multifactorial with, by far,
the biggest culprit being the Varroa mite pathogen.
Although Monsanto does not have any commercial seed products in the
marketplace today, as a major provider of seed and technology to growers, we
treat our branded seed with the best seed treatments available, including
Insecticide-treated seed is key part of agricultural production and provides
significant benefits, such as delivering the protection where it is most needed,
while limiting non-target exposure. Farmers value the use of seed treatments as
a means to give their crops a solid start free of disease and pests.
In 2012, Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency reported that 43
beekeepers in Ontario and Quebec had exposure to these products. In 2013, the
number of beekeepers affected, including those in Manitoba, increased to 82,
impacting some 7,000 colonies. For these beekeepers, it is a very serious
problem that threatens their livelihoods. Put in perspective, however, this
represents only slightly more than 1 per cent of Canada's colonies over the past
We do not deny that neonics, like any other insecticide, can impact honey
bees if misapplied, and that is why we are supportive of the new best management
practices, or BMPs, developed by industry through CropLife Canada, the Canadian
Seed Trade Association, as well as Health Canada's PMRA, that growers can adopt
on the farm.
What is Monsanto doing? In addition to BMPs, Monsanto actively participates
in the following four initiatives.
The first is Beeologics. In 2011, Monsanto acquired the Israel-based company
Beelogics. Beeologics' research focuses on developing biological products to
control pests and diseases impacting the honeybee. For example, the major factor
impacting bee health is credited to the parasitic Varroa mite. Currently,
BioDirect, our first biological technology platform, is in discovery phase, but
has shown promising results in testing that it could be effective against
specific insects such as Varroa mite while leaving beneficial insects
Second is PAm. PAm is an acronym that stands for Project Apis mellifera.
You have heard through previous presentations that Apis mellifera is the
scientific name for the European honeybee. PAm funds research studies, purchases
equipment for bee labs at universities, supports graduate students and provides
scholarships to young bee scientists to encourage their pursuit of science-based
solutions to honeybee challenges. PAm is a non-profit organization governed by
an eight-member board. The board members are beekeepers representing major
national and state beekeeping organizations. Four expert scientific advisers,
including Monsanto's Dr. Jerry Hayes, review research proposals and provide
recommendations to the board.
The third is the Honey Bee Advisory Council, or HBAC. Monsanto joined forces
with beekeeping experts to form the HBAC. In June 2013, PAm and HBAC hosted a
honeybee health summit at Monsanto Company's Chesterfield research centre. The
three-day event included nearly 100 members of the bee community representing
academics, beekeepers, industry association and government sectors.
The fourth is the Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action on bee
health. In September 2013, at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting,
Monsanto committed to establish a multi-stakeholder action coalition on honeybee
health to elevate the issue of bee health and make a difference.
In closing, the ability to manage and control the damage that pests cause to
agricultural crops across the country is critical to farmers. As a company that
serves only farmers, it is our goal to continue to provide them with sustainable
and viable solutions that they can employ on the farm. Canada must continue its
leadership position in the agricultural sector by defending its science-based
regulatory system and challenging non-science-based solutions that have the
potential to deny farmers access to the tools they need to be successful.
I want to thank the committee for taking the time to look at this important
issue and to ask the questions that will help guide responsible science-based
Dave Harwood, Technical Services Manager, Pioneer Hi-Bred: Good
morning, Mr. Chair, honourable senators and fellow witnesses. Thanks for the
opportunity. I have provided to the clerk several handouts and I have copies
here, if you're interested, of some of the materials that we are using in our
efforts to engage with our growers on the issue of honeybee health, pollinator
health and the issue related to neonic insecticides.
DuPont Pioneer, the organization I work for, is the largest seed company in
Canada with more corn and soybean acres planted to Pioneer than any other brand.
In Canada, we sell corn, soybeans, canola, forage inoculants, sunflowers and
winter wheat seed. In the case of corn, soybeans, canola, sunflowers and winter
wheat, we use insecticidal seed treatments.
With this diverse portfolio, it is important to note that Pioneer truly
understands the importance neonicotinoids have to modern agriculture and,
equally important, the role that pollinators play in production agriculture.
Pollinators are essential to a thriving agricultural landscape. Pioneer uses
a large number of bees in both hybrid canola and sunflower seed production,
consistent with what Scott mentioned earlier. Without bees, the efficacy of
pollination of these crops would be compromised. Again, we do understand the
importance of pollinators and their health.
On a personal level, my father's apple orchard would not be viable without
Today I'm here to talk to you more specifically about what we, as an
organization and as an industry, are doing to promote pollinator health, while
also touching on the importance of neonicotinoids.
I would like to start with how Pioneer and other seed companies fit into the
big picture. The industry works together as a team. Although competitors, we
come together as members of Canadian Seed Trade Association and many through
CropLife Canada. Through these organizations, we are able to address any
challenges and continue to move agriculture forward in the future. As such, bee
health became a clear topic for these committees.
In addressing the current environment, pollinator working groups have been
involved within the CSTA and CropLife, in both of which I have a seat at the
table. These groups have been working diligently to reduce the risk to
pollinators, which I will share with you. Although I am here on behalf of
Pioneer and will speak to what we are doing, having a seat with the industry on
the mentioned committees, I do believe many of these practices are being
implemented by all of the key seed companies.
There are several different audiences who need to be informed and communicate
how we can reduce exposure of seed treatments to pollinators, one of which I
have addressed already, the industry, and then employees, and most important,
our customers in the field. Pioneer has taken every option and mandate very
seriously along the way. I will outline the efforts we have made and continue to
make with our sales reps and growers.
Pioneer has been working with Bayer CropScience to distribute the new seed
fluency agent via our sales force. There have been ongoing communications with
sales reps to ensure they understand the new requirement of using seed fluency
agents and communicating best practices. Pioneer has held some informative
webinars with sales reps, who sell directly to growers, outlining best
management practices and the distribution of the seed fluency agent.
The goal of these webinars was to make sure reps fully comprehend the
importance and urgency of the guidelines set out by the PMRA. The topic is
widely discussed at sales reps' team meetings with a firm call to action for
this spring and on an ongoing basis.
As part of the best management practices, seed bag disposal has been a topic
of mind for Pioneer as well. We have a representative on the clean farms pilot
project committee, along with sales reps, who will be actively participating as
a disposal site for 2014.
It is important to note what Pioneer has implemented or changed internally,
including new labelling requirements for both corn and soybeans on seed
packaging and pallets. Pioneer offered growers a fungicide-only treated seed
option as well in corn and soybeans.
It's important to Pioneer, other seed companies and for food production that
there is coexistence between pollinators and the use of neonicotinoid seed
treatments. Neonicotinoid seed treatments are instrument in agriculture today.
These seed treatments have allowed for lessened foliar insecticide applications
over the past decade. Seed treatments have allowed for targeted pest control, a
precise application of insecticide that has created a more sustainable
agriculture with less risk.
While people often use the term of prophylactic application in a negative
connotation, it really is quite the opposite. Prophylactic, meaning preventive
or protective, is not only protecting the seed target insects feed on early in
the spring, it is also helping to protect pollinators. With the introduction of
seed treatments, foliar insecticide applications, meaning broadcast spraying,
have dramatically declined, which I believe to be beneficial to the population
of pollinators. These targeted pest control products, placed precisely where
they are most effective, at the effective dose, are consistent with the practice
of integrated pest management. On many acres of soybeans and canola, foliar
broadcast applications of insecticides used to control flea beetles and soybean
aphids respectively are eliminated, and seed-applied insecticides are typically
applied at rates that are 10 per cent of in-furrow applications or as low as 1
per cent of foliar applications. It is, frankly, hard for me to envision canola
production without the use of a seed-applied insecticide. Millions of acres
would require broadcast applications of insecticides and countless acres would
require replanting each year.
When neonicotinoid insecticides were introduced 10 years ago, there was
extensive testing to demonstrate the yield advantage of protected crops. Growers
have endorsed the value of these products through their deployment of them in a
wide variety of crops. This value, though, is not limited to a level of yield
advantage per acre. The risk management value of these products is as important
to growers as the improvement in productivity. Neonic seed treatments have
nearly eliminated the prospect of replanting crops due to early-season insect
damage. The result is the enabling of earlier planting and more effective
deployment of limited tillage production systems and fewer trips across the
field to either replant or apply rescue treatments.
All of these benefits result in improved production efficiency and reduced
environmental footprint of our crop production industry.
The importance of both seed treatments and pollinators to agriculture are
indisputable, and it is necessary that we find a way for them to coexist. This
is why Pioneer has taken an active role in working with the PMRA, industry,
employees and customers to ensure all necessary actions are taken to reduce the
exposure of neonicotinoids to bees and ensure a viable landscape for our
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I look forward to any questions
you may have.
Paul Hoekstra, PhD., Regulatory and Science Stewardship Manager, Syngenta
Canada: Good morning, honourable senators. Thank you for the opportunity to
appear before you this morning to talk about a very important issue, bees and
My name is Dr. Paul Hoekstra. I am the regulatory and science stewardship
manager with Syngenta Canada.
Syngenta is a world-leading agri-business committed to sustainable
agriculture. Our ambition is to bring greater food security in an
environmentally sustainable way by creating worldwide step change in farm
productivity. Syngenta Canada provides integrated plant solutions through a
Canadian business, delivering products in crop protection, seed care, seeds,
flowers, and turf production.
The Canadian team is over 275 people strong, supporting products and services
for the country's major crops, including wheat, barley, canola, corn, potatoes,
pulse crops and soybeans.
Syngenta is a developer and manufacture of thiamethoxam, one of the active
ingredients in the neonicotinoid class of chemistry.
Today I appear before this committee as a representative of the Canadian seed
industry, alongside my colleagues, all of whom are members of the Canadian Seed
Trade Association. Accordingly, I will focus the majority of my remarks on the
benefit of this technology when it is used as a seed-applied insecticide, more
commonly referred to as an insecticide seed treatment.
Before I do that, however, I want to start by reiterating some of the things
you have already heard several times over the course of this study thus far;
namely, that bee health is important to all of us and that pollination is
essential to agricultural production.
At least one third of the human food supply from crops and plants depends on
insect pollination, most of which is done by bees. Without them, we would not
have the crops that our products are designed to protect. In fact, the estimated
value of their contribution to agricultural production alone is as much as $2
billion. It may interest you to know that the seed sector, which we are
representing here today, is the largest contractor of pollination services in
this country, so we truly have a shared and mutual interest in bee health.
With respect to the seed-applied insecticides, they are one of the most
advanced forms of crop protection technology, offering growers a targeted,
environmentally sustainable means of pest management. Seed-applied insecticide
technology protects seeds and emerging plants from insect damage during the
critical first weeks of development.
Seed-applied insecticides enhance both crop quality and yield. They protect
the seed and seedlings from pests, ensuring they get off to a healthy, vigorous
start, which ultimately translates into quality and yield improvements. This
protection is key to agricultural production in Canada, as damaging insect pests
have been documented in all growing regions of this country for each major
Seed-applied insecticide protection is particularly important in instances
where there's no curative option for salvaging plant health after insect damage
Seed-applied insecticides offer numerous environmental advantages. These
benefits include a significantly lower amount of active ingredient per acre
compared to foliar or soil-applied pesticides; direct application to the seed,
which minimizes drift; reduced impact on non-target organisms; and protection
from increased pest pressure associated with a wide range of agronomic
practices, including reduced or no-till field conditions.
Seed-applied insecticides also deliver agronomic and production benefits.
Simply put, the value of seed-applied insecticides extends beyond pest control.
It allows growers to optimize seeding rates to improve plant stand; it minimizes
the need for replants; and it reduces the need for foliar pest cried
applications. It also supports earlier planting practices, which helps to
maximize both labour and production efficiencies. As well, seed-applied
insecticides complement trait technology to manage insect pests where there are
either no traits available to control the pests and/ or to provide a different
mode of action for resistance management.
In summary, insect pests cause damage to crop growth, quality and yield.
Populations of pests have a detrimental effect, with the result that the
seedling may never emerge or that the health of the plant may be compromised. In
many instances, there's no way to protect the seed retroactively, with the
result that the crop may have to be replanted at significant cost in terms of
time, labour and reduced yield potential. Seed-applied insecticides provide
strong plant establishment, health and vigour by protecting and strengthening
the plant at crucial times of development and, specifically, germination and
root growth. This also allows plants to compete with weeds and diseases and deal
with abiotic stresses such as cool soil temperatures or dry conditions at
I wish to thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you today and
at any time I welcome your questions.
Senator Tardif: Thank you for your most interesting and informative
Previous witnesses before the committee have noted that the alleged effects
of neonicotinoids are not consistent across the country. We know, for example,
in Alberta that we can use the neonicotinoids on canola with few adverse
effects, whereas in Ontario, I understand that with corn and soybean production
the effects of neonicotinoids are more adverse than with canola, as I previously
To what extent are treated seeds tested to compare the regional variation and
their effects before they go to market?
Mr. Hoekstra: Prior to registration, pesticides, such as neonics,
undergo extensive testing under a wide range of conditions. Part of the package
we do for pollinator safety is looking at residues, as well as infield use of
these products. Whether with canola or corn, extensive testing is done with
these products as they're used.
Mr. Treacy: Maybe I can add to that. As Paul was saying, a lot of
testing is done on these products as part of the registration package. You have
to develop data in particular ecozones. Those ecozones are spread across Canada,
which would cover the question you're asking.
Senator Tardif: Are the seeds treated differently, for example, if
they're to be used in different regions? Is there a different seed treatment for
Mr. Treacy: If you're looking to get one product registered, you're
going to focus on that one particular product across multiple geographies.
Mr. Horner: The only comment I would add — and you can correct me — is
that the active ingredient may be the same, but the amount of active per crop
kind would differ depending on whether it's wheat, canola or corn that you're
treating with that product. It would be specific to the crop kind, not
necessarily the region.
Senator Tardif: I see. For example, with canola, would you use less or
more of the seed treatment?
Mr. Harwood: I think the answer to that question is that it depends,
meaning the rate that's used on canola is actually quite consistent across the
industry. That compares with the higher rate that's used on some of the corn,
but most corn is treated at a lower rate on a per-acre basis. Across the main
crops that use these products — corn, soybeans and canola — the rates are
comparable, I would say. There are subtle differences.
I think maybe where you're headed with your questions is why do we see these
regional differences? I think it would be fair to say that it's less perhaps
about the way the seed is treated and more about the environmental conditions
that we can experience in different parts of the country. When the issue first
came to light in Ontario, we had some unusual planting conditions in spring
2012. Also in Ontario, where corn and soybeans are the principal crops, we plant
with equipment that is unique to the equipment used primarily for canola in
Western Canada. Between cooler conditions that are typical in the West when the
crops are planted, warmer conditions in Ontario, and differences in planting
equipment, the contrasting environmental conditions most explain the
circumstances we had in 2012.
Mr. Treacy: Again, to build on the discrepancy between the East and
the West, earlier in my presentation I talked about how bee health is impacted
by multiple factors. For full disclosure, I'm not a beekeeper, but in talking to
multiple beekeepers what I understand is that all of these different stresses
act in concert. If I were to speculate, what happened in the East in 2012 was
the perfect storm. You had all of these stresses acting at a high level of
intensity, and when that happens, you do see acute bee deaths. This has happened
around the world before. It seems to be cyclical. It could happen every four to
five years, but, if I were to speculate, this is what we've noticed here in
Senator Tardif: You've spoken to the benefits of seed-applied
insecticides. I can understand what you're saying. However, does the use of
neonicotinoids not leech into the soil and the water? I understand the effects
of this can be seen 10 years later. How can you assure yourselves that our water
and soil is protected?
Mr. Hoekstra: It's important to note that a key part of our regulatory
package and the data we generate is a comprehensive look at the environmental
profile of these molecules prior to their use. The key part of that is looking
at their environmental fate, their persistence, their behaviour in the
environment. It's important to note that while we can detect neonics in the
environment, it's primarily because our ability, our analytical methods are so
sensitive they can detect parts per billion or parts per trillion. It doesn't
mean they're environmentally relevant in terms of their toxicity to humans or
the environment. It just means we can detect them there.
Part of that package is also looking at long-term persistence. In the case of
our molecule, we've done studies looking at the use of these products every year
for 10 consecutive years, looking at: What is that accumulation in the
environment? We've seen none. This is further supported by research done by the
University of Guelph, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, as well as recent
data from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, which found low, minute
traces of neonics in the environment but at levels far below what we consider of
concern, based on our risk-based, science-based approach to pesticide
Senator Tardif: Did the PMRA not announce last September that the use
of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed was not sustainable?
Mr. Hoekstra: That's a very good question; thank you for raising it.
We haven't had a chance to understand fully what the PMRA means by ``not
environmentally sustainable.'' From our perspective, from my perspective, we've
looked at more than 10 years of safe use here in Canada as a corn seed treatment
and longer than that with canola, with few incidents reported. It speaks to the
sustainable nature of this tool.
Also, when you complement that with what it's meant to the grower in terms of
reduced pesticide usage and foliar application, and a move away from older
technology by using a tool that's less toxic to humans and wildlife, providing
growers with a better way to manage their crop in season speaks to me of how
this tool is environmentally sustainable. It's part of a true, comprehensive
package to look at farm management, crop management and risk management.
Mr. Treacy: To build on that question, I happened to be talking with
our bee expert earlier this week about the benefits of neonics. One thing he
shared with me, going back to the previous way insecticides were applied through
foliar application, was that when you apply insecticides with a foliar
application on one acre, there is 100 per cent exposure to all organisms on that
one acre. This includes not only the pests but also the beneficial insects. He
said that if you use seed treatments, and think of treated corn grains, for
example, the exposure is very much reduced. Actually, he worked with one of our
mathematicians to figure out the level of exposure.
I was talking to my colleague in the U.S., where they don't use metric
measures so one acre is 40,000 square feet or 10,000 square metres. Using 40,000
square feet as the example, if you were to use a seed treatment on corn seed,
the equivalent exposure would be 24 square feet. You've heard from previous
speakers that by using a neonic-treated seed, you can reduce that level of
exposure to 10 per cent or less. These numbers would suggest it's even lower
Senator Buth: Some of this has been raised by Senator Tardif, but I'd
like to explore a bit more of the issue of conflicting information that we hear.
You tell us one thing in terms of the science and what it says, and then other
groups tell us that the product is persistent for 10 years in the soil and one
tiny little molecule will kill a bee. Then everybody says we need to base our
decisions on science. Whose science are we supposed to base these decisions on?
Mr. Treacy: I'll start this one and my colleagues on the panel can
help me out.
You're correct. The one thing with science is that it's rarely absolute. We
try to look at the body of work in front of us. I'll use one example. The USDA
and EPA pulled together a report in 2012 that synthesized all of the literature,
basically the body of science, on bee health and neonics, and also looked at all
ongoing research. They concluded that although bee health is impacted by factors
and, I quote, ``varroa remains the single most detrimental pest.'' This isn't
just from one study. This report looked at multiple studies and the body of
Again, in full disclosure, I'm not a bee health expert. However, the more
literature I look at, especially in terms of summary reports, it seems that the
conclusion is, if there is a priority pest to look at, then the varroa mite is
probably the number one pest to bee health. Canada's Dr. Stephen Pernal from
Agriculture Canada came up with similar conclusions in 2010.
Senator Buth, you talked about the varying details from study to study. Yes,
you'll see some variation, but the beauty of science is that if you can
reproduce the same result multiple times, it adds weight to the response.
Mr. Hoekstra: Building on what Brian mentioned, it's important for us
to know we have a strong regulatory system in Canada with the Pest Management
Regulatory Agency that uses the science and is respected for the work it does.
Part of its remit is to look at the data that we as an industry generate to
support our products, recognizing that we don't want to develop a product that
we can't get past the regulatory system. Also, the PMRA looks at the all
available information generated by third parties, whether researchers in Canada
or globally, on this issue of neonics and bees. As part of its evaluation of the
safety of these products, it considers all evidence, whether it's generated by
industry or by other parties, in its assessment.
Senator Buth: I recently received an email from a person who was
concerned about this issue that said the Netherlands essentially is banning
neonics. Of course, a lot of the information that comes out uses specific terms
that may not be accurate. We're also aware that the EU is taking a close look
and has placed a moratorium on neonics. We have the USDA report, which
essentially says that this is not specifically a neonic issue; and then we have
Europe essentially putting a moratorium on the use of neonics.
I wonder, especially with the Netherlands piece of information, whether the
use pattern in Europe is different. Are they using foliar applications? It was
hinted at in the Netherlands paper. To me, that would make a difference. If
you're using something for foliar application, then you've got a broadcast issue
as opposed to using a seed treatment. Are you aware of the use pattern in the
EU? How do we, as a committee, try to integrate the information from the USDA,
Europe and Australia, which just came out and said that it's not a problem for
Mr. Hoekstra: There are enough similarities between the use pattern in
Europe and Canada, with differences in cropping structures and whatnot. It's
important to note when looking at the European decision that it was not based on
science but rather on politics. It was based on an assessment that was rather
quickly done using a methodology that's not yet been approved by the member
states. They used worst-case assessments that ignored the amount, breadth and
depth of field research that's been done by companies, and they ignored the
monitoring programs done by member states as well.
A great example is France, where they experience acute losses of bees during
corn planting. They implemented best management practices and then monitored the
effects of these best practices over millions of hectares over a three-year
period. They found that best management practices, when used appropriately, are
a successful, viable tool.
Unfortunately, in making its decision, the EU did not factor this in. Despite
having two votes on the matter, but not getting enough votes to put the
suspension in place, the EU Commission decided to impose a suspension
unilaterally. One thing we have the benefit of here is making science-based
decisions, letting the regulators do their jobs — they're the ones looking at
the totality of the information — and letting them make that assessment of
what's viable and what the balance is between protection and production.
Mr. Treacy: I'll build on Paul's answer. Senator Buth, how does the
committee come together by looking at the body of work that the U.S. Government
looked at? I would submit that there are multiple bodies of work around the
world, not just the USDA. One example is from the Australian Pesticides and
Veterinary Medicine Authority who came out with a report in 2014. They do not
have the varroa mite in Australia. I read their report, which is a healthy size,
and it states:
The introduction of the neonicotinoid insecticides has brought a number of
benefits, including that they are considerably less toxic to humans (and
other mammals) . . .
. . . the introduction of the neonicotinoids has led to an overall
reduction in the risks to the agricultural environment from the application
I was surprised to hear a report on bee health that's talking about the
benefits of neonics.
Another study has come out that was communicated in the month of January at
the belt-wide cotton conference in the U.S. Entomologists from around the world
released details of a soon-to-be published field study that concluded that
neonicotinoids may not be as harmful to bees as portrayed in the media because
they are not being expressed in plant pollen and plant reproductive parts at
levels that are high enough to hurt bees. People would ask: If they're not
expressed at a high enough level, what about the sub-lethal effects? We've heard
some communication on behaviour of bees and these types of things. Actually, a
U.K. study came forward in 2012 with its conclusions. The government
communicated that while the studies were interesting, none of them gave
unequivocal evidence that sub-lethal effects are likely to arise from current
uses of neonics.
Again, looking at the body of work from summary reports from multiple world
areas, I would submit that there is growing evidence of the safety of these
Senator Buth: You're saying that the body of evidence is important —
it's not just one-offs in terms of study, and that the reproducibility is
important — and the number of studies done that show similar or same results.
I'm familiar with the pesticide regulatory system. Mr. Harwood, you made the
comment that the testing you did, essentially in order to get a product
registered, is quite extensive; but that was done 10 years ago. We've heard
witnesses say that it's old data because 10 years ago is not current enough. The
data on the benefits or effectiveness of these seed treatments that farmers are
using are not current. They're continuing to use products where perhaps there
might not be the same benefits. Can you talk about that?
Mr. Harwood: Certainly. In the crop production industry generally,
technologies are introduced based on a risk- benefit analysis — an assessment of
the value they have to producers at the time of introduction. Their use
continues from that point forward. It's not uncommon for a crop production
product to be in the situation that the neonics are in today. The data used to
validate their value becomes dated with the progression of time.
With this issue the industry is making some efforts to update that value
message with new information. Examples include participating with the Ontario
Corn Committee in Ontario to conduct a series of trials that will evaluate corn
planted with and without neonic insecticides. The industry recognizes that
there's a perception that the value information requires refreshment and so
steps are being taken to address that.
Mr. Treacy: We're very appreciative that we live in a country that has
science-based regulations. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency has committed
to all Canadians to re-evaluate, on a regular basis, all of the products that
they register. What does that mean? If we made product A and had it
registered in 2000, the review of all the data submitted for that was based on
the science and regulations of the day. Currently, the PMRA is re-evaluating
neonicotinoids based on the science and regulations of today.
I also submit, as the former lead of regulatory affairs for Monsanto, that
the regulations are an evolving target, which is a good thing. Science moves
quickly and so do the regulations right behind it. You can rely on the
robustness of the PMRA's review and on the commitment to a re-evaluation that
they're undertaking for neonics today.
Senator Buth: Mr. Harwood, you commented on renewing some of the
information on corn. Is that happening across the industry? Are you all looking
at trials about the impact of the benefits of neonics on crop production?
Mr. Treacy: Yes. I used an example of the year 2000 to get a product
registered and then go through a re-evaluation, which may include additional
data. Companies develop data every year on all products and varieties,
constantly fine- tuning and making these products perform better to help farmers
increase their yields.
Senator Buth: Why should we believe your data? You have a vested
interest in this as these are your companies. There have been issues in the past
with false data being submitted. I haven't heard of an issue like that for quite
a few years, but we hear the criticism that you're generating all the data so
how can people have any confidence in that data?
Mr. Harwood: We're not a manufacturer of these products. As a user of
these products in a significant way, yes, we have a vested interest. They're an
integral part of the seed product we deliver to growers. The most important
vested interest we have is the viability of our customers of the Canadian crop
production sector. To do anything that would risk that is not in our interest.
To create false information would threaten that. The protection in the system is
our tremendous vested interest in the collective success of the crop production
industry in Canada.
Mr. Treacy: Adding to that, it's our data. I would suggest, yes, we do
develop data as a company. In many cases, we collaborate with third party
government extension and academics to develop the data. The data that is
submitted — if I use the PMRA as example — builds off international guidance
from the World Health Organization. They have their own regulatory framework and
have the set number of studies that are required to get a registration.
Actually, there is this thing called a DACO list, which stands for data code,
which is a grocery list of all of the data requirements. I printed it out
yesterday to remind myself of how much is submitted to the regulatory agencies
and it was between 15 and 20 pages of studies that needed to be submitted.
When you say it's our data, I would say that the regulatory agency here in
Canada builds off of international guidelines that are respected. They have
their own science-based regulations and remember the products are not just
approved in Canada but approved by multiple governments around the world. Again,
you think of the body of work, the sheer review process to get a product
registered around the world by multiple countries; multiple scientists looking
at this bodes well for the safety of these products.
Mr. Hoekstra: It's important to note that the companies like Syngenta
make a compound or seed treatment that is then purchased by the seed companies
at a cost. They would not be purchasing something that they didn't see value in,
in terms of protecting their technology.
Further, the value of seed-applied insecticides has been demonstrated by the
uptake of the technology by the grower community. We've heard testimony here by
the Grain Farmers of Ontario and the Canadian Canola Growers Association. Their
members have said, ``We see the value in this, and this is why we continue to
use and support it.'' They are generating data themselves. GFO and others are
working with Ontario Soil and Crop and others in Quebec to show and
re-demonstrate the value of this technology to its members.
What is important beyond our own data — or the data that Monsanto, Pioneer or
other seed companies generate — is the data generated by third party
researchers. A fantastic example is Dr. Bob Elliott with Agriculture Canada in
Saskatoon. His work on canola and the benefit of seed-applied insecticides,
whether they are neonics or previous generations, has clearly shown and
communicated the value of the technology to the grower. Collectively, it has to
be been looked at based on our data, that of the seed companies and the grower
experience, as well as third-party information.
The Chair: All senators have signalled to the chair that they want to
pose questions and you are all on the list. I would ask senators for cooperation
in limiting our introductions, our preambles to our questions, and maybe we
could ask the witnesses to shorten their answers. We will go for a second round
and I will ask the cooperation all senators.
Senator Robichaud: The chair was sending me a message.
Dr. Treacy, you cited a body of evidence, a report that says the conclusion
was ``may not be as harmful to the environment.''
This has no more weight than a statement from another group that would say it
may be harmful to the environment and, therefore, the bees. How much credibility
to do you put to that kind of statement, or should we?
Mr. Treacy: I will rephrase. I would submit that neonicotinoids,
compared to products used prior to the introduction of neonicotinoids,
organophosphates are much safer. Multiple bodies of work reinforce that and
probably with more forceful words than I used this morning.
Senator Robichaud: That was a quote from an article you were reading.
Mr. Treacy: Okay. I would have to find that.
Senator Robichaud: That puts us in a situation as to where we park our
beliefs and just who should we believe.
Mr. Treacy: If it was the U.K. study, what I had said was that the
government communicated that while the studies were interesting, none of them
gave unequivocal evidence that sublethal effects are likely to arise from
current uses of neonic pesticides. This was one study on sublethal effects,
which was different from the report from the USDA and EPA that looked at the
whole body of work.
It goes back to what Senator Buth was saying earlier: If you look at some
studies, you will see some variety. If you look at the overall summary, taken
together, there is strong support for the safety of these products.
Senator Robichaud: We know there is strong support because we hear
strong support for the use of those products. The use of those products depends
largely, when it comes to the environment, on best practices. How much effort is
being put in monitoring those best practices by people in the U.S. who sell
those products to make sure that they are used the way they should be?
Mr. Treacy: Thanks for reminding me about the best management
practices. I probably have four or five bullets here on what we're doing in
terms of best management practices to make sure farmers are following these.
Number one, we're attaching information on PMRAs, BMPs, as well as the
fluency agent on our Acceleron information sheet. As I was saying earlier, we
don't own any neonic products, but we license from multiple companies and our
brand is Acceleron. Our information sheets include a statement on the fluency
agent, as well as the PMRA best management practices. Our brand for seed is
called DEKALB, and we have put this information on the front page of our DEKALB
website. We have done internal training of our technical staff in both the East
and Western Canada, and then we did training of our dealers and retail in both
east and west. I understand that we are preparing a letter to go directly to
farmers who have ordered our seed in preparation for the new coming year. Those
are some of the examples that we have done.
Senator Robichaud: I understand that you put out all that information,
but somebody has to read it and follow the directions. What kind of monitoring
is done to make sure that this is followed?
Mr. Treacy: That's an excellent question, actually. We had a
conference call a couple of weeks ago through CSTA and one point of discussion
was that there is likely some value in performing a survey with some of our
farmer groups, working with the various companies, to find out if these farmers
have read the information, if they are aware of the website, and if they are
aware of the information that is out there. That would give us a sense on how
well we are doing as an industry to get that information out to people. That's
one thing under discussion now and the idea is perhaps doing one in the spring
and another one in the fall, before and after planting.
Senator Robichaud: Anybody else?
Mr. Hoekstra: To build on that, I think it's important to recognize
that the issue we're facing, almost exclusively in Ontario, is relatively new,
2012-13. A lot of required best management practices, including the development
of the new fluency agent as seen as a mitigation tool, were only brought into
place early 2013. We are talking about changing a mindset, getting awareness out
to growers to do things differently than was done in the past. That takes time,
constant communication and communication through multiple sources. To complement
what Monsanto is doing, Pioneer is doing the same. Syngenta has radio ads. All
these things exist. Flood that information out there.
Brian's point is that we need to look at how effective those are and change
what needs to be changed going forward.
Senator Robichaud: That's the point we are trying to make.
Mr. Hoekstra: It's an ever-evolving process. The best management
practices we created in 2012 look different this year than they did last year.
It's about what needs to be changed and how we keep moving it forward.
Senator Robichaud: I have a lot more questions, but I will yield the
Senator Eaton: To finish up on BMPs, are you going into agricultural
schools? We've heard from beekeeper associations and councils about leaving
tracts of lands for wildflowers and weeds along the sides of fields. Are you
being proactive in terms of trying to get best practices into the hands of the
next generation of agriculturists?
Mr. Hoekstra: One of the recommendations that came out of the Ontario
working group formed by the Premier of Ontario was just that: How can we better
educate growers in terms of becoming certified, the handling of seed treatment,
as well as understanding and appreciating bee health as part of their farm
operations? That is moving forward as part of provincial action to look at seed
treatment and bees as well.
Senator Eaton: Dr. Treacy, you talked about the Clinton summit, your
Honey Bee Health Summit in Missouri and the concrete steps, but you didn't tell
us what any of the concrete steps are. What is really happening on the ground
coming out of those two summits?
Mr. Treacy: Correct. Let me go through my notes here.
Senator Eaton: If you'd like to save time, you could send to our clerk
any concrete steps that might further help us in terms of our recommendations.
Mr. Treacy: I can give you a quick overview, and then I'll provide
information to the clerk as well.
A couple of key outcomes of the Honey Bee Health Summit we had in Missouri
included developing focused areas for research, as well as setting up
collaborations for future work on improving honeybee health.
In terms of the Clinton Global Initiative, they already set out four
priorities. I was talking with Dr. Jerry Hayes yesterday. They are physically
meeting today to work on the four priorities. Those four are: One, improving
honeybee nutrition; two, providing research investment in novel technology for
varroa; three, understanding science-based approaches to studying pesticide
impact and increasing the awareness of best management practices; and, four,
enabling economic empowerment of beekeepers.
Senator Eaton: Fantastic. Those are things you can take into schools,
In talking about one the focused areas of your research, you've said — and
we've heard this from other people — that the varroa mite is one of the bad
guys, along with two or three other things. Are any of your companies doing
focused research on varroa mites, and — because of our climate, which is very
different from California, the southern states or Australia — does our climate
have an effect on varroa mites?
Mr. Treacy: I will start off with the climate piece on varroa. To my
knowledge, the varroa mite is not present or is not an issue in the southern
hemisphere. The varroa mite is an issue in the northern hemisphere. So you're
absolutely right about that.
In terms of our company and whether we are doing direct research to provide a
solution to varroa, we are. I talked about acquiring the company Beeologics in
2011. We are developing our first biological technology platform called
BioDirect, and it is a platform that is developing a technology called RNA
In terms of biology 101, every cell of every organism has DNA and DNA codes
for a message, which is RNA. The RNA is a message that forms the building blocks
of proteins — so, amino acids. We have sequenced the genome of the honeybee and
varroa, and we have identified sequences that are specific to varroa only; we
call them RNAi targets.
When I was talking with Dr. Hayes a couple of days ago, he was telling me
that the way this would work with a product concept is that we would feed the
honeybees with a nutritional sugar product that would include the RNAi target.
The honeybee would ingest this. When the varroa comes in and punctures the
honeybee, they would get the RNAi and it would turn off an essential gene in
varroa and kill the varroa.
To summarize, we would be developing a technology that would somewhat
vaccinate, if you would like, the honeybee. We are in early stages, but we're
hoping we're going to see something tangible in the next three to five years.
Senator Rivard: Witnesses have told us that untreated seeds were
unavailable during the year, so they have to order them in October for the
Can you tell us why that is the case? How can this situation be improved?
Mr. Treacy: I will answer, and others can join in. I know this year,
based on the situation that occurred in 2012, we offered a fungicide-only option
to farmers, and I can tell you the results of that are low. Farmers do not want
to plant their seeds without a seed treatment. So with corn, although we put
seed aside, untreated, we are only successful in selling 1 per cent of that. We
sold roughly 5 per cent of our soybean untreated. Farmers did not want to
participate in that program.
Mr. Harwood: I have a similar response. We created supplies of
non-insecticide-treated corn and soybeans, and we still have supply today; the
supply we created was greater than the demand.
Mr. Hoekstra: I concur.
Senator Ogilvie: It will be fascinating to see that RNAi technology
come through and if it survives those various stages through biological systems,
but it is a fascinating technology.
When seed producers plant the seeds they use to grow the crops that generate
the seeds they sell, are they using exactly the same seed technology as they are
selling in the end, after they harvest the seed, coated and sell it to the
Mr. Horner: In canola, yes, it's the exact same product and the exact
Senator Ogilvie: I suspected it was, but I wanted to get it on the
Finally, we have heard from a variety of witnesses, bee and food producers
and so on, that there are multiple hazards for any living system out there — and
certainly, in this case, we are focusing on bees — and these hazards range from
climates and micro-climates to parasites to pesticides and the variations of
these things across a vast country such as Canada.
We very clearly have seen that the impact on honeybees is substantially
different in major areas across the country and within sub-areas. I will focus
on one of the many components, and I want to go to Dr. Hoekstra with regard to
the comment he made about the 10-year study on the accumulation in the
environment. My question is: Over that 10-year period, was there any
accumulation of the neonic in the soil or did the level remain relatively
Mr. Hoekstra: That's a good question. I will have to go back to the
actual study. From recollection, it did remain constant, which is what we saw
from recent research that came out from the University of Guelph in Ontario as
well. It's not accumulating. It's there; we can detect it because of the minute
ability to detect small trace levels of anything.
Senator Ogilvie: With regard to the amount in any area of medicine or
chemical impact, it is the question of the dose. The dose is critical and that
is why the measure you referred to is important in the observation.
Mr. Hoekstra: I could not agree more. It is the dose that makes the
The Chair: If you want to send additional information, please do it
through the chair and directly to the clerk, please.
Senator Maltais: Do you understand French well?
Mr. Treacy: Yes, I was born in Montreal.
Senator Maltais: You must be familiar with Jean Lafontaine, who said
in reference to pests and animals that they would not all die from it, but they
would all be affected.
Your company makes poison. That is its objective, which is entirely
legitimate and legal in Canada. I am specifically talking about Canada because
some American states have kicked you out. Is that right?
Mr. Treacy: I am not sure whether you are talking about chemical
products or GMO products.
Senator Maltais: I am talking about your products.
Mr. Treacy: Our products in general?
Senator Maltais: Some American states have kicked you out because of
certain products. That cannot be denied.
Mr. Treacy: Do you have any examples?
Senator Maltais: Yes, in Nebraska in particular. Why do regions
without pesticides have bee death rates of 15 per cent, whereas those rates vary
between 30 per cent and 50 per cent in regions with pesticides?
Mr. Treacy: The question is that there is insect death around 15 per
cent where there are no insecticides or pesticides, but it's much higher where
you have chemical products in the field. That's not a study that I'm aware of,
so I wouldn't be able to speak to that.
Senator Maltais: Are you not aware of this study?
Mr. Treacy: No.
Senator Maltais: Yet, beekeepers from the west have told us that those
products have led to a death rate of 50 per cent. They are not scientists, but
simply beekeepers. In areas where wild bees are attracted by wild plants, the
death rate is about 15 per cent.
I want to talk about the pesticide-free blueberry fields in Nova Scotia, New
Brunswick, Newfoundland and northern Quebec. The reason is not the heat, as the
temperatures reach -40ºC during the winter. The death rate is 15 per cent. In
the regions where your pesticides are used, the death rate is 50 per cent.
You said something earlier that impressed me. You said you were developing a
microbe to fight the varroa mite inside the bee. Are you telling me that your
pesticides are akin to cod liver oil for bees?
Mr. Treacy: The trend is where there are pesticides we are seeing more
bee mortality. Again, I'm not a beekeeper, but from the data I have reviewed and
in talking to beekeepers, the message I hear time and time again is it's multi-
factorial. You cannot always come out and say pesticides are 100 per cent
responsible. Is there an impact? I think that's what we've discussed today.
There likely is a certain impact, but the body of work today would suggest that
bee health is multi-factorial and from one geography to another. From the
blueberry growing regions of Quebec to the canola growing regions of Western
Canada, all of the factors work in synergy. I think what happened in 2012 was a
perfect storm of all these stresses coming together. I can't pinpoint pesticides
being 100 per cent cause of bee death, regardless of the geography or the
You made a comment on the biological product we are working at. One thing
that's not being discussed, and I have not heard in this committee, is that
beekeepers use pesticides to control varroa mites within their own hives. They
use fungicides, insecticides. They use multiple products that also impact the
health of their own bees, and so we are trying to come forward with what we
believe is the number one pest that impacts the health of bees and we're taking
a biological approach. When I say ``biological approach,'' the definition of
``biotechnology'' is harnessing natural processes that we find in nature and
applying them to the benefit of mankind and, in this particular case, it's
The Chair: Thank you for the clarification.
Senator Maltais, Dr. Hoekstra wanted to make a comment on your question.
Mr. Hoekstra: Thank you. I think it's important for us to look at bee
health holistically and differentiate between the acute incidents we have seen
in Ontario, as well as overall bee health in Canada. We know, through Statistics
Canada and evidence presented earlier, that we have 40 per cent more bee
colonies now in Canada than we've had since World War II. This includes a 20 per
cent increase in the number of bee colonies in Ontario since the introduction of
While bee health is being affected by a number of factors, such as varroa
mites, et cetera, there are acute issues we need to address. As well, there are
some good pragmatic examples we have in Canada where pesticide usage and bees
successfully coexist. I can think of no finer example than the province of
Alberta, where we keep the majority of our bees, and a high proportion use of
neonic use on canola that is bee attractive, used for pollination services.
Beekeepers use it to make honey, and we have an increase in bee numbers there.
On the flip side, we have issues in British Columbia where very little of this
product, if any, is used, and we have historically had poor bee health. Two
years ago we had 90 per cent of loss of bee colonies on Vancouver Island, for
There are examples where we have issues at play, both natural and pesticide,
such as the acute incidents in Ontario, and we are working toward fixing those.
Senator Maltais: This is my last question, Mr. Chair. A number of
scientists have told us that pesticide-coated grains are excellent for soy, corn
and so on, but that they do not dissolve easily in the soil, and erosion may
cause them to end up in water. It takes an average of 10 to 15 years for those
pesticides to disappear completely. Do you agree with those techniques?
Mr. Treacy: My understanding of neonics is that they degrade in the
soil within six months. I'll also reiterate the exposure component. With
previous products, such as foliar applications, you have 100 per cent exposure
on one acre and with seed treatments on one acre the exposure goes down to 24
square feet, which is roughly the size of this table.
Senator Maltais: If I have understood your answer correctly, neither
the soil nor the water is affected. Can you confirm that?
Mr. Treacy: Paul can help me here with studies they have performed on
non-target organisms in the soil.
Mr. Hoekstra: The environmental fate of neonics is extensively studied
prior to registration. While minute traces may be found in soil or water, using
a risk-based approach, these levels are well below any level of concern. We can
detect minute traces of pretty much anything with sensitive methodology. It's a
function of what the relevance of the amount of these compounds is versus
Senator Maltais: Do you regularly contact Canadian university research
centres, which told us this? You seem to be contradicting them, but you may be
right. Is there a way to find out whether the pesticides contaminate the soil
and water or not? Scientists from Laval University, Université de Montréal and
University of Guelph gave us this information. If you are saying the opposite,
and you specialize in research, I will not disagree with you, since I am not an
expert in this area. However, I would like someone to tell us the truth.
Mr. Hoekstra: As we heard earlier, science is complex. There is a
distribution of information out there. Research from the University of Guelph,
PMRA and most recently the MOE has shown that we may detect trace amounts, but
they are well below levels of concern. Work has been done with field puddles in
Quebec by certain researchers. Again, the distribution of this information would
suggest that you can have high levels, but those high levels that you could see,
we can explain. They're very rare. The vast majority of data clearly demonstrate
that levels of neonics in the environment are well below levels of concern posed
Senator Maltais: How are your products handled within the
Canada-Europe free trade agreement?
Mr. Hoekstra: I'm sorry; I can't comment on that.
Senator Dagenais: When you are the last person to ask questions, there
may be some redundancy. My question has been asked, and I obtained my answer.
Senator Oh: I have a question for all of the witnesses. German
researchers completed a study that was released in March 2014 suggesting the
non-lethal dosage of three substances in neonicotinoids. It's difficult for me
to pronounce them, so I wrote down the three substances. These three substances,
according to the study, can interfere with honeybees' navigation.
To what extent are these non-lethal effects tested before they go to the
market? Does Canada conduct any similar research on the navigation of honeybees?
Mr. Hoekstra: It's important to note that pollinator testing is a key
part of the registration for insecticides in particular. We have seen that in
the breadth and depth of studies that have been performed. In looking at
navigation, it's important to note that in every study conducted by either
industry or by external parties, when bees are exposed environmentally relevant
concentrations — perhaps not concentrations used in the lab but something that's
relevant to what they may be exposed to in the environment — no impact on bee
health, including navigation, has been documented. Some studies show the various
impacts on foraging capacity, but those have all been done at concentrations or
doses well above what's normally expected in the environment.
Mr. Treacy: I referred earlier to a U.K. study. This is the piece on
science where you come out with multiple examples. You talk about a German
example where there were impacts on honeybee behaviour. I have one study that
shows it had no impact. The piece of reproducibility is important as is the
level of pesticide being looked at.
I want to note one thing: The PMRA was active in responding to this issue in
2012 with short-term and long-term measures, best management practices, and
mandatory use of Fluency Agent. The latest that has recently come out is a
notice for a proposed procurement. They will advocate for researchers to come
forward and make a proposal for a three-year study to do the analysis of
pesticide residues in various matrices. Samples of honeybees, soil, water,
vegetation, honeycomb and pollen will be collected to support the study done
within the confines of the PMRA.
With some of these different studies, including 2012, we're trying to dissect
the definition of a trace level. In all of those bees collected in 2012 — and
Paul alluded to this in his response to Senator Maltais — the levels were below
what they call the NOAEL, a scientific term for no-observed-adverse-effect
level. All the traces levels found in honeybees will tell you scientifically
that that pesticide alone was not responsible for the deaths of those bees.
Mr. Horner: I have no scientific data to quote, but I can tell you
that in canola seed production, we place hives in the canola fields and all of
our seed is neonic treated. We have observed no navigation issues after those
bees feed on that pollen all summer long. They find their way back to their
homes very effectively, and find me in the field to sting me when they want to,
as well. However, Dr. Shelley Hoover, the new apiculturist research scientist in
Lethbridge, has a number of studies that she will conduct over the next couple
of years on the effects of honeybees in seed production.
Mr. Treacy: I want to bring something to the attention of the
committee: I was talking with our lead canola breeder yesterday out of Winnipeg
— and Senator Buth would know Dr. Chris Anderson. I told him that we use
pollination services for our hybrid seed production in Lethbridge, Alberta, and
Cranbrook, B.C., as well as for seed production in South America, mainly in
Chile. I told him also that I would be coming to this Senate meeting today and
so I'd been learning a lot about bee health.
I asked him: Do the farmers across Canada use pollination services? We had a
good chat. He said that no, not per se, they don't hire people to come in with
pollination services. He said that there's an interesting symbiotic relationship
between beekeepers and canola farmers. The beekeeper wants to use canola for his
bees to go out and get nectar to produce honey, and the farmer would like to
have a beekeeper come along to help with pollination services.
His personal example was that, although he works for Monsanto, he also has a
family farm, and he has a local beekeeper who asks him every year if he can put
his hives around his canola fields that have neonics on them. I understand it's
a win-win for both the beekeeper and the canola producer. I also understand
Chris gets about two pounds of honey at the end of the year, which is not a bad
Senator Eaton: Talking about hives and going into canola fields, are
you doing any research — because we've heard this from quite a few people — on
bee health and bee nutrition? I don't want to take up everybody's time, but if
you do have information, could you send it to our clerk? We haven't really
delved into that.
Mr. Horner: I can take that request to Dr. Shelley Hoover, and I'm
sure she can provide you with some of that information. She has a number of
research initiatives that she outlined to me when I met with her last week. Some
interesting research has been done and is going to be done.
Senator Eaton: I think that varies, too, across the country, doesn't
it — how much is left in the hive for overwintering and how much is taken out,
and monoculture and having more sources than only canola?
Mr. Treacy: In terms of projects on nutrition, I talked about PAm or
Project Apis m., the ``m'' being for ``mellifera.'' They have conducted a lot of
research on nutrition and diseases. I can send to the clerk a link to the
website that posts well over 20 research studies on this.
Through our involvement with Dr. Jerry Hayes, who is a scientific adviser to
PAm, we've learned a lot. PAm was developed, actually, for the almond industry.
In Canada, we have 700,000 colonies for pollination services. For the almond
sector in California, 1.6 million colonies are required to pollinate almonds.
You can imagine it's a significant endeavour. What I'm told they need are these
Olympic-quality honeybees to come in and do the work.
The research has shown that if they have a variety of forage that flower
before the almonds flower, as well as after the flowering of almonds, the
performance of these pollinators and the health of these honeybees are higher.
Similar to what we have in Western Canada for the beef sector in feedlots,
they're actually considering building forage lots for many of these pollinators.
I would submit, senator, that we have learned from that and we're starting to
apply those learnings to our hybrid seed production, as well as seed production
down in South America.
Senator Eaton: I guess there's the overwintering factor, too — longer
winters, more food?
Mr. Treacy: Correct.
Senator Ogilvie: With regard to the observation that in British
Columbia, where neonics are not used extensively, they have significant
difficulties, does that have any correlation to the amount of marijuana being
grown? Does it affect the bees' abilities to find their homes?
Mr. Hoekstra: Those major events we experienced in British Columbia,
or at least that portion of B.C., were due primarily to weather.
To Brian's comments earlier about bee health, Senator Eaton made a good point
about biodiversity, bee health and understanding the complexity of factors
affecting bees. I can provide to the clerk some work we did in Europe looking at
computer modelling and understanding the various stresses that affect bees that
beekeepers can use that has been generated out of Europe to understand what
things are at play.
As well, there are programs we've done in Europe with Operation Pollinator to
look at enhancing biodiversity at the landscape level. We've been successful in
developing 10,000 hectares of pollinator-friendly habitat in areas adjacent to
We've been able to slowly start to bring this to Canada. There are
differences in terms of how agriculture works here versus Europe in terms of
offsetting costs to growers to do things like this. We have a program, for
example, with Dr. Chris Cutler, whom you had here earlier, looking at how you
can encourage native pollinators to help with crop production in respect to
There are lots of great opportunities and good examples of ways you can build
in that biodiversity and diet to help bees, for sure.
Senator Tardif: I believe a comment was made that the greater number
of mortality of bees was in the province of Ontario and that there was no
significant problem in Alberta. Mr. Mike Paradis, a seventh-generation beekeeper
from the northern Peace River country in Alberta, appeared before the committee
and raised some concerns. There's also a letter that I believe appeared in
The Globe and Mail in February 2014 where Mr. Paradis is quoted as saying
he's witnessed up to 70 per cent of colony loss and that he's losing $200,000 a
year of annual revenue. So, obviously, there are concerns in Alberta about bee
colony loss. He hasn't identified a specific factor, knowing there are many
factors at play here.
I just wanted to point that out because I know that Alberta is the largest
honey producer in Canada, so the fact that some of our beekeepers are
experiencing colony loss — and I think it was about four years ago when he said
he lost 70 per cent of his colonies. Beekeeping is an art and an expertise in
his family, so he knows what he's talking about.
However, some beekeepers' associations in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba
have told the committee that in the past few years they've experienced and seen
an increase in the use of pesticides on crops, specifically what they referred
to as ``convenience spraying.'' Would you agree with that, and have you any
evidence? Are your products being used for convenience spraying?
Mr. Horner: I can start. Working with farmers in southern Alberta
directly, I can say that I would disagree that there's any amount of convenience
spraying going on, because the products are expensive; the products have a cost
to the farm. Margins on the farm today are relatively tight and people avoid
spending money on things that don't have an economic return.
Extension officials in Western Canada have done a really good job in
communicating threshold levels of insect populations where spraying is justified
and warranted, and I believe producers respect those threshold levels, for the
My observation is that there isn't an amount of convenience spraying going
Mr. Harwood: I do not have data that validates that observation or
that disputes it, either. What I do observe, in the case of Western Canada and
canola, which is our primary product in the West, is that there are annual
differences in pest pressure. Some years, flea beetles — the primary
early-season pest in canola — are more problematic than in other years. When
they're most problematic, there is more of a requirement to use a spray
treatment to control them. It would be my suspicion that what is occurring are
those annual fluctuations in pest pressures.
Senator Tardif: It comes back to the point raised earlier, namely, to
what extent are you communicating with farmers the information about best
management practices that could have an impact on bee health and pollinator
health? If it's not necessary, let's not use it. That comes to the point of
communication and having that symbiotic relationship with the beekeepers and
Senator Robichaud: What efforts are being invested in research to find
a replacement for neonics? Or are we basically satisfied that the product is
doing what it was designed to do, and that there are no indications it should be
Mr. Hoekstra: I can't speak for all companies and what their research
pipelines show. What I can say about our pipeline and what we know of others is
that the spectrum of protection offered by the neonicotinoid class of chemistry
is unparalleled. There are few replacements in our pipeline that offer that same
level of control for the multitude of crops across which neonics can be used.
Companies are always looking for that next thing. We haven't found it.
Senator Robichaud: You say we are looking, but how much effort is
being made? We're quite comfortable. Nothing else can do what that product can
Mr. Hoekstra: It's a very good question. It's a life cycle of every
compound. Every compound becomes innovated, is discovered, goes to market, and
has a patent and data protection to it. At a certain point, it's like aspirin in
that anybody can make it.
It's in a company's best interest to always look for and invest in R&D. For
instance, Syngenta spends about 10 per cent of our global sales in R&D on the
hunt for new technology to keep us one step ahead — not just ahead of our
competition but one step ahead of the pests because, after a time, there may be
questions about resistance or new pests we didn't have before coming into Canada
because of global warming or changing crop practices.
We're always looking for that next level of innovation. That search always
Mr. Treacy: To answer your question, the focus of our company is more
on the biotech side. We have roughly one product on the chemistry side. It's not
an area of focus for us. I just wanted you to know that.
Senator Robichaud: Have you kept track of what was happening in Europe
because of the moratorium as to the production and how it affected the farmers
over there, generally?
Mr. Hoekstra: This is the first year for the suspension, so it's
difficult to see what changes have been made. That said, we have heard reports
in the United Kingdom, for instance, where farmers are shifting away from
oilseed rape production in favour of cereals, because they no longer have the
technology available to them to protect their crop.
So, we're seeing some fundamental changes at a landscape level that do affect
beekeepers. A good example of this is the British Beekeepers Association is not
in favour of a neonic ban, because they recognize what's going to happen to
farmers: They move away from oilseeds, they go to cereals. Where are the bees
going to forage?
This will be an interesting year in terms of how production will change
across the landscape, and what effect that may have on bee health in general.
Senator Robichaud: So, you're following that closely, then.
Senator Buth: I have three short questions. Why isn't the fluency
agent already included in the seed?
Mr. Harwood: This is a question we get frequently from growers. As
we've introduced the technology, growers have said, ``Boy, I'd just like to be
able to purchase seed from you that I can put in the planter and plant it.'' I
understand that perspective completely. Efforts are underway to do what we can
to create a seed out of seed conditioning facilities that can be planted
directly without supplemental lubrication. It is a challenge; it's a technical
challenge of applying that product in an industrial facility. Suffice it to say,
that's being explored. We're just not quite there yet.
Senator Buth: Second, have you measured the dose of neonics that a bee
would actually receive if it landed on a canola flower?
Mr. Hoekstra: Understanding residues in pollen nectar is a key part of
our regulatory dossier, and we're continuing to generate additional data to
Senator Buth: So, you're working on that?
Mr. Hoekstra: Yes, and we have data already.
Senator Buth: Could you share that with us?
Mr. Hoekstra: Yes.
Senator Buth: Last question: What recommendation would you give us in
terms of what we need to do to protect pollinators in Canada?
Mr. Hoekstra: I'm sure all of us would want to comment on this, but,
as you've heard multiple times over the course of this session, bee health is a
complex issue with multiple factors affecting it. There's no silver bullet to
curing bee health; rather, a multifactorial approach is required.
As we saw this past week with the AAFC roundtable on looking at bee health in
Canada, there are a couple of initiatives we can do. For me, as varroa mites
have been identified as the number one factor affecting bee health, what
research can we put into understanding or promoting and commercializing these
new solutions that can come to market for bee health regarding varroa control?
There's an understanding of what exactly bee health looks like in Canada. We
don't have currently a national survey of what are the various stressors
affecting bees, and what is the status of bees across the country. That's number
Number three is what Senator Eaton said earlier, and she hit the nail on the
head: We need to be always farming with future generations in mind. What can we
do to encourage bee health at a landscape level and at a farm level? What can we
do in terms of either provincial farm plans or federal encouragement to
facilitate biodiversity and bee habitat, both managed and native pollinators, at
the farm level? Those are things we can look at that would have a positive
benefit to bee health in general.
Mr. Horner: I listed three in my submission, and I'll just repeat
those. Those three statements came from discussions with beekeepers in Alberta
and researchers. The number one point that beekeepers bring to the table is
developing bee- friendly habitat. The impacts of a long cold winter can be
mitigated if, when bees leave the hive in the spring, there are flowering
species available to them — whether that's willow trees, indigenous wildflowers
or dandelions. Anything available to provide pollen, nectar and energy to those
bees will help minimize the overwintering losses. Right now, beekeepers are
assessing their hives and seeing 10 to 15 per cent losses, which don't concern
them. But if we get another few weeks of cold, hard winter, then they will lose
another 10 to 30 per cent, or greater. So, developing bee-friendly habitat that
provides flowering species in the spring and fall is important.
Also, long-term funding is crucial; a commitment to long-term funding in
Canada on bee health issues is important. Right now, the issue has a lot of
attention and there are a lot of short-term activities taking place, but the
researchers really believe that long-term funding is required in order to
understand the impacts of what we do on a long-term basis.
Last is extension and building awareness with beekeepers, farmers, with
consumers and the general public about the role they can play in creating
sustainable bee habitat.
Mr. Treacy: In terms of recommendations, I would say three things, and
there's a little bit of overlap from other members of the panel. First, continue
the dialogue; let's not react like the EU has. Paul touched upon the first
national bee health workshop that was hosted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
earlier this week. We've all been working together — the Canadian Seed Trade
Association, CropLife Canada, the Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Canola Council
of Canada, all the beekeepers; everyone is working. This organization with Ag
Canada leading would be helpful. We need to develop a baseline to better
understand what the focal points are and then focus research on those
The Chair: This prompts the chair to ask a question.
It is factual that the Government of Canada, or Canada through its history,
fosters regulations based on scientific principles. Since you have an impact
globally — your presence — would you say that the scientific approach Canada has
and cherishes fosters the signature of international agreements when we look at
expanding agriculture and our industry, especially in view of the 9 billion
people we will need to feed?
The chair does not want to lead the answer to the witnesses, but a short one
would be appreciated. We will start with Dr. Hoekstra.
Mr. Hoekstra: Yes. I think the regulatory system in Canada is
internationally respected as being of highest quality and it provides innovators
— the people around this table, companies like ours — with certainty in terms of
what technology we can bring to market. Without a strong regulatory system and
decisions that are made by politics, that certainty is gone and we are unable to
bring innovation to the market.
Mr. Harwood: Agreed. In our experience, the science-based regulatory
process in Canada has allowed Canadian producers to experience innovation in a
more predictable and consistent way than some of our producers south of the
border. It is a respected science-based regulatory process.
Mr. Treacy: I would agree with all of the above. Not only is it highly
respected here in Canada, but also abroad. Canada does a lot of
capacity-building in developing countries, and a lot of countries are looking to
Canada for advice in developing their own regulatory frameworks.
Mr. Horner: To build on that comment, I sit on the board of the Seed
Association of the Americas, which is South America, Canada, United States and
Mexico, dealing with seed issues. Many of the countries in South America look to
Canada with envy at the system we have. They look at it as an example, and to us
as leaders, when the issues come to the table. They are striving to have a
system that emulates what we have. That is a huge credit to us and it is
something that needs to be protected.
The Chair: On behalf of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture
and Forestry, thank you very much to the witnesses. You have been informative,
educational and also enlightening.
Honourable senators, I declare the meeting adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)