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GFO Highlights How Farmers are Taking Action to Address Bee Concerns

By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com

With planting in full swing, Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), shares some of the ways that farmers are taking steps to enhance bee protection.

Earlier this year, the province’s Ontario Bee Health Working Group published a report outlining its recommendations to address issues relating to bee health. GFO says that it has taken action on the majority of the recommendations put forward in the report, adding that its efforts have been done in collaboration with beekeepers.

The report did propose looking at a potential ban on neonicotinoids (neonic for short). However, GFO is firm on its position that a ban on neonic seed treatments is not the best option, especially since their argument is that neonic seeds play an important role in sustainable farming. According to GFO, Ontario grain farmers grow more than five million acres of corn, soybean and wheat every year. One of its biggest concerns about restricting the use of neonic is lost profits for growers. The farm group points to a recent study that suggests that revenue from corn and soybean production could fall by $600 million without neonic seeds.

There has been a heated debate about the use of neonic coated seeds, with some suggesting that it is linked to bee deaths. But has GFO argues, the bee issue is complex. There are many factors that relate to bee health, including: poor nutrition, pests/viruses, bee age, beekeeper error, and pesticide exposure.

Recommendations and Actions:

Note: Recommendations were provided in the Bee Health Working Group.

  1. Improvements to growing practices.

Actions:

  • Best Management Practices document has been updated for 2014
  • GFO has pledged more than $260,000 towards integrated pest management research
  • Untreated seed is available as an option for the 2014 plating season
  • Crop rotation continues to be a common practice among grain growers
  1. Improved communication between stakeholders

Actions:

  • GFO has developed a new SmartPhone app called ‘BeConnected’ to assist farmers and beekeepers with communication. Users can locate each other (GPS location) to coordinate efforts.
  • GFO has been actively communicating information to its members about best management practices and the mandatory use of Fluency Agent (required for all treated corn and soybean seeds).
  • GFO has been creating awareness and facilitating discussions through various media platforms including: its magazine, advertisements in farm publications, radio ads and panel discussions at district meetings.
  1. Environmental enhancements

Actions:

  • Conversations are ongoing between GFO and commercial beekeepers
  1. Technical options
  • More growers are using deflectors for planting. Pilot tests are being conducted for the 2014 planting season.
  • New Fluency Agent (to reduce dust from planting) is now mandatory for treated corn and soybean seeds.
  • GFO is working with CleanFARMS on a pilot program (in southwestern Ontario) to collect and dispose empty seed and pesticide bags/containers.
  1. Mandatory training

Actions:

  • The Ontario Pesticide Safety Course has been revised to include proper handling of treated seed.

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