Corn Growers Want Healthy Bees & Access To Seed Treatment (Portage Online)

December 25, 2013

From: Portage Online

The Manitoba Corn Growers Association has added its voice to the discussion about the link between neonicotinoid seed treatments and bee health.

Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency is considering taking measures to protect bee populations, as bee deaths, especially in Ontario, have been linked to exposure to “neonics.” The Ontario Beekeepers Association and environmental groups are calling on Health Canada to follow the European Union decision to ban seed treatments that contain neonicotinoid pesticide.

“We’re hoping the PMRA continues to use sound science in making their decision. For the most part, we haven’t had a lot of neonic issues in Western Canada,” says Manitoba Corn Growers director and Steinbach-area farmer Dennis Thiessen. “We hope that working together with beekeepers that we can get to the bottom of this issue and keep things rolling.”

Known to growers by product names such as Cruiser, Helix and Poncho, Thiessen says these seed treatments are important for protecting young plants from pests and diseases.

“Neonics protect young seedlings from cutworm and wireworm damage, and also some diseases. It gives the plant a boost to get out of the ground. Especially with corn being a long-season crop, we need every advantage we can have to reach maturity,” he explains.

Thiessen believes neonics have not become a major issue in Western Canada because bees are not released as early in spring, reducing their exposure to the pesticide during seeding.

“I don’t think bees are out in the fields as much at the time of planting in Western Canada,” he explains. “I think we have good managers of bees in Western Canada and they’re doing a good job looking after them.”

Growers will also have a new tool in 2014 to reduce the risk for above-ground insects, as Bayer is releasing a planter lubricant that significantly reduces the amount of seed treatment dust released into the air during planting.

“We’re hoping that growers will embrace this new fluency agent. It’s definitely supposed to be superior to the talc that we’ve been using until now,” says Thiessen.

Ultimately, Thiessen notes farmers rely on bees to pollinate crops.

“We need bees for pollinating canola and other crops in Western Canada. We need each other and need to work together. Bee health is important to everybody.”

The Corn Growers Association submitted its views to the PMRA as part of the public consultation period that ended on December 12th.

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