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Bee health is a complex challenge

(NC) Anyone who truly cares about honeybee health knows that there are a host of factors that can – and do – pose a risk to these important insects. Scientists largely agree that bee health is impacted by a number of factors, including Varroa mites, disease, poor nutrition, genetics, and weather changes.

One controversial topic when it comes to bee health is the role of neonicotinoids, an insecticide that is often applied directly to seeds before they are planted in order to protect the seed and seedlings from insects in the ground, while protecting non-target organisms.

Steve Denys, past-president of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, says some countries have banned the products in hopes of improving bee health, but so far the results aren't there.

“Bee health encompasses a wide array of factors and the issues in some bee operations cannot necessarily be solved by the arbitrary removal of a specific product,” says Denys. “From what I understand, France put in a partial ban 15 years ago and it did not have the intended impact on bee mortality rates.”

Just like all pest control products, neonicotinoids have been thoroughly assessed by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency to ensure they can be used safely without harming bees.

“Our industry thoroughly assesses all of its products to ensure we understand all potential impacts on human health and the environment,” says Pierre Petelle, vice-president of chemistry at CropLife Canada.

Based on sound science, the approval process of taking a product to the market takes an average of nearly 10 years and costs over $256 million.

“Once approved, modern crop protection products like neonicotinoids provide economic, health, environmental, and social benefits by increasing yields and farming efficiency,” Petelle continued. “They also contribute to the availability of affordable and nutritious grains, fruits and vegetables.”

Farmers need this valuable tool, he points out. A recent University of Guelph study showed that infestations of wireworms and European chafer grubs in corn crops can cause a yield loss of 3-20 bushel per acre. For someone who farms 500 acres, this could represent a reduction in their revenues of $65,000 a year.

“Our industry is focused on taking a holistic look at the bee health problem to ensure that meaningful, long-term solutions are found,” says Petelle.

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