Bee Health Remains a Priority

We all have a vested interest in the health and well-being of pollinators, as they are critical for the production of many crops and the overall success and health of the Canadian agricultural industry. Mitigating risk to pollinators is a key priority for the Canadian Seed Trade Association and our value-chain partners.

It’s important to note that a lot of truly good work has been accomplished in a short amount of time. New technologies have been introduced and implemented, new planting techniques have been adopted, and communication, education and training programs have been mounted.

In recognition of the importance of pollinators and the role of a united industry, CSTA facilitated the creation of a Seed Applied Insecticide and Pollinator Health Value Chain Coalition. The industry-led coalition brings together grower groups, developers, applicators, marketers and users of seed treatments and treated seed who are committed to mitigating risk to pollinators through safe and responsible practices, including the use of seed treatments.

The coalition developed five key commitments, which were communicated to the federal and provincial governments last summer and have since been put into practice. They are:

1. Promotion of best management practices. Mandatory best management practices for planting treated seed were developed and broadly communicated, and significant time was spent training staff and growers.

2. Additional labelling. New labelling was added not only on seed tags but also on pallet IDs, bulk containers and, in some cases, invoices.

3. Improved technology. A new mandatory dust-reducing Fluency Agent was introduced, distributed and widely adopted in a matter of months.

4. Lifecycle stewardship. Standards have been developed, and will be enforced by the industry around the handling, storage and use of seed treatments and treated seed, from development to disposal of seed and seed bags.

5. Giving farmers choice. Seed companies continue to ensure that farmers have access to a range of seed treatment options including untreated and fungicide-only treated seed.

This value-chain approach has been successful and significant proactive measures have been adopted during the past year along the value chain. The level of cooperation, collaboration and stewardship is unprecedented.

In the spirit of stewardship, CSTA companies sold, for the first time, the mandatory Fluency Agent that reduces dust generated during the planting of treated seed. Enough Fluency Agent was purchased to cover approximately 7.4 million acres, which exceeds the total number of corn and soybean acres. The large adoption of this new product by Canadian growers speaks to the concerted effort made to promote good stewardship practices.

CSTA continues to work closely with provincial governments and, in particular, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada during its ongoing re-evaluation of neonicotinoids. The association also continues to act as a facilitator between PMRA and the seed industry, helping to develop additional seed labelling.

CSTA continues to financially and logistically support the CleanFARMS pilot program for the safe collection and disposal of empty pesticide and seed bags, which is now in its second year of operation in Ontario and Québec.

Concerted efforts are yielding positive results. At the time this issue went to print, PMRA was reporting that the number of bee-related incidents in 2014 were down by one-third from 2013, and the incidents that have been reported show fewer bee mortalities than in previous years.

However, it is important to recognize that bee health is a complex, multi-faceted issue that is affected by varroa mites, genetic diversity, nutrition and over-wintering losses, as well as insecticides. A holistic approach is the key to addressing long-term pollinator health. The newly formed National Bee Health Forum, co-chaired by the Canadian Honey Council and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, brings together all relevant stakeholders to discuss pollinator health and encourage collaboration between beekeepers and agriculture.

It’s important to note that a lot has been accomplished but there is still much more to do, and there are already promising signs that there will soon be an increased number of stewardship tools available to Canadian growers.

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