No bees, no farming

No bees, no farming Re: "Don't blame pesticides for honeybee colony decline," The News, Feb. 25. Pierre Petelle of CropLife Canada makes some assertions which are hard to agree with. For instance, he claims that "pesticides used today are the safest they

Re: “Don’t blame pesticides for honeybee colony decline,” The News, Feb. 25.

Pierre Petelle of CropLife Canada makes some assertions which are hard to agree with. For instance, he claims that “pesticides used today are the safest they have ever been.”

Unfortunately this is not true. In fact, pesticides are linked to numerous diseases like cancer, diabetes, autism, genetic defects, celiac disease etc. In addition, pesticides cause serious environmental problems, they are found in rivers, lakes and groundwater.

Pesticides are often not thoroughly tested, and tests frequently only look at the active ingredient of a pesticide, but ignore the combined effect of the active and the so-called “inert” ingredients, which make up a big part of the finished product.

Likewise, the combined or synergistic effect of several pesticides acting together is often ignored, too. These combined effects make pesticides way more dangerous than their manufacturers like to admit.

In this context it is important to note that government regulatory agencies routinely rely on the data submitted by manufacturers only when they do their pesticide assessments. This is like letting the fox taking care of the hen house.

I am not making up anything of the above: read Andre Leu’s The Myths of Safe Pesticides.

Petelle further claims that “the agricultural sector is united against this unworkable policy proposal” to restrict the use of neonicotinoids in Ontario. This might be correct if you assume that the agricultural sector consists of him only. Otherwise he is wrong, for all the organic farmers, who aim at greatly reducing, if not eliminating, the use of pesticides will not agree with him.

Now talking neonicotinoids: their use in Europe was suspended after “devastating losses” – to use Petelle’s words – of honeybees occurred after neonic-treated seed corn was blown into nearby rapeseed-fields in 2008. This was not the only incident. Other reports support that neonics kill bees in such a way as they “disrupt bees’ immune system, making them susceptible to viral infections to which they are normally resistant,” according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Vol.10, No. 46. So another statement of Petelle’s, that “activist groups’ sensationalism,” as he calls it, is not supported by scientific evidence, is wrong, too.

He also accuses activist groups of “fear mongering.” Well, you are doing the same by saying that a ban of neonics would “attack the livelihood of thousands of Ontario farmers.” All I can say: man farmed without the use of neonicotinoids for some (low estimate) 6,000 years. However, we haven’t managed yet to do one year without bees or other pollinators, because we simply can’t, and fortunately there are still – for now – some around.

So which of the two do we keep? The neonics, which we don’t need, or the bees, which we need for our survival? Common sense should give you the answer right away. But common sense apparently does not exist in the head offices of the chemical corporations. Making a few billion more is more important.

Michael Steffens

Dawson City