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Evidence of meeting #44 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was corn.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Rod Scarlett  Executive Director, Canadian Honey Council
Bill Ferguson  Owner, Ferguson Apiaries
Davis Bryans  President, Munro Honey & Munro's Meadery
David Schuit  President, Saugeen Country Honey Inc.
Hendrika Schuit  Member, Saugeen Country Honey Inc.

4:20 p.m.

Owner, Ferguson Apiaries

Bill Ferguson

I would definitely like to see them banned for the present until they can prove that they aren't going to be damaging.

Neonicotinoids aren't just on corn. They are on soybeans. They are used on every other crop out there that's sprayed or drenched. For potatoes, they can do the seed or whatever. It's causing a problem.

At the moment, what's happening with the corn, because of the way it's planted, is that the cloud that's coming up behind the seeders—I have a couple of pictures of that—is quite a cloud. If there's any kind of air movement, the reports we're getting say that it will drift several miles. Then it contaminates every other flowering plant in the area. You have a lethal dose that will kill the bees, or you have a sublethal dose that's going to affect their abilities in the things they do. Some of the reports I've read say that it affects the sperm count. It affects the DNA of the insects. We aren't sure what the long term is.

We were looking at about 4,000 queens to sell to beekeepers across Canada and the U.S. We'd be able to mark them up, especially for the U.S., because they want a queen that's winter hardy and is gentle and isn't connected to the Africanized bee. We've had that. Now we are concerned about what's going to happen to our operation. It went from about 1,000 hives down to 350. To produce queens was a different type of income, as we looked at retirement and seeing as some of our family wanted to carry on in that line.

We're not sure where that's going to leave us.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Thank you.

Mr. Bryans.

4:20 p.m.

President, Munro Honey & Munro's Meadery

Davis Bryans

This spring, when my son was going out to take the bees out from the winter packaging, that's when they discovered the bees. The bees were going out healthy in the morning. You could tell, because their legs were covered with pollen. I have pictures here of them lying on the ground in front of the hive. They were healthy when they went out. They gathered pollen—the pollen is still on their legs—and they're dead in front of the hives. And those are the ones that made it back. There are lots of bees that are probably dead out there. Thirty per cent of the hive died off, and that's all the foragers. When you lose your forage force, you lose your honey production that's going to feed those bees to get you to the summer. It's your pollinating source. It's everything.

It's pretty tough on your colonies to take this. We just don't know what the root of it is. We think they should just outright get rid of the neonicotinoids until something can be done about it. These other countries have seen it and know that it's a problem. Why aren't we doing something about it?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Larry Miller

Thank you.

We'll go to Mr. Lobb, for five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm just wondering if someone here today could tell me the first noted date of the use of neonicotinoids on a corn or soybean seed.

4:25 p.m.

Owner, Ferguson Apiaries

Bill Ferguson

Do you mean this year?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

No. How many years have they used neonicotinoids on corn for air seeders?

4:25 p.m.

Owner, Ferguson Apiaries

Bill Ferguson

That I couldn't tell you. I know that it's been used for quite a few years, but it is being used on more and more seeds now it seems.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

There are a lot more air seeders around than there have ever been. They're more popular.

4:25 p.m.

Owner, Ferguson Apiaries

Bill Ferguson

Our neighbour, Reiger, said that probably 90% of the corn is planted with air seeders now.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Right, yes.

4:25 p.m.

President, Munro Honey & Munro's Meadery

Davis Bryans

Corn is quite in demand. The price is high. A lot of ground that was normally pasture or hay fields was worked up and planted in corn this year, so there's a lot more acreage in corn.

What he's buying isn't explained to the farmer. They just say, “You know, if you get this on it, you're going to get another bushel to the acre”. They don't tell him that it's going to kill the bees. They're selling this poison, but they don't tell them. They're saying that for $5, you're going to get another bushel to the acre. Farmers aren't even aware that they're buying this product.

June 4th, 2012 / 4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Spraying herbicides and pesticides on any crop is obviously nothing new. What's the difference between the analysis you did maybe five, six, or 10 years ago versus today? They've been using pesticides for years. What's the difference between the older data versus the newer data you have now?

4:25 p.m.

Owner, Ferguson Apiaries

Bill Ferguson

It would appear that the new pesticides are much more potent, and we did have trouble with Furadan in the past in sweet corn areas. Even though Furadan was a really bad poison for us—it knocked the bees just about as bad as this stuff—it was over in a couple of days.

The poison they're using now has a shortest half-life of 107 days, and according to the research, they're finding it in the soil 18 to 19 years later. The neonicotinoids are the most easily translocated poison there is. It will translocate and flow with the subsoil moisture, so it's going to naturally flow to the lowest spots.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

On the flow then, has any research been done on how far the neonicotinoid will travel in the air?

4:25 p.m.

Owner, Ferguson Apiaries

Bill Ferguson

In the air?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Yes, so if you sprayed it in one spot—

4:25 p.m.

Owner, Ferguson Apiaries

Bill Ferguson

It's not sprayed.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

How far will the dust travel? Have any studies been done on that?

4:25 p.m.

President, Munro Honey & Munro's Meadery

Davis Bryans

No, but this year was very dry in our area. When the farmers were able to get on the fields on April 18, or just a little before that, they worked them down so fine, the dust was flying from the dust of the field plus the air seeders. I don't know if they mentioned it, but they mix a talc to make the corn flow through the air seeder properly. There are different types of air seeders: high-pressure air seeders and low-pressure air seeders.

Low-pressure air seeders don't move the volumes of air that the high-pressure air seeders do, but we're the guinea pigs testing this new machinery, so I don't know what to say about....

4:25 p.m.

President, Saugeen Country Honey Inc.

David Schuit

They know this chemical kills bees. Why did they ban it in Europe? They don't want to get caught here.

4:25 p.m.

Owner, Ferguson Apiaries

Bill Ferguson

I have a picture of the air seeder with the dust, if you're interested.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

That looks very similar to my neighbours' when they were planting their soybeans.

I'm curious. Mr. Schuit, you claim your designation is organic. How does this affect your certification? Let's say a miracle happens, and you're able to produce a little honey this year.

4:25 p.m.

President, Saugeen Country Honey Inc.

David Schuit

That's the thing.

The farm itself is certified organic, but I'm not claiming that the bees themselves are organic. I like putting my bees in areas where I know there will be fewer chemical sprays or pesticides. I'm always thinking my odds are better than if I put them where I know major commercial crops are planted.

What really alarms me is that I have several acres of bush around me, and my bees are still dying.

Do you want to say something?

4:30 p.m.

Member, Saugeen Country Honey Inc.

Hendrika Schuit

Yes.

We don't know how the certification is going to affect our land. We've never had the issue, but another farmer who was certified organic lost his certification, not necessarily because of the neonicotinoids, or at least not that I know of, but because of overspraying from neighbouring fields.

I believe he said he had 25 acres, right?