Sustainability

June 17, 2014, Vernon, BC – The cost of water and how much is needed is dominating discussions between local politicians and farmers.

The B.C. Fruit Growers Association presented to Vernon and Coldstream councils recently, and while the BCFGA had several topics of concern, civic leaders were focused on water. READ MORE

 

 

 

Published in Provinces

April 11, 2014 - Glenn and Deb Harrison, who run a broiler chicken operation outside of Uxbridge, Ont., are pleased to talk about how recent changes to the lighting used in their barns has resulted in many benefits apart from energy savings alone. Last year, the couple participated the (now closed) cost-share program called Farming Power, which provided farm businesses with funding to improve on-farm energy efficiency in the Greenbelt.

Before applying to the program Glenn took his time and did his research carefully to find the bulbs with the best fit for his two barns. He tested about fifteen different types of Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps, and states that there were four reasons he went to LED rather than compact fluorescent lamps.

First and foremost, he says, was the electricity savings. The LED lamps are expected to save approximately 119,246 kWh or $19,000 per year at $0.16/kWh. Apart from the energy savings and economic benefit, the LED lamps last longer than fluorescent lamps: 15,000 hours for a compact fluorescent versus 25,000 for LED lamps. "Changing the lamps is just one less job I will have to do," he adds.

In addition, Glenn points out that the LED bulb is self-contained, meaning he will not have to remove them when he washes down the barn, making cleaning easier. And, while compact florescent lamps lose their brightness over time, the new LED lamps do not.

"When I was considering making the switch to LED lamps the benefits were just too obvious," he remarks. "So I jumped in and made the plunge."

Since transitioning to broiler chickens in 2002, Glenn and Deb have been looking for ways to optimize production and their bottom line. They have installed solar walls on both barns to pre-heat the incoming fresh air and, since lighting is one of the biggest energy users of all, he and Deb see this Farming Power project as a very bright idea.

Glenn reflects how he found applying for the Farming Power program through the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association to be straightforward and simple. As stated previously, his electrician was involved in the application process to verify the amount of energy savings the new lamps would provide. The pair is quite satisfied with the results as well and sees the benefits the lights will have for the farm's bottom line. Knowing Glenn, Deb smiles when she says that she expects he will continue to explore and research other energy saving projects in the future.

Overall, the lighting project implemented by the Harrisons will result in an expected 91 per cent reduction in energy consumption of on-farm lighting, the highest amount of energy savings of all the projects completed under the Farming Power program. The Greenbelt Foundation is pleased to present the Harrison's with a $2,000 prize to applaud them for their efforts as one of the top energy saving farms within the program.

"Greenbelt farmers, like the Harrisons, are on the cutting edge when it comes to innovations that help protect the environment and help grow their business," said Burkhard Mausberg, CEO of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. "By partnering with the OSCIA, we are providing the solution to keeping our environment healthy, while also supporting substantial, long-term economic benefits for farmers."

The Farming Power program provided cost-share opportunities for farm businesses in the Greenbelt to implement select Best Management Practices focused on lighting, refrigeration, cooling and heating upgrades to increase energy efficiency within agricultural operations. The program was funded by the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and delivered though the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association in the 2013 cropping season.

 

Published in Profiles

March 17, 2014, Charlottetown, PEI – The P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture wants the moratorium on deep-water wells lifted, but only after the provincial government’s scientific data has been independently reviewed and proven accurate.

Executive director John Jamieson told the provincial standing committee currently examining the issue of deep-well irrigation the federation is sensitive to the tremendous anxiety this issue has raised among Islanders. READ MORE

 

 

Published in Provinces
December 13, 2013, Summerside, PEI – After more than a year of legal wrangling, charges stemming from one of the largest fish kills in P.E.I.’s history are finally coming to a close.

A Mount Royal potato farmer pleaded guilty to two of six outstanding charges against him and his company – one Federal Fisheries Act count of allowing a deleterious substance to enter a waterway, and one charge under the provincial Crop Rotation Act of planting potatoes in the same field twice in less than three years. READ MORE
Published in Federal
November 6, 2013 — A new biodegradable and recyclable form of medium density fibreboard (MDF) has been created that could dramatically reduce the problem of future waste.

Almost one million tonnes of MDF is produced in the UK every year. It is a cheap and popular engineered wood product widely used for furniture and other products in homes, offices and retail businesses. However, as MDF cannot be recycled, waste MDF either has to be incinerated or ends up in landfill.

Professor Abbott and his team at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leicester have developed a new wood-based product similar to MDF that uses a resin based on starch from completely natural sources, including potatoes.

A significant proportion of MDF is used for short-term applications in the retail sector. The use of a material, which can either be recycled or composted, would be a significant benefit to an industry often criticized for the amount of waste it generates.

MDF is made by breaking down bits of wood into wood fibres, which are then pressurized and stuck together with resin and wax. The resin is currently composed of urea and formaldehyde (UF), the use of which is restricted due to health concerns. Professor Abbott’s new resin means that the use of UF is avoided and therefore so too are the associated concerns.

With the aid of colleagues at the Biocomposites Centre, Bangor University and the Leicestershire-based retail design company Sheridan and Co., his team has produced starch-based boards, which have been made into retail display units.

Professor Andrew Abbott was recently awarded the Royal Society Brian Mercer Award for Innovation 2013 that will help him make the critical step from prototype to product.

“The Brian Mercer Award is fundamental in enabling us to take this project forward to the next stage,” said Professor Abbott. “It means we can now scale up our process from laboratory to the full scale manufacture of a product that I hope will revolutionize industries dependent on MDF and provide them with a more environmentally-friendly alternative.”

Professor Abbott will receive £172,347, which will be used to bring the four collaborators together to create a supply chain to create prototypes for the point-of-sale market.

Professor Abbott’s new material is easier to manufacture and easier to work with than current MDF boards.

“It has been a technological challenge to develop material with the correct properties, but it is a great thrill to see the finished boards which look identical to the MDF which is so commonly used,” said Dr. Will Wise, who led the practical studies.

The new material is easier to manufacture than existing MDF as the components are easily pre-mixed and only set on the application of heat and pressure; end user feedback suggests it is also easier to work with than currently available MDF boards.

Professor Abbott and his group at University of Leicester are also developing new fillers for plastics based on orange and banana peel and eggshell. These waste materials can lead to improved strength, hardness and cost benefits.

Published in Federal
The world’s hum of innovation is not lost on the pest management industry. In fact, a wealth of new advances are plotting new territory and creating the new reality for pest management programs.

Quality for the price remains the top value driver for foodservice consumers, followed by fresh ingredients and choice, according to a recent NPD Group foodservice study.1 As you strive to meet consumer demands, there is one constant threat to these factors that all commercial-scale fruit and vegetable producers face: pests. Flies,
cockroaches and rodents are prime suspects and can compromise your harvest and your bottom line.

But before jumping into exciting new digital process tools, the first step to help reduce the presence of these pests is to implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. This comprehensive approach focuses on preventive measures such as sanitation to minimize pest attractants like food and water, and facility maintenance to block pests’ access to your business. New pest control technologies can teach and help you manage such pest activities in and around your facility better than ever before. Work with your professional pest management provider to ensure that your facility stays on the cutting edge with the latest pest control technologies and that you are working smarter, not harder.

Consider these new options and stay up on the latest in TECH:

T – Training is top-notch. Hands-on training opportunities mesh with technology driven, web-based training to provide pest management professionals with the latest industry news. Digital learning networks keep professionals in the know and allow instantaneous contact with industry people around North America.

E – Electronic reporting replaces documenting pest pressures by hand. Advances allow for scanning and electronic reporting to create customized reports that measure trend data over time. This technology allows your pest management provider to determine which areas of your facility are most prone to pest activity and at what time of the year, allowing you to target hot spots quickly and effectively. Not only are they faster and easier to access than handwritten reports, but also they are readily available and more accurate. A barcoding system on pest management devices allows for quicker, easier and more accurate inspections while making the process paperless. Once you have these reports, you can share them electronically with others in your business and digitally archive information so it will always be available for audits and inspections – unlike the binders you may be using now.

C – Consider installing ultrasonic devices. Ultrasonic devices have been used for some time, but recent advancements have improved their effectiveness, especially in deterring rodents. These deterrents use specific sound pressure (frequency) and power (intensity) to deter rodents from entering your facility. They are most effective when used around the exterior of building as they create rodent-deferring buffer zones.

H – Hang insect light traps in the interior of your business in strategic locations to combat flies. These newly designed traps attract flies using ultraviolet light and capture them on a non-toxic adhesive trapping board inside the unit. The silent devices are discreet, so you can place them in virtually any location. This goes for food-storage areas as well, since the technology uses a non-toxic glue-board for trapping, meaning you don’t have to worry about airborne contamination from the insect body parts as you would with the traditional “bug zapper.” They also operate around the clock so you have a continuous defence against flies.

Other advances in more traditional tools such as pheromone traps, organic cleaners and insect bait traps have increased their efficiencies. Using technology to your advantage can ensure an effective IPM program and, more importantly, a safe and consistent product for consumers. ❦
  1. http://www.canadianpizzamag.com/content/view/4788/57/


Dr. Alice Sinia, PhD, is quality assurance manager of regulatory and lab services for Orkin Canada, focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 10 years of experience, she manages the Quality Assurance Laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology while providing technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. She can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Published in Insects
Photo courtesy of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation.

Oct. 21, 2013 - The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation recently released a study on the challenges and opportunities of farming as part of the Foundation's commitment to strengthening farm viability and increasing market access.

Co-authoured by professor Wayne Caldwell of the University of Guelph, a recognized expert on agricultural and rural planning issues, Farming in Ontario's Greenbelt: Possibility Grows Here provides recommendations to ensure economic prosperity and viability of farming in Ontario.

"The Greenbelt Plan was created, in part, to protect prime agricultural lands from urban development and our research shows that farmers can appreciate this," says Caldwell. "While we heard diverse views from farmers, they maintain a strong commitment to a progressive and productive agricultural sector."

Research conducted through consultations across the Greenbelt concludes that most challenges to farming are universal across the province and not a result of the Greenbelt Plan. Frustrations result from the layers and multiple interpretations of the regulations they face - not necessarily from the regulations themselves. Farmers suggested that successfully navigating through federal, provincial, and municipal regulations takes much longer than previously. Many appreciate the opportunities of a near-urban location, including proximity to thriving economic activity and easier access to growing markets.

"Since the foundation began, we have invested millions of dollars to help support agriculture and local food," says Burkhard Mausberg, CEO of the Greenbelt Foundation. "We have collaborated with a diverse range of partners to provide opportunities for farmers as they help keep our communities healthy and our economy strong. Our commitment to farming continues by ensuring we listen to farmers so that the Greenbelt remains a place where their businesses can grow."

Key findings from the study include:

Farmers appreciate the intent of the Greenbelt Plan; however some wish land was protected earlier and/or all prime farmland in southern Ontario was protected from development.
Farms located in near-urban locations in the Golden Horseshoe face unique challenges. These include: multiple, disjointed regulations and policies from multiple levels of government that detract from the ability to do business efficiently; and expanding urban-based infrastructure that effects the ability to farm.
These challenges are offset by the benefits, which include being closer to a large and growing market as well as having the ability to proceed with business investments knowing that neighbouring land will not be sold for development because of Greenbelt protection.
The Foundation will present the study to stakeholders in support of the upcoming 10-year review of the Greenbelt Plan.

To download the study, please visit Farming in Ontario's Greenbelt: Possibility Grows Here.
Published in Fruit
October 4, 2013, Charlottetown, PEI – Two Island potato farmers who were charged with planting their crop on a hill that was too steep were recently found guilty in provincial court in Charlottetown.

Alex Docherty, who is Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty’s husband, and his brother-in-law Blake MacDonald will each have to pay $3,150 in fines for violating the Environmental Protection Act in 2012. READ MORE
Published in Fruit
September 16, 2013, Toronto, Ont – Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced recently that applications are now open for a new Local Food Fund.

The fund is part of a $30 million dollar investment from the province to create jobs and support innovative local food projects over the next three years. This fund is also part of the government’s broader local food strategy to increase awareness and demand for foods grown and made in Ontario. It will support projects that:
  • Market and promote local food
  • Strengthen regional and local food networks by increasing partnerships along the supply chain
  • Use new and innovative equipment and processes to boost the supply, quality, availability and distribution of local food

 “Supporting local food does so much for Ontario,” said Premier Wynne, who also serves as Minister of Agriculture and Food. “We are committed to working with our industry partners to increase the demand for local food, which will feed local economies across the province. By supporting partnerships and innovation, this fund will make sure more people benefit from the good things that grow in Ontario.”

Supporting local food is part of the Ontario government’s plan to grow the economy, create jobs and help people with their everyday lives.

Published in Vegetables
August 1, 2013 – Potatoes are the sustainable carbohydrate; it’s a fact.

This comes as a result of new research from Cranfield University in the UK that compared the total greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) and water usage for potatoes against rival carbohydrates rice and pasta. READ MORE

Published in Food Safety
July 9, 2013 – Ontario is bringing together a group of experts to provide advice on how to prevent bee mortalities.

The Bee Health Working Group will be comprised of beekeepers, farmers, agri-business representatives, scientists, and staff from both federal and provincial government agencies. Drawing on a broad range of expertise, the working group will provide recommendations on how to mitigate the potential risk to honey bees from exposure to neonicotinoids – a pesticide used for corn and soybeans.

The working group will meet for the first time this month and provide its recommendations by spring 2014.
Published in Insects
July 29, 2013 – Learn more about the natural enemies of crop pests, from predators to parasites to pathogens during a Natural Enemies Workshop being held Aug. 7. 

 

Discover what natural enemies can do. How can you find and identify them? How can you protect them and encourage them to be active in your field?

The workshop is being held at the Simcoe OMAF and MRA Auditorium, Blueline Road, Simcoe, Ont., from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The workshop will apply to all field-grown crops, but with a focus on vegetables and specialty crops. There is no charge but preregistration is required as space is limited.

To register for this event please contact the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . You can download the registration form here. 
Published in Insects
Jul. 18, 2013, Vancouver, BC - Vancouver has created the country’s first urban orchard and it is being touted as the largest of its kind on the continent.

While innovative to Canada, growing fruit in city spaces is not a new concept in North America nor the rest of the world. Close to 500 trees stand ready to produce fruit in a vacant lot bordering Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, which will including Meyer lemons, Santa Rosa plums, French butter pears, persimmons, figs, and quince. As well, around 50 to 60 types of culinary herbs that will be ready for harvest this fall. READ MORE
Published in Planting
Jul. 16, 2013 - Tough new regulations governing vineyard waste management meant the owners of Sixteen Mile Cellar in the Niagara Region had some tough choices to make. Previously, small estate wineries were allowed to store the liquids and residues from their grape crush on-farm and then haul them away. The rule change now requires waste treatment facilities on site, which can get very expensive very fast.

"For small wineries, this is a big burden. Even if you only crush grapes for one week of the year like we do, you have to provide waste treatment," says Paul Vander Molen, Sixteen Mile Cellar's farm property manager. "So we started searching for ideas that would address the waste issue properly but also be affordable."

The solution was a constructed treatment wetland that uses nature to pre-treat the winery waste — wash water, grape liquids and stems and skins left over once the grapes are crushed — before it is disposed of.

The crush residue flows out of the winery into a holding tank and is then pumped into a four-chamber constructed treatment wetland that is located just outside of the main winery building. The chambers are lined with rubber and filled with gravel and soil that filter and purify the grape waste. From there, the remaining liquid goes into a pressurized septic system and then into a filter bed for release back into the environment. An alternative option was an open system, but the potential for odour and the proximity to the winery building made this idea a non-starter.

"Wineries, especially small estate wineries like this one, don't produce a lot of waste but we still have to solve the problem of dealing with it," Vander Molen says. "This solution is not only a good treatment option, but it will also provide a natural habitat for frogs and other wildlife once it is completed."

The underground system was first used in 2012 and Vander Molen says it will ramp up to full capacity for the 2013 grape harvest. This spring, cattails, bull rushes and iris will be planted on top of the wetland to complete its construction and give it a more natural look.

There are currently more than 1,000 constructed wetlands in North America being used to treat various waste streams, such as municipal wastewater and coal and metal mine drainage. Sixteen Mile Cellar is one of the first wineries in Ontario that has been affected by the new rules and has adapted this type of a system using a wetland to pre-treat their winery waste. He expects others will follow suit as they face compliance with the new regulations.

To help with the cost of constructing the wetland, Sixteen Mile Cellar accessed cost-share funding through the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program (COFSP). COFSP provided cost-share funding for farmers to implement best management practices that provide environmental benefit on-farm. Funding was available on a first come, first served basis to farmers who had a peer-reviewed Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) in place and had projects that have been approved under the program.

EFP and COFSP were funded under the Best Practices suite of programs of Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The programs were administered by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture acting on behalf of the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition. The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association delivered the programs to farmers.

"The funding really helped us make this work. This project and some of the others we've done really fit into the concept of environmental goods and services and being a responsible producer," says Vander Molen, referring to a tree planting initiative and the replacement of a failed culvert with a new stream bridge crossing to improve fish habitat that were both also completed on the same property recently.
Published in Spraying
Jul. 5, 2013, Toronto, ON - The third annual BMO Food Survey has analyzed the responses of 1,000 Canadians to determine the reasoning that they use to buy local food, as well as what products they actively buy.

The top reasons Canadians buy local, according to the survey, include:
  • The food is fresh and tastes better (97 per cent)
  • It supports the local economy (97 per cent)
  • It supports local farmers (96 per cent)
  • It creates local jobs (93 per cent)
  • It's better for the environment (88 per cent)
  • It offers the opportunity to buy organic produce (76 per cent)
  • It is less expensive (71 per cent)
The survey also found that Canadians seek to buy locally grown vegetables more than other products.

There are a few very interesting province-wide differences: Albertans buy local beef more often, while Ontarians are supporting a local wine industry 40 per cent of the time. Or that residents in B.C. and Ontario tend to buy locally grown fruit more than shoppers in other provinces. Atlantic Canadians are most likely to buy local fish, and Quebec residents are most likely to purchase locally-made cheese.

Food Frequency Purchased
(Overall)
B.C. Alberta Prairies Ontario Quebec Atlantic Canada
Vegetables 82% 85% 74% 74% 84% 81% 79%
Bread 75% 71% 73% 72% 71% 82% 81%
Fruit 74% 80% 54% 60% 79% 76% 72%
Poultry 64% 64% 64% 63% 66% 61% 70%
Beef 60% 59% 74% 60% 58% 55% 66%
Cheese 59% 52% 50% 46% 60% 71% 53%
Fish 44% 55% 27% 35% 43% 40% 66%
Wine 31% 32% 16% 17% 40% 27% 26%

The results cited in this report come from an online survey fielded by Pollara between June 14th and June 17th and the results for a probability sample of this size would be accurate to +/- 3.1%, or 19 times out of 20.
Published in Vegetables
July 5, 2013 – New research by academics at the University of Nottingham has shown that exposure to a neonicotinoid insecticide causes changes to the genes of the honeybee.

The study, published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, supports the recent decision taken by the European Commission to temporarily ban three neonicotinoids amid concerns that they could be linked to bee deaths.

There is growing evidence connecting the decline in the honeybee population that pollinates one-third of the food that we eat, and insecticides, but this is the first comprehensive study to look at changes in the activity of honeybee genes linked to one of the recently banned neonicotinoids, imidacloprid.

The study, led by Dr Reinhard Stöger, associate professor in epigenetics in the university’s School of Biosciences, was conducted under field realistic conditions and showed that a very low exposure of just two parts per billion has an impact on the activity of some of the honeybee genes.

The researchers identified that cells of honeybee larvae had to work harder and increase the activity of genes involved in breaking down toxins, most likely to cope with the insecticide. Genes involved in regulating energy to run cells were also affected. Such changes are known to reduce the lifespan of the most widely studied insect, the common fruit fly, and lower a larva’s probability of surviving to adulthood.

“Although larvae can still grow and develop in the presence of imidacloprid, the stability of the developmental process appears to be compromised,” said Dr. Stöger. “Should the bees be exposed to additional stresses such as pests, disease and bad weather then it is likely to increase the rate of development failure.”

The study was funded by The Co-operative Group, as part of its Plan Bee campaign.

“This is a very significant piece of research, which clearly shows clear changes in honeybee gene activity as a result of exposure to a pesticide, which is currently in common use across the UK,” said Chris Shearlock, sustainable development manager at The Co-operative.

“As part of our Plan Bee campaign, launched in 2009, we have adopted a precautionary approach and prohibited the use of six neonicotinoid pesticides, including imidacloprid, on our own-brand fresh and frozen produce and have welcomed the recent approach by the European Commission to temporarily ban three neonicotinoid pesticides as this will allow for research into the impact on both pollinators and agricultural productivity.”

Published in Research
July 4, 2013 – British Columbia must take steps to protect and ration water supplies through summer droughts and prepare for more frequent flooding if the province is to grow the its agricultural economy, say climate experts at Simon Fraser University.

Weather events that used to come once in a century are arriving with greater frequency and the agricultural losses they cause will soon become unsustainable without action by senior levels of government, said Jon O'Riordan, lead author of a new briefing paper released July 3 by SFU’s Adaptation to Climate Change Action Team. READ MORE

Published in Vegetables
June 17, 2013, Ottawa, Ont — In an effort to support Canada’s family farms, New Democrats have introduced a bill in the House of Commons to encourage Canadians to buy local food.

“Promoting local agriculture is important for two reasons,” said the NDP’s Deputy Environment Critic, Anne Minh-Thu Quach (Beauharnois–Salaberry). “First, we are protecting the environment by reducing the transport of foods. And second, we are investing in our regional economies. Simply put: eating locally helps grow our economy.”

The proposed bill aims to create a national strategy for local foods in consultation with provincial Agricultural Ministers. Moreover, federal institutions will be governed by a policy that prioritizes the purchase of locally grown foods.

Since the Conservatives took power, Canada has lost more than 8,000 small farms, according to the NDP.

“We absolutely have to do more to support Canadian grown foods – for our own health and for that of our economy,” explained Quach. “Local agriculture: it’s buying locally and eating fresh.”

Published in Food Safety
Jun. 14, 2013 - According to a new study in the Journal of Applied Ecology, soil organisms, aquatic life and birds may be at risk with the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.

Neonicotinoids have been in the news because of growing concern that they are linked to serious declines in bee species – resulting in a two-year EU ban in April 2013 of three neonicotinoids commonly used in Europe.

The new study by Professor Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex draws together data from diverse sources including the agrochemical industry's own research and reveals that harm to bees may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Neonicotinoids are mostly applied as seed dressings, intended to be absorbed by the crop, but well over 90 per cent of the active ingredient goes into the soil and leaches into groundwater, where it persists for years.

Data from agrochemical manufacturer Bayer on the persistence of neonicotinoids in soil is made widely available for the first time in Professor Goulson's study. The data first came to light during investigations by the UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee.

According to the data, neonicotinoids – if used regularly – accumulate in soil to concentrations far higher than those that kill bees, posing a risk to soil invertebrates and soil health.

"Any pesticide that can persist for many years, build up in soil, and leach into waterways is likely to have effects far beyond the pest insects it intends to target," said Professor Goulson. "This is particularly so when the pesticide is highly toxic to non-target organisms. For example, less than one part per billion of imidacloprid in streams is enough to kill mayflies."

The study also highlights risks for grain-eating birds such as partridge, which need eat only a few neonicotinoid-treated grains of crop to receive a lethal dose.

This latest evidence calls into question the effectiveness of the recent two-year EU moratorium on use of some neonicotinoids on flowering crops.

"Neonicotinoids will still be widely used on cereals, so the broader environmental impacts are likely to continue," said Professor Goulson. "Given the longevity of these compounds, they would be in our soils for years to come even under an absolute ban, so two years is far too short to produce any benefit, even if there were any clear plan to monitor such benefits – which there is not. It is entirely unclear what this two-year moratorium is meant to achieve."

Professor Goulson also draws attention to the lack of publicly-available evidence on the effectiveness of neonicotinoids.

"Studies from the U.S. suggest that neonicotinoid seed dressings may be either entirely ineffective or cost more than the benefit in crop yield gained from their use," he said. "We seem to be in a situation where farmers are advised primarily by agronomists involved in selling them p
Published in Research
When flowers bloom, bees are never far behind. As much as a nuisance as they can be to someone trying to enjoy a summer picnic, bees are a valuable part of the Canadian ecosystem and agriculture industry.

Not only do bees in Canada create honey (an over $100 million industry), but they also help pollinate a wide variety of crops, which helps contribute an estimated $1.3 to $1.7 billion annually. If you add in the contributions of other Canadian bee species, such as alfalfa leafcutting bees and bumblebees, the value leaps up to an estimated $2.8 billion.

Rod Scarlett, the executive director of the Canadian Honey Council, says that the value of the bee industry in Canada includes many aspects, including pollination services, crop pollination (such as cranberries blueberries and canola), honey production and more.

“About 40 per cent of crops used for food production are dependent on pollination or honeybees for pollinating,” he said. “If you take away that 40 per cent that bees pollinate, it really is the things that make the food different and enjoyable – your fruits, a lot of your vegetables, etc.”

However, as important as bees are, a number of complications have arisen in recent years. The most prevalent are Colony Collapse Disorder (a phenomena that has occurred in other parts of the world, but has not yet appeared in Canada) and the varroa mite, which are decimating native bee populations all over the world. Therefore, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian bee industry have collaborated on a national biosecurity standard.

“The situation with bees within the last 10-15 years is that Canada’s overwintering losses are very high, in the 30 per cent range. That has triggered a public awareness of the value of bees and the development of a proactive step on behalf of the CFIA and the industry to create a biosecurity standard,” said Scarlett.

The standard is a basic framework or recommendations for beekeepers and the general public to understand what bees need and what can be done, on an industry or personal level, to help protect bees and other very important pollinators. “It is a voluntary set of guidelines that will allow beekeepers to determine what can be utilized within their operation to help secure their bees,” he added. “It is a general framework that will help everyone involved protect their bees from biosecurity threats, and in turn, help protect the health of the bees themselves.”

While most of the recommendations in the standard are focused on beekeepers, there are a few things that anyone can do to help bees – Educate yourself about bees, plant gardens or flowers in urban centres and pressure municipal governments not to spray pesticides and insecticides that could harm bees.

For more information on the standard, please visit the CFIA website or contact the Canadian Honey Council.

Published in Food Safety

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