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AN OPEN LETTER RESPONSE: Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

The Sage News received an answer from our Open Letter to the PM's Office.


(SNN) - On September 3rd, 2014, the editor of The Sage News Network - Opinion Edition, published an open letter to the Canadian Prime Minister over a concern of the declining bee population and the phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The letter was published under the title of "OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER HARPER, Please Suspend the use of Neonicotinoid Pesticides before it's too late."

The letter was boosted through Social Media, which was shared forty-one times on Facebook, and reached just over 7,100 people.  The result was very effective.  A total of 42,000 readers visited the article on The Sage News website, and today a reply was received from the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Mr. Gerry Ritz, PC, MP.

The Letter is included here in its entirety.

Dear Mr. Hahn:

I am writing in response to your correspondence to the Right Honourable Stephen Harper regarding bee health in Canada. I appreciate being made aware of your concerns about this matter.

Beekeeping in Canada is an important industry. In addition to the value of increased crop production attributed to controlled honeybee pollination, estimated at $2 billion each year, Canada produces honey, as well as substantial amounts of valuable beeswax, pollen, and propolis.

Honeybees do face a number of challenges: insect pests such as varroa and tracheal mites; diseases such as nosema and foulbrood; viruses; nutrition challenges; localized droughts and flooding; and exposure to toxins that can affect hive health. Despite these challenges, Canadian beekeepers have been successful in increasing the number of healthy hives in Canada. Statistics Canada’s 2013 report on the production and value of honey shows that beekeepers managed a near-record 672,094 honeybee hives, a 9 per cent increase in total hives compared to the average of the previous five years. More information is available at www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/131204/dq131204g-eng.htm.

The Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists compiles an annual report on overwinter losses of honeybee hives. Overwinter losses vary from year to year and region to region depending on the weather in the fall and spring and other factors, including disease and pest pressure on bee hives. These reports are available online at http://capabees.org/home/?cat=8.

On September 13, 2013, as a precautionary measure, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) announced proposed measures for corn and soybean production requiring the use of dust-reducing seed lubricants, modified planting practices, new labels with enhanced warnings, and updated information to support the continued need for neonicotinoid treatments on up to 100 per cent of the corn seed and 50 per cent of the soybean seed.

At Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), we have a team of researchers and others who work closely with beekeepers, provincial officials, Canadian and international bee health researchers, and other stakeholders to keep informed about challenges to bee health and to identify how to respond.

In addition to the contribution of honeybees, AAFC understands the critical role native pollinators play in the sustainable production of many of Canada’s crops and is undertaking bee-related research in several locations across the country.

For example, ongoing research in Kentville, Nova Scotia, focuses on defining native bee communities associated with pollinator-dependent crops and understanding how habitat diversity and land use intensity impact bee abundance and pollination contribution. This research is currently being applied, in part, on blueberries in Prince Edward Island.

In central Alberta, AAFC is investigating the contribution of wild bee species to pollination in commodity canola production systems and the value of conserving native pollinators, and it is supporting research into the relative contribution of managed bees and wild bees in canola hybrid seed production, an economically important crop that is completely dependent on bee pollination. AAFC is also examining the effects of animal grazing on pollinators and exploring the contribution of wild bees to grassland productivity and health.

Furthermore, AAFC’s Pest Management Centre (PMC) is working to develop and implement alternative effective pest management tools and technologies. PMC’s Pesticide Risk Reduction Program is a joint initiative with the PMRA and works to develop strategies to reduce risks associated with pesticide use in grower-identified priority areas. These include alternatives to traditional chemical crop protection methods and the use of biopesticides and mechanical means to control pests while minimizing the effects on the environment. In addition, the PMC promotes reduced-risk pest management strategies by making this information available to the public through its website, www.agr.gc.ca/prrmup, and informational newsletters.

Canadian beekeepers’ associations and a wide range of stakeholders are co-operating to address bee health issues. Action to support bee health requires an integrated and coordinated effort by multiple partners, as well as a science-based approach, to ensure effectiveness. On March 25, 2014, AAFC sponsored a bee health workshop in Ottawa that brought together federal and provincial officials; representatives from the beekeeping, horticulture, grains, oilseeds and seeds sectors; industry service providers; and experts in the field drawn from national associations and organizations with direct implication in national bee health issues and solutions in Canada. As a result of this discussion, leaders from these sectors have made a commitment to further the dialogue and to pursue collaborative action in specific areas to address risks and opportunities related to bee health in order to ensure a sustainable future for agriculture and beekeeping.

On July 15, 2014, AAFC announced $1 million in funding for a four-year national surveillance project to document the health profile of honeybee colonies in Canada. The Beekeepers Commission of Alberta will undertake the project and work closely with colleagues in other provinces as the initiative progresses. The aim of the project is to record the nature, extent and prevalence of diseases, pest organisms and chemical residues in Canadian honeybee colonies. To date, surveillance of this nature has only been done at the regional level, and the sector is seeking to expand coordination and identify issues that present challenges to bee health across the country.

Understanding the factors that contribute to healthy bee populations and developing science-based guidelines on how best to conserve controlled and native pollinators and their critical ecological service in Canada’s agricultural systems will allow producers and policy-makers to incorporate better management practices into production operations.

Please be assured that we will continue to work with the beekeeping community to help address its current challenges and to ensure that Canada continues to benefit from its valuable contributions to the agricultural sector.

I trust that this information is of assistance to you. Thank you for writing.

Sincerely,

Gerry Ritz, PC, MP


Image: Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Mr. Gerry Ritz, PC, MP.. Source: Fair Use, Wikipedia.

DISCLAIMER: The above article is OPINION.The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the authors of The Sage Opinion and forum participants on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the The Sage News Network or the official policies of the The Sage News.
 
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