Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The bees and the birds--former CWS scientists speak out on Neonicotinoids

our honeybees at Cherry Lake
The following came to my email in-box via a friend. It is a call to action on the issue of Neonicotinoid insecticides, the toxin that has been associated with the decline of honeybees and native pollinators. 

The original notice was written by Glen Fox, a retired biologist raised in Saskatchewan who worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service in its toxicology division. Here is what Glen had to say [comments in square brackets added by me]:

Dear Friends:
As most of you know, I spent my entire career in CWS's Wildlife Toxicology Division. I am very grateful for that opportunity and proud of what we achieved. However, as a grandfather and lover of justice and this planet, I am very disturbed about the shift to prophylactic use of systemic insecticides that has occurred during our "watch". It's totally unacceptable and is a global ecological disaster in the making. The honey bees are serving as the canary in the coal mine. Friends, this is the Silent Spring that Rachael Carson foresaw! Although death of pollinators, and honey bees in particular, have received most of the attention, there is strong evidence that the Neonicotinoid insecticides are also very toxic to birds, and that they reach toxic concentrations in surface waters. Our own Pierre Mineau [recently retired and now free to speak his mind] has done a terrific job of reviewing the hazards of these insecticides [here is the publication he did for the American Bird Conservatory on Neonicotinoids]!
The good news is the US EPA is currently conducting a regulatory review of this class of insecticides, and Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency has just acknowledged that the majority of examined pollinator mortalities were the result of exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides, and more importantly, have admitted that "current agricultural practices related to the use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed are not sustainable" and has issued a Call for Comments. [See this web page for details on how to participate in the PMRA's Call for Comments.]
I believe we need to expand our concerns beyond pollinators (the bees are just "the canary in the coal mine) if we want strong regulatory action. We need to bring an end to the prophylactic use of systemic insecticides.

This is our window of opportunity to make our concerns known as scientists, concerned citizens, parents and grandparents. I urge you to do so, and to distribute this e-mail to others who you think might be so inclined.
Thank you for your consideration. This planet can't afford our letting the regulatory agencies shuffle chairs on the deck of the Titanic when we have already collided with the iceberg. We can comment as informed private citizens. This IS a democracy although Stephen Harper has tried to make it otherwise.
My very best to you all,
Glen A. Fox, M.Sc
Ottawa, ON
A scientist like Glen does not put out this kind of call without giving it a lot of thought. We would all do well to listen to him and the many other scientists like Pierre Mineau who are trying to bring this to the attention of the public.

So, what do we do?

Here is a petition from the Ontario Beekeeper's Association that we can all sign, and a link to send an email calling for a ban to Neonicotinoids. And here is a web page they made that provides a lot more information.

At the very least, write your Member of Parliament and send emails and letters to the Minister of Health at

The Honourable Rona Ambrose, P.C., M.P.
Health Canada
Brooke Claxton Building, Tunney's Pasture
Postal Locator: 0906C
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9

or email her using this web page's feedback form.

Birds such as this male Mountain Bluebird (a species in rapid decline in farmland) may also be affected by Neonicontoids


  1. Hello Trevor,

    Thank you for posting this. In my opinion,Glen is bang on with his concerns. This issue is about the future of food.

    I have been following CCD since 2007 and the many reasons as to why bees are dying. Two articles that I came across this year convinced me that neonics are the culprit.

    Italy banned these seed treatments in 2009, Since then, the honey bee population has doubled.

    Greece has not had one case of CCD. Only 20% of their land base is used for growing food. Apparently the bee keepers have their hives placed in areas where there is little or no farming and habitat friendly. Consequently, they have eliminated the toxin factor.

    I see the term "stewardship" used by some of the bio-tech corporations in their advertising. Perhaps they should have another look at the real definition and start to take some responsibility for their products.

    Regarding governments; why wouldn't they want to ere on the side of caution? Perhaps the lobby promoting these toxins is too well funded.

    Thank you for including the information so that we can get involved with this.


    Don Ruzicka

  2. Thanks for those thoughts, Don. I had not heard that about Italy and Greece. We are wrapping our bees up for the winter this weekend. Here's hoping they make it through.


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