Producing good crops without hurting the bee population is a big problem for a new generation of farmers.  

It’s a problem that has a big impact on a lot of the food we eat.  That’s why more than one hundred farmers gathered at a farm near Feversham today to get the latest information about farming and protecting the bee population at the same time.

“The purpose is to get commercial bee keepers and growers in a social environment to have a conversation about our business,” said commercial bee keep Hugh Simpson, who hosted the meeting at his farm.

The central issue was neonicotinoid pesticides, which are used to protect corn and soybean seeds from chewing insects, but are extremely toxic to bees, even in small amounts. The chemicals are highly soluble in water and persist in the environment from year to year. 

Bee keeper Peter Turrell says Neonicotinoidpesticides are wiping out his bee population and he wants to know what can be done to address the problem.

“To see if it’s even worth being a bee keeper anymore because if we know there are no proactive ideas, it’s better to step back and see what the future brings which is pretty bleak right now,” said Turrell.

Health Canada is currently reviewing its conditional approval of several Neonicotinoid pesticides, but that is expected to take several years to complete. In the meantime, the agricultural industry is focusing on ways to better manage the chemicals in the fields.

At today’s meeting, bee keepers, farmers and government officials listened to researchers and chemical company representatives about new equipment and products that help reduce dust during planting.

“It’s reducing the potential for the chemical escaping into the environment, that’s all it does and it does that very well,” said Luc Bourgeois, a manager of R and D for Bayer Crop Science.  “Any step that can help stop that fugitive dust where we don’t need it is great progress.”

Cash crop farmer Don Ready stopped using neonicotinoid pesticides after studying research done in Europe on the chemicals.

"I don't like collateral damage, we all do damage on everything and the whole idea is to do as little as possible," said Ready. "There are so many red flags waving over Neo nics we need  to do a temporary ban and see what happenens, but if I am wrong and Italy is wrong we can always start using them ( neonicotinoid pesticides) again."

The Canadian Seed Trade Association says farmers should have the option of using Neonicotinoidpesticides when they need too.

“Field by field, assessment based on history experience, soils type and decide for themselves where and when they insecticide treated seeds,” said Dave Baute, who is with the Canadian Seed Trade Association.

Earlier this summer, Ontario’s agriculture minister announced the province was looking at ways to reduce the use of Neonicotinoidpesticides, including the possibility of a licensing system.