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Pesticide: no room for doubt

A group of international scientists meets today to try to convince parliamentarians there is no longer any doubt that common agricultural pesticides are toxic chemicals which are killing off honey bees.

In fact, says Jean-Marc Bonmatin of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, neonicotinoid pesticides kill a lot more than just bees, posing a deadly risk to frogs, commn birds, fish and earthworms.

The scientists represent a task force on pesticides within the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which in 2015 released a comprehensive review of more than 1,100 peer-reviewed research studies on neonicotinoids.

Today they will release an update to the report.

Neonicotinoids, also known as neonics, are nicotine-based pesticides commonly used by farmers to help keep everything from field crops to fruit orchards free of pests like aphids, spider mites, slugs and stink bugs.

After beekeepers started sounding alarm bells about mass deaths of honeybees, scientists began to zero in on neonics as one of the culprits. Bees were consuming pollen contaminated with neonics as well as flying through chemical-laden clouds of dust from farm fields.

But bees, said Bonmatin were only the most "visible part of the problem" because beekeeping is a big business and without bees, billions of dollars of farm crops would go unpollinated.

"Beyond honey bees, there are all the wild bees, all these pollinators and behind all these pollinators there are some other invertebrates, the ones living in the soil, flying invertebrates, the ones in the water," said Bonmatin.

Bonmatin, vice-chair of the task force, said evidence from Europe suggests these chemicals don't actually help farmers much. Since Europe clamped down on their use four years ago, there hasn't been a substantial reduction in farm yields.

Lisa Gue, a senior researcher with the David Suzuki Foundation which is involved in the release of the updated report, said Canada has to catch up to Europe and ban the use of all neonics.



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