Agricultural organizations, other key organizations such as environmental organizations, seed trade industry, the pesticide sector, and all members of the public were invited to attend meetings held across the province, as well as to submit comments online or by mail as part of the public consultation period on the Regulation Proposal Notice (EBR 012-3068).
The majority of comments received on the first notice (EBR 012-3068) were supportive of a regulation to restrict the sale and use of corn and soybean seeds treated with neonicotinoids.
The government posted a second Regulation Proposal Notice on the Environmental Registry and Regulatory Registry on March 23, 2015 (EBR 012-3733) for public consultation. This notice included a draft regulation and was posted for a 45 day comment period.
Of the total 23,145 comments received, 22,441 were received in writing and 704 were received online. The comments received in response to the draft regulation were considered in developing the final regulation that was posted on June 9, 2015.
The large number of comments received suggests that there is a high level of interest in pollinator health in Ontario. The majority of respondents were very supportive of actions to reduce the impacts of neonicotinoid insecticides on pollinators and of implementing actions to promote the health of Ontario’s pollinators.
Comments were carefully considered in developing the draft Action Plan and several of them have been incorporated. More specific comments in response to the discussion paper are summarized below.
Respondents identified the importance of providing abundant, diverse and quality habitat to support Ontario’s pollinator populations. A wide range of public and private spaces where high quality pollinator habitat could be augmented, established and/or restored were identified. Some respondents also stressed the importance of using native Ontario seed and other plant material for pollinator habitat. Incentives such as financial support and leveraging and/or expanding existing programs (e.g., Environmental Farm Plan) were recommended to encourage habitat creation and maintenance on private lands, particularly on agricultural lands. Respondents also recommended coordinated planning to protect and enhance pollinator habitat and the removal of barriers that inhibit habitat actions.
Respondents recommended improved pesticide handling and application practices through education and training as a means of reducing pollinator exposure (e.g., Integrated Pest Management). Incentives through production insurance were also suggested for producers who do not use neonicotinoid insecticides.
Many respondents noted the need for research to understand the spread of disease and pests between and among managed and wild pollinators and the impacts of habitat fragmentation on the genetic diversity of pollinators. Several respondents recommended improved honey bee and bumble bee management practices to mitigate the effects of disease and pests and to improve genetics. Mandatory training for new beekeepers and an enhanced provincial Apiary Program were cited as ways to improve bee management practices.
Enhanced monitoring of managed pollinators was recommended, as well as monitoring activities for wild pollinators (e.g., pollinator registry, monitoring network) to establish population baselines. Also recommended was enhanced environmental monitoring of pesticides in the environment, including cumulative effects on pollinators, and ongoing monitoring of habitat to track change and progress over time.
Stakeholder and public education and awareness efforts (e.g., citizen science initiatives, community planting events and campaigns, centralized pollinator website) were recommended to help change public perceptions about pollinators and to encourage behavioral change (e.g., planting gardens, naturalizing front lawns).
In response to the comments received, the draft Action Plan incorporates a range of actions to address the four stressors on pollinators as well as efforts to build on research and monitoring. More specifically, the draft Action Plan identifies actions to improve, establish and protect habitat and nutrition for pollinators across a wide range of public and private land uses. Working with partners, the draft Action Plan sets out actions to promote and leverage existing government programs that already support habitat creation and conservation on agricultural and non-agricultural lands with benefits to pollinators.
The draft Action Plan recognizes and builds on recent efforts to reduce exposure of pollinators to neonicotinoids. It also identifies the role that improved honey bee management can play in controlling pests and diseases and includes multi-faceted efforts to improve beekeeper management practices (e.g., increasing access to beekeeper training and education materials, promoting adoption of best management practices) and assessing the potential of regulatory amendments under existing Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs legislation.
The draft Action Plan recognizes the importance of continued research to fill knowledge gaps and identifies actions to continue to align and leverage existing research programs and to prioritize and fund new research. The draft Action Plan also includes enhanced monitoring efforts for managed honey bees, pesticide concentrations in the environment and for wild bumble bees. Options for monitoring habitat are also being explored.
Furthermore, the draft Action Plan outlines education and awareness initiatives that will be directed at the public and key stakeholders to encourage action to support pollinator populations across Ontario’s rural and urban landscapes.