Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Save the Agricultural Land Reserve


     In the 1960's and 70's we in British Columbia lost thousands of acres of prime farmland each year to the development of subdivisions, shopping centres and industry.  In 1972 Dave Barret and the New Democratic Party were elected for the first time and in 1973 they created the "Agricultural Land Reserve" in an effort to save our remaining farmland.  Today, our farmland is disappearing.  Premier Christy Clark and the Liberal Party who support oil fracking and oil tanker traffic on our west coast are not only allowing the development of our farmland but intending to dismantle the ALR under the guise of modernization (Dismantle the ALR).  Existing rules allow the development of our farmland such as the Blenheim Flats (the last remaining ALR in Vancouver) into massive estates with mansions, tennis courts, swimming pools, 5 car garages ...  This is also occurring in Richmond, Ladner and Delta.  In Richmond prime farmland is being used as a toxic dump site by developers (Farm vigil actually 318 days and counting).

     With the present day focus on the oil and gas industry in B.C the Liberal government and Energy Minister Bill Bennett (how appropriate - inside joke for older folks) are attempting to dismantle the ALR to allow for among other things oil and gas development (ALC Stop Work Order).  The Liberal government wants to put the Agricultural Land Commission, an autonomous, independent crown agency which makes decisions regarding agricultural land use under the control of the ministry of agriculture (ALC Reform). 
     A few years ago the Fraser Institute (an ultra right wing B.C organization) commissioned a report calling for an end to the Agricultural Land Reserve.  The report suggested that locally produced food was impractical and  that food could be produced elsewhere at a lower cost where environmental laws were not so restrictive and the lack of labour laws allowed for the cheap production of food.  

     The local production of my food is vitally important to me and I think to most of you.  I want to support my local farmer and to know how my food is produced.  I want to know if it is genetically modified and treated with agrochemicals.  I don't want my food produced thousands of miles away where farm workers are exploited and crops are grown unnaturally with agrochemicals and genetic modification.  I don't want to contribute to global warming through the burning of fossil fuels needed to transport food long distances.  


     What can we do to support local food production?  First, grow our own food.  Whether we have land, are part of a community garden or guerilla garden we can produce some of our own food.  It always amazes me how much food you can produce on a small portion of land.  This year I started growing food for the Vancouver Food Bank on a very small urban farm and was constantly amazed at the hundreds of pounds of produce we were able to produce.  Secondly, support your local farmer (and beekeeper).  In Vancouver as in other major cities farmer markets are popping up at an increasing rate every year and stores like Whole Foods  are making an effort to sell locally produced, organic, non genetically modified foods.  Third, sign this petition here to support our disappearing farmland and lastly at our next election vote for a party that wants to strengthen the Agricultural Land Reserve and preserve our endangered farmland (definitely not the Liberal Party - Liberals propose ALC Reform).

     I have witnessed the rise of power of the corporate elite through the 1960's, followed by the growth of labour power and environmental awareness in the 70's and the subsequent movement towards worldwide corporate amalgamation and control.  Eric Blair (George Orwell) professed in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four published in 1949 that the world would be controlled by a single entity, "Big Brother".  He foresaw the amalgamation of corporations (30 years ago 20 major corporations controlled 80% of the food production in North America - now the control is owned by 4 corporations all contemplating amalgamation) and the subsequent control of government.  We all have witnessed the increasing control major corporations wield on governments through campaign contributions and the constant interchange of personnel (Monsanto).  Let's put the power of food production back into the hands of the people.
     Please sign the petition to support local farmers and vote for a political party that supports local food production.  For more information regarding the future of the Agricultural Land Reserve go to Farm Watch BC.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pollination Crisis Lecture

SFU President's Faculty Lecture Series

President's Faculty Lecturer: Dr. Elizabeth Elle

Elizabeth Elle is Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at SFU.  A member of national (the Canadian Pollination Initiative) and international (the Integrated Crop Pollination Project) collaborations, Elizabeth’s research focuses on the impact of human activities (urbanization, agriculture, cattle grazing) on pollinator biodiversity, and how we can preserve pollination services to wildflowers and crops in the face of pollinator losses.

Are we having a pollination crisis?

You’ve probably seen it in the news: bees are in trouble, and farmers are worried about our food supply. Much of the press is on the managed honey bee, an important component of agricultural systems, but many of the earth’s 20,000 other species of bee are also experiencing population declines.  Is it cell phones? Pesticides? Habitat loss? Do we really only have four years to live if the honey bee goes extinct?! In this lecture, you’ll learn the latest science about bee declines, about the many species of wild bees in B.C. and their contribution to both crop production and resilient natural ecosystems, and how everyone can contribute to pollinator conservation.
Wed, 06 Nov 2013 7:00 PM
Studio 103 - Shadbolt Centre for the Arts
6450 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby

Event is free. Please click HERE to register.

Here is a previous lecture from Dr. Elizabeth Elle.

" A Plea for the Bees' Needs: Pollinator declines and how to encourage backyard biodiversity" presented by Dr. Elizabeth Elle.

Learn more about why bees are in trouble, the natural history and status of our native bees, and what you can do in your backyard, community garden or even on your balcony to help support pollinators.

This public lecture was recorded on Thursday April 23, 2009. It was organised by Continuing Studies in Science at Simon Fraser University.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

No U.S Bees for Canada

     In a recently released report from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (Risk Assessment of Importation of U.S Honey Bees) they concluded that the risk was too great to remove the blockade on U.S honey bees.  The initial blockade was implemented in 1987 in response to an outbreak in the U.S of the tracheal and varroa mites.
     My personal viewpoint on the subject has evolved through the years.  Initially I was totally against the ban on importation of U.S bees from a purely practical point of view.  First, it made no sense to import bees from the southern hemisphere (Canadian Regulations on Importation of Honey Bees) thousands of miles away when bees were readily available closeby at a fraction of the cost and environmental impact.  Present regulations allow Canadians to import packages of bees from New Zealand, Australia and Chile only and queens from New Zealand, Australia, Chile, California and Hawaii.  Secondly, the blockade has not worked.  26 years after the ban on U.S bees, both the tracheal and varroa mites are alive and established in Canada.  Strange as it may seem bee swarms do not go through the regulated border crossings when flying into Canada.  The vast majority of the Canadian population and beekeepers live very close to the U.S/Canada border which is the longest unregulated border in the world.
     My viewpoint now is very much in support of developing localized bee breeding.  With the issues that bees face today I feel that localized environmental adaptation and the development of strong, survivor stock is essential for a long term healthy bee population.  At present the beekeeping situation here in British Columbia is dependant on the annual importation of thousands of packages of bees primarily from New Zealand.  That dependance has created a situation where there is very little available local bee breeding and no incentive to do so.
     The reasons given for maintaining the ban on importation of U.S bee packages are the risks associated with the importation of Africanized honey bees, antibiotic-resistant American foulbrood, small hive beetle and amitraz resistant varroa mite.

     I believe maintaining the ban on importation of American bees will only delay the arrival of these 4 stated health risks.  Reasons that these risks may not be valid are most juridictions do not treat American foulbrood but have regulated mandatory eradication through the burning of the colony and hive.  The small hive beetle is present in small populations in Canada but is considered more of a southern problem probably due to it's origination in the warmer climates of Africa.  Similarly, the Africanized bees progress northward has been slowed by the colder winters of the north (Killer Bees).  As the Africanized bee moves northward the genetic dilution of the much publicized aggressive behaviour and tendancies toward swarming may conclude in the creation of a more manageable, hygienic bee.  Finally, all pests eventually develop resistance to pesticides.  The philosophy of agrochemical dependant farming (including beekeeping) only serves the profits of the agrochemical corporations. 
     The dilemma is that my alternate solution of a localized, survivor stock is not a practical reality.  It will take decades to create an infrastructure of local bee breeding sufficient to meet our demands.  Commercial beekeepers are faced with the financial reality associated with the high costs of importing bees from the southern hemisphere (Eastern Protectionism and Local Commercial Beekeepers).  Meanwhile Americans are studying the risks associated with importing bees from Australia (Apis Cerana in Australia).
     Maybe we should build a Bee Wall.

     As a backyard beekeeper not faced with the financial reality of high import costs that burden Canadian commercial beekeepers I have the luxury of not buying any imported bees.  I will continue to support the development of a localized, survivor stock through local bee breeding. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mason Bee Cocoon Cleaning

     While I have been honey beekeeping for a number of years this year was my first attempt to raise native Blue Orchard Mason Bees in our garden.  Also known as Osmia Lignaria it is a major native pollinator in our area of the world.  They make nests in reeds or natural holes and utilize mud to space their cocoons.  This bee is a particularly important spring fruit tree pollinator for us.

     While there is an endless variety of homes that your can make for your mason bees and I encourage you to do so (Native Pollinators) the important thing is that the inner tube be accessible to clean and access the cocoons.  Without the ability to access and clean the nesting area it would soon become filled with debris, mites, diseases, wasps ... 

     These are the trays that I used this year which are easily seperated and cleaned but a good alterntive is simple paper straws that can be removed.  

Orange Rumped Bumble Bee
      I have identified a number of native and non native bees and wasps in our garden and my favourite and most prolific is the Orange Rumped Bumble Bee (Melanopygus) which pollinates our raspberries, blueberries and black locusts to name a few.  How can you not like a bee whose distinguishing feature is it's butt.  However, the population of Blue Orchard Mason bees is relatively low which is why I am raising them. 

     Above is a view of some of my harvested cocoons covered in mites and mite poop.  The cleaning process I initially employed was the sand method.

      The process is fairly simple mixing the sand with the cocoons and sifting through a screen.  This method is described below in the video by Hutchings Bees.

      I found that this method did not work for me completely and possibly it was because of the type of sand I used.  After the process the cocoons were still covered in debris.

     To finish the cleansing process I soaked the cocoons in a 5% solution of bleech and gently scrubbed with an old tooth brush.
   The finished product.
     I then put the cocoons in a paper bag enclosed in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the fridge.  Modern self defrosting fridges tend to be too dry so the crisper section is recommended.  The cocoons will be placed outside in their mason bee homes in early spring.

 P.S.  After a few years of keeping mason bees I have evolved to making my bee houses by simply drilling 3/8ths inch holes in 6 inch deep wood.  I use plain, unbleached brown paper from grocery bags rolled around a tent pole as liners which brings the finished diameter of the hole to the optimal 5/16th inch.  The rolled liners extend 1 inch out the back and are folded over with a back plate screwed on.  When harvest time comes I just unscrew the back plate and pull out the paper liners (Paper Liners That Work).  For more information on how to manage Mason Bees for your home or farm go to the Native Pollinators section of our Library and scroll down to Mason Bees.  If you are just starting out you can buy cocoons off Craigslist for 50 cents a cocoon and from some garden stores for $1 per cocoon.  Good sources of supplies and information are Crown Bees  and Beediverse.  Good luck.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Neonicotinoids and Bees

     This video from Boulder County Beekeepers gives a good overview of the problems associated with neonicotinoid pesticides.  For years beekeepers worldwide have observed the detrimental effects of the systemic neonicotinoid pesticides on bees.  The studied effects are both lethal and possibly more important sublethal.  The accumulation of neonic pesticides in the hive effects the bee's nervous system and lowers their immune system making the bees more susceptible to diseases (Neonics weaken Bee immune system).  The effects go beyond this as recent evidence shows an accumulation of neonics in waterways adjacent to agricultural areas poses a risk to fish and birds in these ecosystems (Neonicotinoid Pesticides in Wetland Water).  In addition because of the monopolization of the seed market by the major agrochemical corporations farmers have difficulty finding seeds that don't contain neonicotinoid pesticides.  This is why Europe has recently placed a two year ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.  Further evidence of the effects of neonicotinoids on bees and the environment can be found in the Insecticides and Bees section of our Beekeepers' Library.  The first 17 minutes of this video relates to issue of neonics and bees.

Very good video on neonics and bees: Honeybees in Crisis

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

March Against Monsanto

     This Saturday, October 12th is the worldwide action to take back control of our food supply which presently is owned by Monsanto and a handful of major Agrochemical corporations.  They were able to do this by convincing major political powers (i.e. U.S and Canadian governments) to first allow the untested genetic manipulation of our food supply; second that because each of the organisms combined in the genetic manipulation were natural that the combined product must therefore be natural and not subject to safety testing; and lastly that the genetically modified seed can be patented.  
     The political powers that allowed the introduction of genentic manipulation of our food supply were sponsored by Monsanto and the other agrochemical corporations through major campaign contributions.  In addition for decades there has been a "revolving door" policy of employment between Monsanto and the U.S government suggesting at the least an extreme conflict of interest.  

     Most people are unaware that all of the safety testing of agrochemical products (insecticides, herbicides ...) including genetically modified seeds is carried out by the agrochemical corporations that stand to profit from the sales of that product.  Due to lack of funding virtually no government testing is done.  In addition in North America and much of the rest of the world Monsanto has monopolized the food seed production by buying out seed companies including major organic seed producers.  The result has been that farmers have been forced to buy the expensive, patented genetically modified seeds.  Also, because of naturally occurring cross pollination a non gm farmer can have his crop contaminated with the gm genetics from a neighbour and is subsequently subject to prosecution by the holder of the gm seed patent (ie. Monsanto).  Monsanto has sued hundreds of farmers in North American including the much celebrated heroic case of Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser.  The ruthless nature of Monsanto's attack on this farmer and his family has unfortunately been repeated countless times.

     For us to allow a corporation that has a heinoss reputation of producing products like DDT, Dioxins, PCB's, Polystyrene, Saccharine, Aspartame, Bovine Growth Hormone, Agent Orange and the Atomic Bomb (Monsanto the Evil Empire) to control our food supply is not just a crime against our generation but also future generations (Ecocide).  I recently watch a video on the effects of Monsanto's Agent Orange on the people of Vietnam which goes on to this day.  Vietnamese orphanages are filled with horribly deformed children as a result of the the spraying of Agent Orange in the 60's. 

     The future of us, our children and our bees relies on a healthy food supply.  Please participate or support your local "March Against Monsanto" event. 
     To find out more about this cause go to "March Against Monsanto" and to find an event near you go to March Against Monsanto near you.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Vanishing of the Bees

     Abby Martin interviews Maryam Henein, investigative journalist and director of the film 'The Vanishing of the Bees' about a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder.  Although there are many documentaries on the problems bees are facing I think this is one of the best.  Personally, I have never been perplexed by the cause of "Colony collapse disorder".  Bees have a very weak immune system (half the genetic material dedicated to the immune system than a fruit fly) and subsequently are very susceptible to minute changes in the environment.  Bodies covered in hair and hives coated in wax make make them the perfect receptors for environmental particulates. 
     Years ago coal miners would take a canary down to the mine to indicate when the air became so bad that it would jepordize their health.  It would effect the canary first and indicate immediate evacuation.  Bees are our "Canary in the coal mine" for planet earth.  In this film they state that colony collapse disorder indicates a major problem in our food production system.  While I agree I believe it goes further than that and indicates an overall toxic degradation of our environment.  If you anaylse the everyday products that we use like shampoo, windsheild washer fluid, ink, petroleum products (i.e fracking and the tar sands) and preservatives you find that we have immersed ourselves in a cornucopia of toxicity.  Perhaps most important of all is the toxic method by which we produce our food (agrochemicals and genetic modification).  Unlike bees we have a very strong immune system and usually do not feel the effects for years, possibly decades in the form of cancers or other ailments. 
     This is certainly an enlightening documentary that I highly recommend.  To view films like this go to the Video section of our website.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Home Depot and Lowe’s: Stop Selling Bee-Killing Plants!

Petition Statement
     A growing body of science has implicated neonicotinoids (neonics), the world’s most widely used pesticide, as a key factor in recent global bee die-offs. Unfortunately, many of the “bee-friendly” seedlings and plants sold to unsuspecting consumers in your stores have been pre-treated with neonicotinoids at much higher doses than are used on farms, where levels of neonicotinoid use are already raising concerns among beekeepers and scientists.
     I find there to be an increasing number of petitions in the world and have wondered about their usefulness.  I believe they do work.  Politicians respond to two things.  Money from corporations and pressure from voters.  If the pressure is great enough and the politician does not respond accordingly they won't be reelected and subsequently won't receive corporate funding.  The pressure has to reach a level where it is reported on by mainstream media.  This is how Europeans got the EU to ban neonicotinoids.
     Please sign the petition here.  There are currently 44,000 signatures. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Marla Spivak: Why bees are disappearing

     Marla Spivak, entomology professor at the University of Minnesota discusses the challenges that bees are facing today and what we can do to help them.  In the United States since the end of World War II (l945) the number of bee colonies has decreased from 4.5 million to 2 million.  This coincides with the movement from the family farm to large corporate monoculture agroindustry.  The vast majority of food production today is done with large, monoculture farms that have replaced natural, nitrogen fixing, fertilizing cover crops like clover and alfalfa (bee food sources) with synthetic fertilizers; herbicides used on these farms have created a food desert where bees can't survive; and the increased use of pesticides and particularly the systemic neonicotinoids has created a situation where bees, the perfect environmental receptor (bodies covered with hair) are carrying back to the hive and depositing a mixture of toxic agrochemicals.  These factors along with mites, diseases and the mass transport of bees for pollination have created a difficult environment for the bees to survive.
     Marla  discusses possible solutions like the use of cover crops and hedgerows on farms, the reduction of agrochemicals and the planting of bee friendly plants.  She has developed a strain of bees, the Minnesota hygienic line which are able to detect infected larvae in the hive and remove them to cleanse the hive of the disease or parasite.  Work on increasing hygienic behaviour in bees is being done throughout the world and is a possible solution but requires the population domination of hygienic bees (both drones and queens) to be successful.  This is a long term prospect which most beekeepers are aware of and support.
     Locally, on September 27th at 8 p.m at Eternal Abundance (1025 Commercial Drive) there will be a screening of the documentary "Saving the Life Keepers - The new science of sustainable beekeeping". Watch the trailer:  "Saving the Life Keeper"   The master beekeeper Brian  Campbell and the film  director and producer Jocelyn Demers will be at  this event for a Q and  A.

March Against Monsanto

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fair Trade Honey

     In an ideal world we would produce all of our own food locally and organically but in reality we import a significant portion.  Much of this comes from developing countries where farmers have traditionally been exploited by greedy buyers who set the price far below a liveable earning.  The concept of "Fair Trade" has empowered these farmers and provided them and their communities with a fair income which has allowed them a healthier, happier lifestyle. This documentary "Hope is Golden" is about the beekeeping cooperatives in Brazil’s arid Caatinga region that produce Fair Trade certified honey.
     The Fair Trade organizations provide funding for the infrastructure required by farming cooperatives in developing countries.  "Fair Trade International" began 25 years ago and in 2012 the number of Fairtrade producer organizations grew by 16%.  It works and it is growing.  Please support fair trade for all products including honey, tea, chocolate, sugar, fruit, flowers and coffee.  For more information go to Fair Trade Canada or Fair Trade USA.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

American Farmers Sue Monsanto

     A group of American organic and conventional family farmers today presented to the U.S Supreme Court a challenge to Monsanto's patents on genetically engineered seed and protection from litigation over contamination by the G.E seed.  Hundreds of farmers have been sued by Monsanto because their crops were contaminated by neighbouring farmers G.E seed.  

For Immediate Release
Jim Gerritsen
(207) 429-9765
Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association
American Farmers Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court to Seek Protection from Genetic Contamination and Invalidate Monsanto's Patents on Genetically Engineered Crops

New York - September 5, 2013 - A group of 73 American organic and conventional family farmers, seed businesses and public advocacy groups asked the U.S. Supreme Court today to hear their case against Monsanto Company challenging the chemical and biotech seed giant's patents on genetically engineered seed. In Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto, the plaintiffs have been forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their fields ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically engineered seed, something Monsanto has done to others in the past.

In a June 10th ruling earlier this year, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that a group of organic and otherwise non-GMO farmer and seed company plaintiffs are not entitled to bring a lawsuit to protect themselves from Monsanto's transgenic seed patents "because Monsanto has made binding assurances that it will not 'take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently contain traces of Monsanto biotech genes (because, for example, some transgenic seed or pollen blew onto the grower's land).'"

"While the Court of Appeals correctly found that the farmers and seed sellers had standing to challenge Monsanto's invalid patents, it incorrectly found that statements made by Monsanto's lawyers during the lawsuit mooted the case," said Daniel Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and lead counsel to the plaintiffs in OSGATA et al v. Monsanto. "As a result, we have asked the Supreme Court to take the case and reinstate the right of the plaintiffs to seek full protection from Monsanto's invalid transgenic seed patents."

The Petition filed today by lawyers for the family farmers may be found here.

The plaintiffs brought the pre-emptive case against Monsanto in March 2011 and specifically seek to defend themselves from nearly two dozen of Monsanto's most aggressively asserted patents on GMO seed. They were forced to act pre-emptively to protect themselves from Monsanto's abusive lawsuits, fearing that if GMO seed contaminates their property despite their efforts to prevent such contamination, Monsanto will sue them for patent infringement.

"We have been farming for almost forty years and we have never wanted anything to do with Monsanto," said Jim Gerritsen, an organic seed farmer in Maine and President of lead PlaintiffOSGATA.  "We believe we have the right to farm and grow good food the way we choose.  We don't think it's fair that Monsanto can trespass onto our farm, cjim gerritsenontaminate and ruin our crops and then sue us for infringing on their patent rights.  We don't want one penny from Monsanto. American farmers deserve their day in Court so we can prove to the world Monsanto's genetically engineered patents are invalid and that farmers deserve protection from Monsanto's abuse."

In the case, the plaintiffs are asking the courts to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto's genetically engineered seed, they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement. One reason justifying this result is that Monsanto's patents on genetically engineered seed are invalid because they don't meet the "usefulness" requirement of patent law, according to Ravicher. Evidence cited in the plaintiffs' court filings proves that genetically engineered seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically engineered seed - increased production and decreased herbicide use - are false.

As Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote in 1817, to be patentable, an invention must not be "injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society," and "a new invention to poison people ... is not a patentable invention."  Because transgenic seed, and in particular Monsanto's transgenic seed, is "injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society" and threatens to "poison people," Monsanto's transgenic seed patents are all invalid.

With the rapid adoption of Monsanto's genetically engineered seed technology, America's farmers have been faced with a rampant rise in superweeds, with more than 49% of U.S. farmers reporting glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm in 2012, up from 34% that farmers reported in 2011. In addition, scientists are reporting the growing failures of Monsanto's genetically engineered insecticide-corn, with reports from scientists in the Midwestern corn belt states detailing the rise of super insects becoming resistant to the genetically engineered Bt toxin, leaving farmers vulnerable to the voracious corn rootworm, the number one threat to corn farmers.

"For the past twenty years, Monsanto has used its political and financial power to foist a deeply flawed technology on America's farmers, consistently underestimating the real risks of genetic engineering while putting America's farmers, the environment and the public in harm's way simply in the name of profit," said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots movement of more than 650,000 farmers and citizens. "As the leading arbiters of justice in the U.S., it behooves the Supreme Court to hear this important case to protect America's farmers from abusive patent infringement lawsuits and invalidate Monsanto's flawed patents as their products have been shown to be damaging to human health and the environment and failed to live up to the marketing hype."

Complete background on the OSGATA et al v. Monsanto lawsuit is available here.

About OSGATA: The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association is a not-for-profit agricultural organization comprised of organic farmers, seed growers, seed businesses and supporters. OSGATA is committed to developing, promoting, and protecting organic seed and it's growers in order to ensure the organic community has access to excellent quality organic seed free of contaminants and adapted to the diverse needs of local organic agriculture. 
# # #

     Below is the documentary "David vs Monsanto" which follows the long battle and eventual victory of farmer Percy Schmeiser over Monsanto.  The documentary reveals the ruthless, merciless methods used byMonsanto to destroy the farmer whose crops were contaminated by neighbouring genetically engineered seeds (Monsanto the Evil Empire).
     Presently if a goose flies over your house and poops out a genetically engineered seed which takes root in your yard you can be sued for patent infringement.

                "Without Seed Freedom there is no Food Freedom"
Vandana Shiva (The Future of Food and Seed)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bayer sues the European Commision for the right to kill Bees

     The European Commission recently made a landmark decision restricting or banning the use of systemic, neonicotinoid pesticides.  This came after years of protests and overwhelming scientific studies supporting the lethal and sublethal effects of systemic pesticides on pollinators.  This week Bayer responded by suing the European Commission for their right to kill bees.  This from "Sum of Us":

"Bayer and Syngenta, two of the world's largest chemical corporations, claim that the ban is "unjustified" and "disproportionate." But clear scientific evidence shows their products are behind the massive bee die-off that puts our entire food chain in peril.

Just last month, 37 million bees were discovered dead on a single Canadian farm. And unless we act now, the bees will keep dying. We have to show Bayer now that we won't tolerate it putting its profits ahead of our planet's health. If this giant corporation manages to bully Europe into submission, it would spell disaster for the bees.

Sign the petition to tell Bayer and Syngenta to drop their bee-killing lawsuits now.

The dangerous chemical Bayer makes is a neonicotinoid, or neonic. Neonics are soaked into seeds, spreading through the plant and killing insects stopping by for a snack. These pesticides can easily be replaced by other chemicals which don’t have such a devastating effect on the food chain. But companies like Bayer and Syngenta make a fortune from selling neonics -- so they’ll do everything they can to protect their profits.

The EU banned these bee-killers this past May, after a massive public campaign and a clear scientific finding from the European Food Safety Authority that neonics pose huge risks to bee populations. Bayer fought against the ban every step of the way, using tactics taken from Big Tobacco -- pouring millions into lobbying and fake science to stop decision-makers from taking action.

Now, we have to defend this landmark ban for the bees, and our food supply. Sign the petition now to tell Bayer and Syngenta to drop their aggressive lawsuits!

We have to stand up for the European ban now, from Europe and from around the world. The current ban only lasts for two years before it's up for review, and Bayer is now determined to stop it before it even comes into force in December 2013. If it is allowed to intimidate the European authorities with impunity, then the pressure to overturn the ban will be huge. This will be a massive victory for the poison industry, and a devastating loss for the bees, and all of us. It will make every environmental regulation more difficult, because companies that can't win on the facts can use their enormous profits to fund expensive, baseless lawsuits.

Bayer is an enormous company with a ton of public-facing brands. Neonics are a big part of its bottom line, but it can't afford poor publicity on a global scale. And if word gets out that Bayer is wrecking our ecosystem and threatening a creature responsible for pollinating a third of all our crops, the company will have to back down.

SumOfUs staff and members have literally just gotten of the plane from a convention in Chicago where we took the fight for a ban in the US right to the industry itself -- so we know how important it is to hold the line.

Sign the petition to tell Bayer and Syngenta to drop their bee-killing lawsuits now. Let's build on this landmark victory and take the bee-killing pesticide ban global."

     Unfortunately North America is far behind Europe and most of the rest of the world in terms of responding to urgent environmental concerns.  This is because the agrochemical corporations control our political system through campaign funding and lobbying and a continuous revolving door of personnel between corporate headquarters and Washington.
     Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada is urging Harper's Conservatives to follow the European Commission’s lead and ban the neonicotinoid pesticides:
     “I believe the precautionary principle should guide our action here. Canada can stand up to the chemical industry. It’s a matter of political will,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
      “Neonicotinoids are another example of the negative long-term consequences of pesticides. Any advantage to individual crops is wiped out by the massive destruction of crop pollinators across the country and the resulting drop in productivity of many of our food crops,” said Kate Storey, Green Party’s Agriculture Critic.  “It would be economically smarter to ban neonicotinoids and put research into organic ways of working with nature,” added Storey (Ban Neonicotinoids in Canada).
     Please help Elizabeth May and the Green Party ban the use of systemic, neonicotinoid pesticides in Canada by signing this petition.

     The effects of the systemic, neonicotinoid pesticides are not exclusive to pollinators as their inherent, long lasting systemic nature makes every part of the plant toxic (including morning dew on the plant); the toxin accumulates in the soil and leaches into the groundwater effecting the entire ecosystem and it's inhabitants (i.e birds ...).  Environment Canada recently did a study on the potential for leaching of neonicotinoid pesticides from agricultural lands into surrounding wetlands.  The results showed staggeringly high accumulations in most surrounding wetlands.  Dr. Jeroen van der Sluijs of Utrecht University stated, "The pollution was so bad that in some places the ditch water could have been used as an effective pesticide".  "This substance should be phased out internationally as soon as possible".  He added that half the 20,000 tonnes of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid produced each year are used to treat fleas and other pests in cattle, dogs and cats and as such are not subject to the EU ban.  "All of this imidacloprid ends up in the surface water".  The scientists found several cases of extreme water pollution with imidacloprid levels 25,000 times the limit.  A powerpoint of the Environment Canada study can be viewed here.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Make BC GE Free

     Once a year British Columbia municipalities get together to chew the fat and this year Metchosin, which is  "GE Free", is presenting a proposal that would ban Genetically engineered food products (crops and animals) from B.C. municipalities.

     This is the resolution:
“that UBCM ask the British Columbia government to legislate the prohibition of importing, exporting and growing plants and seeds containing genetically engineered DNA, and raising GE animals within BC, and to declare, through legislation, that BC is a GE Free area in respect to all plant and animal species."

     Some of the risks associated with GE food products are the creation of "superweeds" or "superpests" immune to herbicides or pesticides; the spread of ge crops compromising the natural genetic makeup of non ge crops; the patented ownership of ge crops and monopolization of our food production by the agrochemical corporations (i.e. Monsanto); lack of regulation and testing and subsequent health risks to consumers; environmental pollution of ge bacteria strains; most GE seeds contain systemic, neonicotinoid pesticides which have both lethal and sublethal effects on all pollinators ...  In this video Thierry Vrain, a soil biologist does a better job than I at describing the issues associated with genetically engineered crops and animals. 

     Much of our food in British Columbia is imported from the United States whose dependence on genetically modified seeds is growing dramatically.

America’s Growing GMO Seed Dependence
404 million: Approximate number of acres of U.S. cropland.

172 million: Number of acres of GMO crops in the U.S., nearly double its nearest competitor (Brazil at 90 million).

94: Percentage of U.S. soy crops that currently contain GMOs.

54: Percentage of U.S. soybeans in 2000 that contained GMOs, up from 42% in 1998 and only 7% in 1996

90: Percentage of U.S. cotton crops that contain GMOs.

61: Percentage of U.S. cotton crops that contained GMOs in 2000, up from 42% in 1998, and 15% in 1996.

88:  Percentage of U.S. corn crops that contain GMOs.

25: Percentage of U.S. corn containing GMOs in 2000, about the same as 1998 (26%), but up from 1.5% in 1996.

90: Percentage of U.S. canola crops that contain GMOs.

95: Percentage of U.S. sugar beet crops that contain GMOs.

57: Percentage of American sugar production that comes from sugar beets.

GMOs: Fueling our Factory Farms and Automobiles
98: Percentage of U.S. GMO soy used for animal feed and fuel production (~70% to feed and ~25% to biofuels).

71: Percentage of U.S. GMO corn that is used for animal feed (40%) and fuel production (31%).

Approximately 67: Percentage of world’s GMO canola seed oil used in animal feed.

12.2 million: Number of hectares of GMO crops (nearly 10 percent of the global total) used in the U.S. for biofuels in 2008.

The Winners: Biotech, Agrochemical and Pesticide Industries
$13.5 billion: Monsanto’s net sales in 2012 (largest biotech seed company in the world), up from $5.5 billion in 2004.

$34.8 billion: Dupont’s net sales in 2012, up from $8 billion.

$56.8 billion: Dow Chemical’s net sales in 2012, up from $40.1 billion.

$14.2 billion: Syngenta’s net sales in 2012, up from $7.3 billion in 2004.

Compiled by Zack Kaldveer, assistant media director for the Organic Consumers Association.

     The producers of GMO's have cited a few extraordinary benefits of genetic modification like reduced agrochemical use (pesticides, fungicides and herbicides) and substantially increased harvest to better feed our growing population.  These marketing myths have been found to be completely untrue.

     Actively participating in determining the source and quality of your food is not being a "radical" but rather a responsible member of society.  What is more important than the food that we and our children consume? Please write your mayor and council (letter to municipal representatives) and sign this petition letting them know of your support for a GE Free B.C.
     For more information on genetically modified crops and animals go to Earth Open SourceOrganic Consumers Association and Society for a GE Free B.C or listen to the expert below.

P.S.  Grand Forks has recently become the 62nd GE Free Zone in B.C.  Congratulations! (GE Free Zones in B.C.).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Skunks and Bees

pollinators in action

OSU logo
The Buzz@OSU

Honey Bee and Native Pollinator Education

Skunk Behavior in the Bee Yard

Join us on Wednesday, August 21st at 9AM (Eastern) for our next webinar: 

Skunk Behavior in the Bee Yard with Dr. Mark Headings
Your bee losses may be due to more than you think. Have you ever observed an abrupt decline in the bee population in a given hive without seeing a lot of dead bees inside? The bees that remain may seem especially aggressive. Or, maybe you've seen the grass matted down or disturbed in front of the hive?

If you've seen scratch marks around the entrance of the hive, especially on the bottom board, or you've actually seen a skunk in your bee yard eating your bees, you could be dealing with a skunk problem. Join Mark for our August webinar to learn more about skunks as well as the options to resolve this predator problem.

To Join this free webinar, follow the link and LOG IN AS A GUEST at about 8:55:

To access via iPad or iPhone, download the Adobe Connect app.

This and each monthly webinar will be recorded and archived on the  OSU Bee Lab website the day of the session. Hope you can join us for the August webinar!



Denise Ellsworth
OSU Extension, Department of Entomology
     This webinar will be recorded and available for viewing at the Ohio State website above or in the Webinar section of our Beekeepers' Library.
      We have skunks in our bee yard that live under our tool shed but they don't appear to be a problem.  Although mostly nocturnal I have spotted the mother occasionally with her very cute troupe of babies following behind her.  We do however have problems with a two legged variety of skunk that visits our garden at night.  Our garden and bee yard are in a 4 acre community garden near the downtown eastside of Vancouver which is open to the public.  Recently someone vandalized the hives on 4 occasions (knocking the hives over, throwing large rocks on the bees and pouring buckets of water on the bees).  I built a security fence a week ago and since then the two legged skunk has found other ways to amuse his or her self.  Perhaps it was in cutting down our banana tree last weekend which was set to produce our first bananas.  

     Better meditate some more. 

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