Flupyradifurone: What Could “Bee” the Problem?

by argea on November 25, 2016 - 6:49pm

“More Bad News for Bees: The New “F” Word” by David Suzuki highlights the mistake of approving flupyradifurone as a new pesticide to replace neonicotinoids. Flupyradifurone is a pesticide in the same class as neonicotinoids, which are known to have detrimental impacts on bees and other pollinators. Ontario has recently acknowledged this problem, passing legislature to reduce the use of neonicotinoid use by 80% in Ontario by 2017 (OMAFRA, 2016). So why ruin the work they already started by approving the use of this new pesticide?

Conflicts have arisen between beekeepers and farmers. The use of neonicotinoids provide farmers with a way to ensure a good yield, despite knowing the repercussions this could have on pollinators. A differing in opinions about the importance of certain values, known as value conflict, results in this case.  Farmers depend on a good crop yield for their yearly income, and so, must worry about how pests will affect their yield. Neonicotinoids reduce this worry, ensuring they do not lose most of their yield to a pest infestation problem. Beekeepers and others worried about the well-being of the bees, place a bigger importance on their safety, so reducing the use of pesticides would be their top priority. This conflicting situation has led to opposing legislation, seen by OMAFRA’s Pollinator Health Strategy (OMAFRA, 2016) and the approval of flupyradifurone by Canada’s Pest Management Regulation Agency.

There is uncertainty in using pesticides as they are a relatively new form of pest management. Uncertainty results from a lack of knowledge surrounding the behaviour of a system. This can lead to an inability to accurately predict the system’s outcome, however decisions must be made regardless. As well, decision-makers often make less prudent decisions as they are prone to hyperbolic discounting – the tendency to make decisions that will result in smaller, earlier rewards rather than later, larger rewards. Environmental uncertainty arising from the lack of knowledge in pesticide management works much the same way. Suzuki mentions that “we don’t fully understand the cumulative effects of the increasing amounts of today’s insecticides, pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals.” Despite the fact that there is little knowledge about the outcomes from decisions on pesticide use, decisions must be made and are often focussed on earlier solutions that may not be as rewarding.

The state management of pesticide use still remains a large problem in North America. Suzuki explains how the European Environment Agency has banned three neonicotinoids known to be dangerous to bees. However, North America seems to be unable to learn from their example since Suzuki also explains how Canada’s Pest Management Regulation Agency will be approving the use of another pesticide, flupyradifurone. An adaptive management strategy may provide a better management solution. It is a strategy that works well for uncertain situations as it aims to reduce the uncertainty over time by monitoring the changes in the system. As there is already so much uncertainty in pesticide management, introducing this strategy may result in better management decisions over the long-term.

Would it not be reasonable to think that people would learn from past mistakes? Take, for example, the impacts of DDT or the introduction of neonicotinoids; all of which began with the assumption that they were safe, only later discovering the harmful effects of these pesticides. We can only assume that flupyradifurone will meet the same fate. Being of the same class and with similar traits to those of neonicotinoids, do you not think that we should be treading carefully with the approval and use of this new pesticide?




News Article

Suzuki, D. (2014, October 29). More Bad News for Bees: The New "F" Word. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/david-suzuki/pesticides-killing-bees_b_6064398.html.


Supplementary References

OMAFRA. (2016, September 14). Pollinator Health Strategy. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Retrieved from: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/pollinator/meeting-reg.htm.