Organic farmers call for ban of chemical linked to decline in bee population

Courtesy Sam Marlow

Courtesy Sam Marlow

Farmers and advocacy groups across Ontario concerned with the alarming decrease in the bee population are calling for a neonicotinoid ban by spring 2014.

Nathan Carey, a farmer in Neustadt, Ontario, is one of them.

Carey and his wife, Tarrah, have been running Green Being Farm, an organic farm, for six years. They raise sheep, pigs, chickens and cattle on the farm. The pair run a community shared agriculture (CSA) program for those looking for locally and organically grown vegetables.

Their farm depends on pollinators such as bees and when Carey started noticing the lack of them around his farm, he started to worry.

“When I noticed a lack of pollinators around the farm, I started asking neighbours and people who stopped by if they had similar experience and the majority of people did,” Carey said during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

So he began to make a plan to save a creature so crucial to our ecosystem: ban the use of neonicotinoid in Ontario by next year.

Neonicotinoid is the chemical linked by scientists to the alarming decrease of the bee population.

Some farmers use the harmful chemical to prevent pests from eating their crop. They are applied to the soil and absorbed by the whole plant. The plant becomes toxic from the roots to the leaves, stems and pollen.

A review by The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife, found the following:

  • “Honey bees exposed to sublethal levels of neonicotinoid can experience problems with flying and navigation, reduced taste sensitivity, and slower learning of new tastes, which all impact foraging ability.
  • “Bumble bees exposed to sublethal levels of neonicotinoid exhibit reduced food consumption, reproduction, worker survival rates, and foraging activity.”

In the 40-page review, the organization recommends that legislators, regulators and municipal leaders across the country should consider banning the use of neonicotinoid for “cosmetic purposes on ornamental and landscape plants.”

To move forward with his goal of implementing a neonicotinoid ban by next spring, Carey meets with community members passionate about the issue, sends out messages to a mailing list of 80-100 people and works with organizations such as National Farmers Union, organization of Canadian farmers, Sierra Club, a national environment organization, and other advocacy groups.

“One of the things I’ve done in our local group is encouraged people to write to their MPs. I’m really encouraged that Kathleen Wynne took action on this. I don’t see that type of action coming from the federal government,” said Carey.

Premier Wynne, who is also Ontario’s Agriculture Minister, has asked the federal government to speed up its review of neonicotinoid seed treatments.

And it might not come fast enough.

Carey says the bee population has experienced a drop of 35 per cent in the past three years.

A petition started by the Ontario Beekeepers Association that is addressed to Wynne calls for the immediate ban of the use of neonicotinoid in Ontario. The petition has accumulated over 18,000 signatures to date.

“We are undermining the stability of our food system. The risk of losing those bees is pretty devastating. This issue isn’t just about farmers and beekeepers, it’s about everyone. We are all dependent on these natural systems,” said Carey.

To put it in context, Carey says to picture any business losing 35 per cent of their production.

“Beekeepers are losing livestock. It’s pretty devastating emotionally and economically,” Carey said.

He also hopes that organic farmers will provide insight for mainstream agriculture. Carey says that organic farmers have proven there is consistent crop with pollinator health.

“The issue with bees touches people. The way I haven’t seen an agriculture issue touch people,” said Carey.


The unrest in the Middle East continues as Libyans face foreign military intervention and the violence in Bahrain and Yemen erupts.

The Saturday that just passed brought out demonstrators to Dundas Square in downtown Toronto that showed their support for the Arab nations fighting for freedom.

Hundreds of people chanted slogans like “the world must know, Gadaffi has to go” and “down, down Gadaffi”. This peaceful rally occurred just an hour or so after Western military began invading Libya. Many demonstrators had mixed feelings about the invasion, Mahmaud Elaradi who has family in Tripoli expressed that the foreign intervention may be a good thing but it is a little too late, “The international community knows who Gadaffi is and what he is capable of. He is a criminal and a terrorist. He has been killing innocent people for over 40 years.”

In the middle of interviewing Elaradi a friend approached him and shared that a relative had just been killed in Tripoli.

Elaradi went on to say that he feels helpless for his country but definitely thinks it is a wake up call for the Arab nation, “We are saying no more to dictators, we are saying yes to democracy, to freedom, to justice. Those dictators have been there for too long, it is time for a change.” Elaradi’s frustrations rippled through the crowds of people chanting for freedom.

Mariam Yousif helped plan the pro-democracy rally with the Arab Solidarity Campaign – which supports the growing movements for freedom throughout the Arab world. Yousif, who was at the rally with her two young daughters, said that the protestors are pleading for freedom and for the country’s Sunni monarchy to step down, “the people of Bahrain have been oppressed for decades and now they are finally speaking out.” Yousif also made it clear that the Saudi troops need to leave Bahrain and the massacre of innocent civilians needs to come to an end.

Regardless of the mixed reactions to the foreign military intervention in Libya, the one thing that is clear and agreed on amongst the large crowd is: the people of Yemen, Bahrain and Libya having been waiting far too long for democracy.

Click here for more photos.

Bow ties and all, the Strokes are back with their new video for Undercover of Darkness. While they are dressed in their prom-night best they fall short of entertaining us. The video consists of a band performing around a dinner table and on a large stage. At least the guys chose a gorgeous theater to shoot the video at, enough to redeem themselves or will we have to wait until the next video?

While being on the topic of new music videos, Ke$ha graces us with her new video Blow. All I can say is that the video consists of unicorn heads, former Dawson Creek star James Van Der Beek trying to make a come back and Ke$ha’s acting skills shining through. Enough said?

Online Dating: Friend or Foe?

Finding a spouse, flirting and settling down with the right person – all made easier with just a click of a button.

Online dating websites, eHarmony, Lavalife and Plenty of fish, seem to be replacing the club scene of singles mingling.

We’ve all seen the commercials with the happy couples that claim they would have never found each other if it wasn’t for them joining a particular dating website. The online dating pool is growing and there seems to be something out there for everyone. Some are geared towards singles looking for marriage while other sites are just for casual dating.

There are still those optimistic singles that claim that they will find love the “old-fashioned way” but think about it, when was the last time a guy asked you out on a date in person? Perhaps this question only applies to my non-existent dating life but guys usually opt for I’ll-add-you-to-Facebook-and-ask-you-out-online instead of the face-to-face interaction.

The appeal?…

Interesting in reading more?

Visit The Reconnect

Splitsville for White Stripes

White Stripes have officially called it quits today. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to fans since Icky Thump was their last release in 2007 and since then Jack White has created and played music with The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. The band did not give specific reasons for the official split but that it was for “a myriad of reasons… mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band.” Which makes me respect them as musicians more then I already did.

Numerous bands are making a come back this year after a long break from the music scene. The Strokes are set to release “Angles”  in March and Foo Fighters have confirmed that they will release their new album in April. Pete Doherty has even discussed the possibility of the Libertines reuniting and performing. (Whether Doherty was sober when he made this statement is still in question)

My 16-year-old self is very excited about these new albums (and concert dates!) These bands should leave no room for disappointment since fans have been waiting for some years now for new material.

Leaving you all with a little tribute to the Stripes.

The Fall and Rise

The headlines read captured “like a rat” in a hole. American and British troops had finally succeeded in finding former President Saddam Hussein hiding at the bottom of a hole about ten miles south of his hometown Tikrit.

The steps taken afterwards were crucial to the stability of the nation and to gain the people’s trust. The opposition parties stepped in to take power and maintain power in the country with the help of the American administration. Soon after the switch over happened with the government of Iraq, problems started to arise.

One of the biggest mistakes made by the American administrator was that he decided to eliminate the Military of Iraq. All these men were left without jobs or a stable income but full of anger towards the new administration so they began to rebel and join up with those who still practiced Saddam’s harsh regime.

The second mistake was that the American troops could not maintain any control or stability over the capital of Iraq, Baghdad. Terrorist groups began to rebel against the American troops by stealing money from banks, looting and breaking into offices and ministries. From that moment when the Americans showed weakness by not being able to maintain any sort of control, people saw leeway in the situation. They did not think there were any rules to follow nor were they under any dictatorship or fear. With that attitude they threw away any chance of quickly restoring peace in the Middle East.

On the other hand those who did see a brighter future for Iraq started to form a government that included Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish people so the country could be run democratically. With this idea in hand, things started to improve in 2005. The first democratic election in Iraq happened that year, with men and women voting. They selected a President, Prime Minister and various other ministers to handle other jobs.

In 2007, terrorist groups started growing with more members joining from abroad from various neighboring countries. That created a lot of problems for the infrastructure of the country. They were being reckless and bombing hydro towers, water plants and important buildings for the Government, which created a dangerous atmosphere.

The new administration, with the help of American troops began to fight back to regain control of the country. In March 2010, Iraq had the second democratic election with 325 new parliament members.

In 2010, the future of Iraq looks promising, with the new government working to rebuild the infrastructure that is so badly damaged from Saddam’s regime.

(From my previous blog, just tweaked some articles & wanted to share them here)

21st century: Iraq still struggling to deliver constant electricity to residents

Since the invasion of Kuwait by former dictator and President Saddam Hussein, Iraq could not import or export any goods to other countries. April 2003 marked one of the most important dates in the history of the Middle East; Hussein was removed from power by American and British troops.

During that time all existing electricity projects become very old. Companies were also very limited because they couldn’t import spare parts and new machines to get electricity to work properly.

In the years that passed after 2003, Northern Iraq became a stable community with hopes of a new government to run things properly. The government in the area began to build and develop new projects and had the opportunity to finally start importing new technology to improve electrical power. The government is now controlling and managing all the electricity projects plus there are some private companies that have started to operate small generators to distribute extra power to locals.

Each community has its own generator, when the government cuts power or when they have problems, the private company start supplying extra electricity to residents. The government supplies electricity starting in the evening until 7 a.m., then for about six hours the small companies jump in to supply power in the afternoon for residents, which they pay for. Most residents had a small generator to supply electricity for their household if the government was not generous with distributing power.

The root of the situation is that there is not enough power for every resident in Iraq so the government cannot keep the electricity going for 24 hours. They do not have enough power stations to supply the whole nation. This all relates back to the Gulf war and the embargo that was put on Iraq in 1991.

The government also has a lot to deal with, regarding the stability of the country and the safety of the people. The daily bombs set off by terrorists does not encourage foreign companies to come help and invest in re building the infrastructure of Iraq. That is why to this year the nation is still struggling to maintain constant power.

Last week I was reading through the National Post in class when I came across a little section about Justin Bieber’s new hair cut. Being a reader of the Post I decided to tweet about how insignificant this piece of news was to me, “There’s a section in the National post about justin bieber’s new hair cut I didn’t realize this was hard hitting news.” Skip to hours later when I checked Twitter that night, I notice that they had replied so I managed to have a mini-conversation with a staff member. Upon noticing the graphic of Jbieb’s new hair cut online I discovered that the Post has a Tumblr. With an online version of your paper, a Twitter with active staff members and a Tumblr to post your graphics on (which resulted in National Post getting mentioned by Anderson Cooper) You are one of the few newspapers that is up to speed with social media and how to use it to enhance the quality of your paper and expand your readership.

I understand the nostalgia the older generation (and some of mine) has towards print Journalism. I still enjoy picking up the paper everyday and seeing the headlines and stories because there is a difference when it comes to putting content online versus printing it on paper. I find that we tend to focus much on holding on to the way things are done in the past rather then focusing where the future of print, broadcast or radio Journalism is heading and embracing it with open arms.

The future of all those things do include Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Blogspot and whatever social media tool that has yet to be created. So why waste your time “jumping on the bandwagon”? It’s better to become an expert then get left behind completely unaware of what can’t be argued as a trend anymore, it is here to stay.

Holiday re-cap

The dreaded end of Christmas holidays is coming to an end and classes are starting back up on Monday. When I say the dreaded end it’s because Christmas is the one time of the year where you are allowed to eat, be lazy, go out, spend as much time (or little) with family and friends without feeling guilty. This year my family booked a last minute vacation to Punta Cana. It was a lovely time filled with eating and drinking too much and laying around in the sun (Don’t judge, I finished one book and halfway through another one, if that’s not productive then I don’t know what is). The beach was beautiful and came equipped with a bar, the pool had a swim up bar and a mini-snack buffet while the rest of the resort was filled with your typical palm trees scenery.Every night the bar staff had a creative drink on hand to keep us satisfied not to mention the endless drink menu that was available (personal favourite: Banana Mama and Coco Loco). My favourite thing about the trip? How relaxed and friendly the staff and locals were.

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Merry holidays?

The same question comes up year after year, what is the appropriate phrase to use to wish people a “happy holiday”? It is an ongoing debate between those who feel strongly about saying Merry Christmas and those who’d rather be addressed by the holiday they celebrate. But does uttering the words Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays really make a difference?

Canada more so Toronto seems to be the mecca of cultural differences with numerous ethnicities in the City it is always hard deciding which to say and with the desire of always being politically correct Canadians are always on their tip toes about which phrase to use.

For the sake of being courteous I usually just wish strangers that I interact with throughout my day Happy Holidays just to be on the safe side. Although if I didn’t celebrate Christmas I would not be the least bit offended if someone said Merry Christmas to me. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Eid, Kwanza or Christmas wishing someone Happy Holidays is wishing them wealth, happiness and prosperity so don’t take too much offence to it people, it’s the holidays after all so everyone… Happy December!