GRAIN FARMING UNDER ATTACK BY GOVERNMENT
New Pesticide Regulations Impractical and Unrealistic
GUELPH, ON (November 25, 2014) – Grain Farmers of Ontario is confounded by today’s announcement by the government to reduce neonicotinoid use by 80% by 2017. The announcement flies in the face
of numerous efforts and investments made by grain farmers across the province over the past two
years to mitigate risks to bee health.
“This new regulation is unfounded, impractical, and unrealistic and the government does not know
how to implement it,” says Henry Van Ankum, Chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario. “With this
announcement, agriculture and rural Ontario has been put on notice – the popular vote trumps
science and practicality.”
Grain Farmers of Ontario has invested in ongoing multi-year research projects to mitigate risks to
bee health associated with neonicotinoids. In 2014, all 28,000 grain farmers across the province
followed new best management practices and utilized a new fluency agent to minimize possible seed
treatment exposure to bees. This year, 70% less bee deaths were reported.
“A reduction at this level puts our farmers at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the country
and the rest of the North America,” says Barry Senft, CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario. “It will mean
smaller margins for grain farmers and could signal the transition away from family farms to large
multinational farming operations that can sustain lower margins.”
Grain Farmers of Ontario has expressed its concerns over these regulations at all levels of
government in recent meetings. A restriction at the 80% level is comparable to a total ban on the
product, which the Conference Board of Canada estimates will cost Ontario farmers more than $630
million annually in lost revenue.
“At a time when the government is calling for more jobs, this is a step in the wrong direction,” says
Van Ankum. “Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency continues to license this product for
the country and Ontario is now being forced to operate in isolation at an enormous competitive
disadvantage – the livelihoods of countless farmers are in jeopardy.”
Grain Farmers of Ontario
Grain Farmers of Ontario is the province’s largest commodity organization, representing Ontario’s 28,000 corn, soybean and wheat farmers. The crops they grow cover 5 million acres of farm land across the province, generate over $2.5 billion in
farm gate receipts, result in over $9 billion in economic output and are responsible for over 40,000 jobs in the province.
OK, there are some problems with the government approach to banning neonics, but it is incorrect to say the move trumps science and practicality. I thought it was impractical to use pesticides when they were not needed. Think of all of the herbicide resistant weeds. Scientific fact that overuse of pesticides leads to resistance, so despite the bee issue, there is good reason to limit neonic use for when it is actually needed. 80% reduction is not a total ban, it send the message to use the treatment only when needed. And there is plenty of science demonstrating that neonic seed treatments are impacting pollinators. Just not from the scientists that are working for the companies that produce neonics - go figure.
I credit the move to improve seeding equipment and the seed treatment lubricant. This has obviously helped. But just because corn and soy are the big guys, does not mean they can bully everyone else. What if chicken farmers lost 50% of their flock all at once due to pesticide residues in feed grains? What would happen then?
It is true that there is more killing bees than neonics, but there is no doubt that neonics are contributing to losses, weakening bees and allowing them to succumb to other pests. Beekeepers are trying and succeeding against nosema and varroa. But neonic poisoning is a step backward in this fight.