Farmers in 11th hour to get injunction - The London Free Press

Mere days before corn and soybean farmers order seed for next season, they’re awaiting a judge’s ruling on their request to delay provincial rules about using a controversial pesticide linked to bee deaths.

Grain Farmers of Ontario argued Monday that Ontario’s new neonicotinoid rules should take effect no earlier than the 2017 growing season.

The rules, which went into effect in July, include limiting the use of the seed coating to areas of a field proven to have pest-insect problems and ratcheting down their use in successive years.

“It’s hard for us to follow ‘proven need’ when we’ve taken steps to remove pests this growing season already (by using treated seed),” said Mark Brock, head of Grain Farmers of Ontario. “We’re kind of stuck in a precarious situation.”

Neonicotinoid use has in the past two years become one of the hot-button issues in Ontario agriculture as it pits corn and soybean producers against bee advocates.

Growers say neonics cause far less harm than other potential insect treatments; they insist the new rules will decrease productivity with no clear benefit to pollinators; and they argue honeybee deaths reported in Ontario are a result of other factors.

Apiarists and environmental lobby groups link hive deaths especially with planting season, when the seed treatment is most likely to find its way on to plants, on soil and into water where bees forage.

The province restrict ed the use of neonics, brought in new training and controls for farmers and seed handlers and will slash the use of neonics by 80 per cent by 2017.

Lawyers for the grain farmers and the province spent four hours in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice court in Toronto on Monday. Farmers asked the judge to apply the “absurdity test,” meaning they believe the rules are impractical and can’t work as intended. The judge has reserved judgment.

Brock is crossing his fingers that the decision takes place soon because he usually orders seed in early- to mid-October.

“From our standpoint, we’re in the 11th hour of trying to get this figured out here,” he said.

Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal said in question period last week that factors in bee deaths include predatory mites and variations in hive management and, “We do know that the blanket use of neonciotinoid application is having an impact on the health of pollinators right across the province of Ontario.”

- - -


  • A type of pesticide applied as a coating on corn and soybean seeds to battle bugs before they can attack emerging crops.
  • Beekeepers say neonics kill pollinators, either through direct exposure or long-term by harming their ability to breed and forage.
  • Farmers say they’re safer than applying other pesticides to mature plants.
  • Ongoing international debate about the science and practice of neonic use.
  • Ontario is North America’s first jurisdiction to restrict their use.