Western Producer: Ont. farmers balk at neonic reduction plan

By Robert Arnason  Read article here

The Ontario government’s plan to cut neonicotinoid use by 80 percent is unwarranted and unacceptable, says the Grain Farmers of Ontario chair.

“This new regulation is unfounded, impractical and unrealistic and the government does not know how to implement it,” said Henry Van Ankum, who farms near Alma, Ont.

“With this announcement, agriculture and rural Ontario has been put on notice: the popular vote trumps science and practicality.”

Ontario’s minister of agriculture and minister of the environment said the reduction in neonic use is necessary to protect bees and other pollinators.

“Improving pollinator health is not a luxury but a necessity. Pollinators play a key role in our ecosystem and without them, much of the food we eat would not be here,” said Ontario environment minister Glen Murray.

“Taking strong action now to reduce the use of neurotoxic pesticides and protecting pollinator health is a positive step for our environment and our economy.”

Ontario has three goals when it comes to neonicotinoids and pollinator health:

• An 80 percent reduction in the number of corn and soybean acres planted with neonic treated seed by 2017.

• Reduce honeybee over winter losses to 15 percent by 2020.

• Establish a Pollinator Health Action Plan.

Neonics became a political and environmental issue in Ontario in the spring of 2012 when dozens of beekeepers reported dead bees outside their hives. A subsequent investigation by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency concluded that insecticide-laden dust from corn planters caused the bee deaths.

Subsequently, the PMRA required Canadian farmers to use a new fluency agent on corn and soybean seeds this spring. The fluency agent is supposed to reduce the likelihood of bee deaths from insecticide-contaminated dust at seeding time.

The province of Ontario said further regulation was needed to protect pollinators and the broader ecological system.

“It is possible for neonicotinoids to run off from fields to nearby water bodies, where they can cause harm to aquatic insects and affect the animals that feed on those insects. There is also some evidence indicating the potential for neonicotinoids to have broader environmental impacts, including effects on birds and earthworms.”

The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, which had led the lobbying efforts against neonics, supports the government’s plan.

“Today the government has shown bold leadership, unique in North America, in moving decisively and measurably to significantly limit the use of these toxic chemicals,” said Tibor Szabo, OBA president.

The GFO said Ontario growers have worked with government and the ag industry to protect pollinators, but a 80 percent reduction in neonic use is nonsense.

“They have fixated on this number of 20 percent as … the number of acres … that need the use of this product,” Van Ankum said.

“There is no basis for that number…. That’s unfounded.”

Barry Senft, GFO chief executive officer, said the government’s plan would have a financial impact on Ontario farmers.

“(This) puts our farmers at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the country and the rest of the North America…. It will mean smaller margins for grain farmers.”

As part of its reduction plan, the Ontario government has produced a discussion paper on neonicotinoids. The ag industry and other stakeholders have 60 days to comment on the paper.

The government hopes to have the new neonic rules in place by July 1, 2015, which will take effect in the 2016 growing season.

The discussion paper can be found at news.ontario.ca/ene/en/2014/11/reducing-pesticide-use-and-protecting-pollinator-health.html?utm_source=ondemand&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=o.

How they’ll do it

In a discussion paper explaining how it will cut the use of neonic seed treatments by 80 percent, the Ontario government said it would create a new category of pesticides within the province’s Pesticide Act. The new category would apply to seeds coated with insecticides.

Under the proposed regulations, the government plans to restrict the sale and use of seed treated with neonics. The restrictions apply to the Bayer neonics clothianidin and imidacloprid and Syngenta’s thiamethoxam.

Farmers who want to use a neonic seed treatment must:

• Complete an integrated pest management training course for growing corn and soybeans.

• Document integrated pest management activities taken to reduce pest threats.

• Complete a credible risk assessment to demonstrate why it’s necessary to use neonic-treated corn and soybean seed.

• Have a third party verify the pest assessment to confirm that the method used was legitimate.