Ontario farmers use Twitter to blast provincial neonicotinoid regulations

Nearly 100 percent of Ontario’s corn and canola seeds, and approximately 60 percent of soybean seeds are coated with neonicotinoids.
Nearly 100 percent of Ontario’s corn and canola seeds, and approximately 60 percent of soybean seeds are coated with neonicotinoids. | File photo

Farmers in Ontario responded to the province’s mandate restricting farmers to only planting neonicotinoid-treated seeds on half their acreage this year by Twitter-bombing Environment and Climate Change Minister Glenn Murray this month.

Farmers were also encouraged by Grain Farmers of Ontario, which represents 28,000 growers of barley, corn, oats, soybeans and wheat in the province, to tweet pictures of pests using the hashtag #grainbugs to "help everyone see impact of new neonic regulations."

The provincial regulation, which aims to drastically reduce the number of acres that seeds coated with the pesticide neonicotinoids can be planted on, was upheld in an Ontario Superior Court last October amid concerns that neonicotinoids are toxic to bees.

A motion to appeal the decision was denied in April.

Grain Farmers of Ontario issued a statement shortly after the ruling expressing its disappointment.

“The decision is both frustrating and disheartening for myself, our farmer-members, and the grain industry,” Mark Brock, chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario, said. “While the result is not what we hoped for, the judgment acknowledged that farmer rights have been negatively affected by this regulation and that it does create legitimate hardships on grain farmers in this province.”

Grain Farmers of Ontario has fiercely fought against the regulations since they were proposed in 2014.

“These proposed regulations represent a departure from science based decision making to a precautionary approach,” Grain Farmers of Ontario wrote in a paper opposing the regulation. “In doing so, they lack defendable evidence for positively impacting pollinator health and will result in significant negative impacts to the economy, farmer safety, and the environment.”

Nearly 100 percent of Ontario’s corn and canola seeds, and approximately 60 percent of soybean seeds are coated with neonicotinoids, making every part of the grain harmful to insects.

Also included in the regulation is a mandate requiring Ontario farmers to complete a pest assessment report showing that they actually need the neonicotinoids before they will be granted permission to use them. This requirement will begin in the 2017 planting season.

“The proposed implementation of a prescriptive ‘proof of pest’ approach to access neonicotinoid insect control is unworkable,” the organization wrote. “We do not believe a third party verification approach is appropriate or warranted. If the government pursues a third-party verification, as described in the discussion document, there is currently no qualified certified body of professionals in Ontario that could deliver such a third-party support.”

Grain Farmers of Ontario went on to state that it is “extremely disappointed” in the government’s course of action, especially since the organization made a commitment to the Ontario government to work together in this matter despite the lack of data supporting the assertion that “there is a direct correlation between bee mortalities and neonicotinoids beyond the acute exposure that farmers are already actively addressing.”

“We worked with individuals from the Ontario government to draft the terms of reference to start a Task Force to tackle these issues. We were committed to the process and ready to roll up our sleeves to find a solution. Weeks passed and no meetings were set. Then suddenly there is a Discussion Paper on the (Environmental Bill of Rights) proposing regulations for 80 percent reductions and a set of proposed regulations,” the organization stated.

The proposed regulations, the organization contends, “came as a shock” to its farmer members because “assurances from the top level of government” had been given, promising that such an approach would not be taken.

In 2013, the European Union banned the use of neonicotinoids after some studies showed they were harmful to bees. But two years later, the ban was lifted for 120 days and used on 5 percent of England’s oilseed rape crop that had been damaged significantly by pests.

Grain Farmers of Ontario believes the Ontario should learn from the damage to European crop under the moratorium, and help farmers continue to protect their crop using methods that are not detrimental to the environment.

“Without neonicotinoid seed treatment many farmers will not be able to continue with the environmental practices of cover crops and no-till, which provide environmental benefits,” the organization said.

Organizations in this story

Grain Farmers of Ontario 679 Southgate Dr Guelph, ON - N1G 4S2

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