By Patrick Meagher
Minister of Agriculture Jeff Leal says the issue of neonicotinoid seeds is an important one for farmers. In a five-minute conversation with Farmers Forum, the public meetings and online comments on the issue were his highest priority.
Farmers Forum: It seems to me that you are between a rock and a hard place. Your government set a goal to reduce neonicotinoid use by 80 per cent. Grain Farmers of Ontario has said that grain farming is under attack by government. Where do you stand?
Minister Leal: “Well be taking a balanced, precautionary approach in this matter. We do know how important both pollinators and the Grain Farmers of Ontario are in terms of their contribution to Ontarios agriculture economy and the value-added side of it. We do know that pollinator health impacts every Ontarian. I encourage all interested parties to provide comments on our discussion papers.”
Farmers Forum: The neonic decision (the goal to reduce neonics) happened on your watch. Did you push for consultations first? After all, having public consultations now seems a little late.
Minister Leal: “Did you know the aspirational goal of an 80 per cent reduction has been established? I put emphasis on aspirational. Ill continue to be looking at a balanced, precautionary approach and Im looking forward to seeing the comments at the public meetings and online comments in response to the discussion paper.”
Farmers Forum: What is the best concrete evidence that tells you and your ministry that reducing neonic use by 80 per cent is the right way to go?
Minister Leal: “We believe that governments historically in the last 30 years, governments of all political stripes, have often taken the precautionary approach. That is the approach were taking. But Im looking forward to the comments that have been received through the public meetings on this issue and through responses to the discussion paper that have been published by the EBR (Environmental Bill of Rights) online.”
Farmers Forum: Health Canada is studying neonics. They will announce their conclusions this year. Will Health Canadas conclusions be helpful to the province in guiding the debate?
Minister Leal: “I review all information on this matter, whether its produced by Health Canada or other organizations or any other entities. But I want to emphasize that we are taking a balanced, precautionary approach and I certainly look forward to looking at and reviewing the thoughtful comments that have been provided to OMAFRA during the public meetings on this issue and certainly the comments that have been provided online through the EBR.
Farmers Forum: The province decided not to wait for Health Canada but its a federal jurisdiction. Why not?
Minister Leal: “Well continue to take a balanced, precautionary approach and I do know that this is a very important issue to the agricultural industry in Ontario. And as I said, I look forward to the comments that have been provided to me and my ministry at the public meetings and again through the EBR process online.”