Despite the amount of red tape involved to get approval to use neonicotinoid-treated seeds, almost half of Ontario corn and soybean seeds planted last spring were treated with the insecticide.
Last year, Ontario farmers planted 2.155 million acres of corn, of which 1.4 million acres (or 65 per cent) were planted using neonic seeds. There were also 3.02 million acres of soybeans planted in Ontario, of which 1.05 million acres (or 35 per cent) were planted using neonic-treated seeds.
Overall, farmers planted 5.175 million acres of corn and soybean seeds last year, of which 2.45 million acres (47 per cent) were planted with neonic-treated seeds.
In 2014, the provincial Liberal government announced legislation to drastically curb the use of neonic seeds in order to protect bees. The Grain Farmers of Ontario argued that the province was listening to environmentalists and anti-agriculture activists and while ignoring other bee stressors such as poor weather, poor-quality queens, hive management practices and pests and parasites.
When the province announced its neonic legislation, farmers were planting about 4 million acres of neonic-treated seed. The Liberal government then argued that it wanted neonic use reduced by 80 per cent by 2017. If that were to happen, farmers would be planting only 800,000 acres of neonic-treated seed by now.
Farmers now need a pest assessment on all fields that use neonics. Some farmers say it takes an hour of paperwork and scouting for every 100 acres of farmland they plant and most counties need a professional pest advisor to do the work.
There are now neonic alternatives for both crops. For corn, DuPont Pioneer’s Lumivia and Syngenta’s Fortenza have both been released in the past couple of years, while DuPont’s Lumisena will be available for soybeans starting this year.