By Tom Collins
The provincial PC government is considering removing the neonicotinoid-treated seed ban that was put in place by the previous Liberal government in 2015, said Grain Farmers of Ontario chair.
Markus Haerle told Farmers Forum that the GFO is pushing the province to remove the neonic regulations under the policy of reducing red tape, but there is no timeline on a decision and no guarantee anything will change.
The Wynne government argued that neonics kill bees, but the GFO claimed the province cherry-picked studies while ignoring other honeybee stressors. At the time, nearly 100 per cent of corn seed and 60 per cent of soybean seed sold in the province were treated with neonics. Farmers now need a pest assessment on all fields to qualify to use neonics. Some farmers say it takes an hour of paperwork and scouting for every 100 acres they plant using neonics, while many farmers have switched to alternative insecticides.
Haerle’s hopes are buoyed by the April release of Health Canada’s final review of neonics as they relate to pollinators. That report said neonic uses are not expected to pose unacceptable risks to bees and other pollinators.
With that report, “there’s no reason why this regulation is actually in place in Ontario,” Haerle said.
However, Health Canada has already proposed phasing out one (imidacloprid) of three neonics and the least used of neonic-treated seeds in Ontario. Health Canada is reviewing the other two (clothianidin and thiamethoxam) with regards to the threat to aquatic insects. The final decision is not expected until the end of this year.
According to OMAFRA and the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, in 2018, there were 347,000 acres of corn and soybean planted with imidacloprid, 825,000 acres of thiamethoxam and 1.295 million acres of clothianidin.
Haerle said the provincial regulations were imposed to address the impact on honeybees, not aquatic insects. He added that best management practices (such as attaching dust-deflectors on planters and adding fluency agents to neonic-coated seeds to keep neonic dust down) have changed in the last few years, thereby reducing risks to bees but also to aquatic insects.