OFA Critical of Province for pounding neonics just 1 of 9 bee stressors
GUELPH The province of Ontario is impractical, as well as going against the evidence and its own policy of being open-for-business in its stand against neonicotinoid corn and soybean seeds, argues the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA).
Last year, the province set a goal of reducing by 80 per cent the use of the insecticide-treated seed by 2017, affecting almost all of the provinces corn and soybean seeds. That could kill some seed businesses, the OFA says.
In an online commentary, OFA director and dairy farmer Bruce Buttar (zone 12: Hastings, Lennox & Addington, Northumberland and Prince Edward) offers some of the strongest statements that have come from the OFA board in recent years.
“The OFA strongly supports the need for a comprehensive pollinator health strategy to address the complexity of keeping our pollinator population healthy,” writes Buttar. But he adds that the provinces goal to “dramatically lower levels of treated seed acreage is not evidence based and therefore flies in the face of the governments own open-for-business consultation process.”
After meeting with the Ontario Beekeepers Association, the OFA agrees that a “plan to improve pollinator health is imperative,” Buttar says.
But that doesnt mean singling out neonics. “OFA is prepared to work with industry and government to achieve a practical and workable pollinator health strategy,” he says.
“Extensive research suggests there are at least nine stressors affecting pollinator health” and the province needs to address them all as part of a comprehensive strategy, he says.
The OFA points to these nine stressors: risk of bee habitat loss, threats to bee nutrition, bee exposure to pesticides used in crop production, bee exposure to pesticides used in hive management, climate change impacts, weather-related impacts, bee diseases, insect (and fungi) attacks, and bee genetics. One omitted stressor many commercial beekeepers consider to be one of the main causes of bee deaths is poor management by beekeepers themselves.
“Corn and soybean farmers use neonicotinoid seed treatment to reduce the risk of pest damage and resulting crop loss,” Buttar says. “The governments suggestion that integrated pest management (IPM) should replace the use of seed treatment presents practical challenges because of the way seed is treated, ordered and sold in Ontario. IPM is often used as a preventative practice, but isnt always effective and leaves farmers open to significant crop losses. IPM techniques for corn and soybeans are not fully developed or tested and will take several years to effectively implement.
“The Ontario governments proposed conditions on buyers and sellers of treated seed, as a way to regulate the movement and use of treated seed, are also impractical,” Buttar says. “OFA is concerned these conditions will add undue regulatory burden to many seed businesses and cause them to exit the industry.