The Heavy Burden of Toronto — Using Neonics is About to Get More Complicated

Debra Murphy, 2013

The newly-minted provincial agriculture minister for Ontario, Jeff Leal, has not changed policy or regulation on neonicotinoid seed treatments. Let’s get that out of the way right now. Will the government soon step in, requiring more paper work, perhaps a licensing systems and more monitoring or rules around the use of neonics on corn and soybean? I’d put my money on that, yes. So while a recent news story in the Globe and Mail entitled “Pesticide Linked to Bee Deaths to be Restricted in Ontario” isn’t necessarily inaccurate, the minister’s office assures us that there’s no actual decided-upon changes to rules or regulation as of right now.

But there will be. Or at least, in speaking with the minister’s office, I was assured that all that is in the works right now is a consultation process to shed light on the current science and social sentiment — which are largely at odds with each other — however it’s clear that the status quo is not on the table.

“I am committed to finding a balanced approach, based in science, that addresses the important role both pollinators and growers play in Ontario’s agri-food industry.

Over the coming months I want to first consult with industry, farmers and environmental stakeholders on options that are practical, including the consideration of a license system. Our intention is to move away from the widespread, indiscriminate use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides.

I look forward to hearing the perspectives of experts and stakeholders.”

–          Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Should the farming community and agriculture industry be surprised? No. After all, while farmers quickly adapted to new best management practices (putting their own health at risk) and planted non-neonic strip trials to produce more data for analysis (you did, right?), the good citizens of Toronto only hear of Colony Collapse Disorder (which isn’t actually occurring in Canada) and the catchy term “neonic” and, frankly, the screams of urbanites will always be louder than those of farmers. And a government should be beholden to its citizens; that’s how democracy works.

But just because farmers are outnumbered and change is inevitable, does it mean the industry does nothing? Of course not. But farmers, their representatives and the industry should be more than suitably motivated to fight for access to neonicotinoid products based on science, real-world realities and, perhaps most importantly, human AND bee health.


Lyndsey Smith

Lyndsey Smith is a field editor for RealAgriculture. A self-proclaimed agnerd, Lyndsey is passionate about all things farming but is especially thrilled by agronomy and livestock production.


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One Comment

Friedhelm Hoffmann

Well written. One aspect is always forgotten in this. The chemical industry Bayer, BASF, Syngenta and all other brothers and sisters. Those are the one that know, and knew, what their chemicals impose to the environment. E.g. Bayer, got a research Bee station since many years in their home country and did not demonstrate proactive Stewardship in this country. Now the issue is put to us, unknowing or uneducated (by their chemical industry) farmers and hold the empty bag. For the chemical industry to wait for Government regulation is reactive. Another commentator stated ‘best technology is Stewardship’ which I completely agree with. Where is the Chemical industry Stewardship? Is it just about greedy selling or do they truly care? I am again disappointed by this chemical giants that make me feel that they just make it about themselves.


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