Should GFO Keep Fighting For Neonic Use?

After losing an Ontario Court of Appeal decision on the province’s new seed treatment regulations, what strategy should Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) now pursue on the neonic issue?

We put the question to GFO chair Mark Brock. We’re also interested in your opinion. It appears the farm organization has three strategic options. Let us know what you think in our Real Agriculture poll.

The GFO could simply continue to fight provincial regulations impacting grain farmers using all available legal means. A second option would be to measure the financial impact from loss of seed treatments and build a case to fight regulations during an expected 2018 provincial election. A third option would be to throw in the towel and accept regulations impacting farming technology and practices and focus on helping members prepare for a new environmental reality for farms in Ontario.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of appetite to keep going to the court system,” admits Brock. “We found out that the court system is very detailed and has a lot of rules. One thing we’ve realized is just because we feel it isn’t a practical regulation doesn’t mean it’s going to work in our favour.”

While it’s unlikely to see GFO back in court on the matter any time soon, Brock doesn’t feel farmers want to give up the fight. He believes the vast majority of GFO members appreciate the organization’s efforts and want them to “do whatever you can to help us out.”

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GFO chair Mark Brock wants to make seed treatments an election issue in 2018. “I think we need to build a case around this to challenge all parties … and how it’s important to have good, strong, factual-based regulations in place that support industry, not tear it down.”

GFO has now hired consulting firm BDO to conduct an audit of the impact the new seed treatment regulations will have on grain farmers over the next three years. Getting a handle on what losing access to seed treatments costs farmers and the industry will be a key focus. Whether financial facts can influence the existing regulation remains a question “but hopefully it can have influence on any new ones or adding new products to this whole process,” says Brock.

BDO will be looking to document issues where replants are required because growers didn’t have access to seed treatments; where pest assessments indicated seed treatments were not required, but loss occurred; and the amount of time required to meet the new regulatory requirements.

“I’ve talked to a couple of farmer/seed dealers who say they have over 100 hours wrapped up with helping producers with their paperwork. What’s that cost going to be as we move into a more restrictive regulation next year?” asks Brock.

Will the Ontario government be willing to consider documented, factual evidence gathered by BDO? Brock hopes so, but if the Ontario Liberal government is not willing to listen, grain farmers have to be ready to tell their story.

“We are going to hit an election in June 2018. I think we need to build a case around this to challenge all parties … and how it’s important to have good, strong, factual-based regulations in place that support industry, not tear it down,” says Brock.

The story grain farmers share on the campaign trail will likely begin to take shape in the weeks ahead. With planting season temperatures expected to be below normal for the next two weeks, Brock believes a troublesome tale could start to unfold.

“I think the agronomist in me says this is going to be the year that you need a neonic seed treatment,” says Brock. “We could have seed lay in the ground for three weeks. We’ve actually been quite fortunate over the past three or four years.”

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Bernard Tobin

Bernard Tobin is Real Agriculture’s Ontario Field Editor. AgBern was raised on a dairy farm near St. John’s, Newfoundland. For the past two decades, he has specialized in agricultural communications. A Ryerson University journalism grad, he kicked off his career with a seven-year stint as Managing Editor and Field Editor for Farm and Country magazine. He has received six Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation awards for journalism excellence. He’s also worked for two of Canada’s leading agricultural communications firms, providing public relations, branding and strategic marketing. Bern also works for Guelph-based Synthesis Agri-Food Network and talks the Real Dirt on Farming.


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3 Comments

Rural Grubby

Firstly, the gov’t has no way of assessing whether the regulations will have a positive effect on bees therefore measuring the losses to farmers will be difficult. There is also a real problem in accessing independent PPA’s and there is no knowledge on how much their required services will cost farmers. The fact that the regulations is expecting farmers to incur up to 30% stand losses in their fields, indicates how out of touch Minister Murray and his minions are with the realities of farming. This is completely unfair and a sign that this Liberal gov’t would rather base their policies on the flavour of the month rather than using real world evidence (which BTW is showing and increase in bee populations since 2013)

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Merv

The assessment method and protocol is so unfair and so intentionally skewed as to give the government the results they wanted. Not being able to use the bait method to assess Seed Corn Maggot is an absolute insult to every farmer in this province and to anyone who practices entomology. Even the Quebec government wasn’t stupid enough to try that one. The Quebec UPA would have gone on the warpath.

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Ron Keffie

Measuring the losses will be useless data to the Wynne government. Look at the Aaron Todd study regarding stream water and pesticide use before and after the cosmetic pesticide ban. They found an 80% benefit from the ban. 80% reduction in stream water pesticides at for example .1 ppb is nothing. Well within the Canadian drinking water standards and they still claim ban benefits.

Legal action will slow restrictions of Health Canada approved pesticides by the likes of David Suzuki and Gideon Forman aka Ontario Government until a possible change in government in 2018.

To recap. continued legal pressure along with a measured outcome of the neonic ban would be the only choice.

Why is Health Canada allowing Licensed Pesticide Applicators to use products that Ontario Feels are dangerous? What if all licensed applicators (farmers) sued the Canadian Government for possible health consequences based on Ontario Findings? The case would not even go through the court system. The government could just pay out. It is called PAY-SUE (sue and settle) and the NGO’s are experts at it.

David Suzuki’s latest statement at York University indicated a push to ban all pesticides.

Except neem oil of course. (which is banned in Canada but still listed as a useable pesticide in Ontario )
Dr. David Kreutzweiser, Canadian Forest Service and Joe Meating, the masterminds behind the huge amounts of neem oil
applications applied in Ontario for the suppression of the Emerald Ash Borer. No precautionary approach to bee safety with TreeAzin for some reason.

It would be like using a banned substance DDT to control Zika Virus. Activists don’t want that. But Azadirachtin (neem), that is ok.

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