By Bruce Buttar, Board Member, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
After thoroughly reviewing the provincial government’s discussion paper on pollinator health, attending public consultation meetings and researching causes of bee mortality, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) recently submitted an official response.
OFA’s response, along with our industry partners’ views are critical input to the public consultation process, established for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)discussion paper Pollinator Health – A Proposal for Enhancing Pollinator Health and Reducing the Use of Neonicotinoid Pesticides in Ontario. The proposals in the discussion paper require serious review and a significant body of work yet to be done by industry experts.
The OFA strongly supports the need for a comprehensive pollinator health strategy to address the complexity of keeping our pollinator population healthy. But we have serious concerns about the Ontario government’s approach outlined in the discussion paper. OFA’s concern is that one factor – the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments – has been isolated as the focus of compromised pollinator health. The current process outlined in the discussion paper to dramatically lower levels of treated seed acreage is not evidence based and therefore flies in the face of the government’s own Open for Business consultation process.
In our response, we outlined four key observations about the contents of the government’s discussion paper – the need for and content of a pollinator health strategy; our perspective on the economics of neonicotinoid use; our practical concerns with the regulation of neonicotinoid treated seed; and our workable recommendations on improving pollinator health while developing a practical approach to neonicotinoid use.
After meeting with the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, several directors of the OFA and I, Bruce Buttar as liaison to that commodity agree, a plan to improve pollinator health is imperative. OFA is prepared to work with industry and government to achieve a practical and workable pollinator health strategy. Extensive research suggests there are at least nine stressors affecting pollinator health and we clearly identified these in our response, suggesting the government address all health factors as part of a comprehensive pollinator health strategy.
Corn and soybean farmers use neonicotinoid seed treatment to reduce the risk of pest damage and resulting crop loss. The government’s 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 isn’t 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 government’s proposed conditions on buyers and sellers of treated seed, as a way to regulate the movement and use of treated seed, are also impractical. OFA is concerned these conditions will add undue regulatory burden to many seed businesses and cause them to exit the industry.
Ontario must find a realistic balance in a pollinator health strategy that considers all health stressors and recognizes the economic reality of neonicotinoid seed treatment use. The OFA has recommended several actions to protect pollinator health and work towards the viable reduction in neonicotinoid use by Ontario farmers.
Visit www.ofa.on.ca to read OFA’s full response to OMAFRA’s pollinator health discussion paper.
For more information, contact:
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Ontario Federation of Agriculture