By Drew Spoelstra, Board Member, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is carefully reviewing the Ontario government’s recently released regulations intending to reduce neonicotinoid pesticide use by 80% by 2017. These proposed regulations – restricting the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds – are part of the next phase of the government’s comprehensive pollinator health strategy.
These new rules are clearly a precautionary approach and are not evidence based. The Ontario government says it’s taking the strongest action in North America to protect pollinators. But strong action does not necessarily coincide with the best action. OFA recognizes that pollinator health is affected by more than just neonicotinoids. A broader and more practical approach is needed.
Many stewardship measures are being developed and have been recently implemented to improve pollinator health. However, these measures require the time and tools necessary to prove their worth before the regulatory approach is taken.
We all agree that protecting pollinators is vitally important to our food supply. OFA also agrees that reducing pesticides by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems can be one pillar of an effective pollinator health strategy. Both of these points were the basis of our submission to the government on the pollinator health issue.
Integrated pest management is not a foreign concept to Ontario farmers. Good management practices like a crop rotation contribute to IPM and help make grain farming in Ontario sustainable. However, IPM plans need to be phased in over time while the Ontario government concurrently addresses the other eight factors affecting pollinator health.
IPM systems specific to seed treatment use, are not yet fully developed for corn and soybeans and realistically will take several years to implement effectively. In OFA’s submission we also reminded government that as IPM is adopted, the agricultural industry and government must work together to mitigate the effects of other stress factors affecting pollinator health. Nutrition, pathogens, parasites, mites, miticides, extreme weather, genetics and loss of habitat for bees all affect pollinator health. In addition to reducing pesticide use, each and every one of these factors must be addressed in a comprehensive pollinator health strategy if we are to ensure their improved health.
The new rules are complex as regulations tend to be. They impose documentation and verification costs as early as the 2016 growing season. They rely on unproven IPM approaches that may or may not adequately determine if pesticide use is required or not. It’s very important proper regulations that support stewardship measures are developed.
The draft regulatory proposal has been posted for a 45-day review, with the final day for comment on May 7, 2015. OFA will be analyzing the proposal thoroughly and working across Ontario’s agricultural sector to gather input and provide specific comments to the government on this new ruling. Our goal is to improve conditions for pollinator health across the multiple factors while preserving the financial health of our grains sector.
Keeping our pollinator population healthy is complex. Keeping farm businesses healthy is equally complex. It has never been more important for industry and government to work together for a practical and workable pollinator health strategy.
For more information, contact:
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Ontario Federation of Agriculture