Neonic ban moves ahead with mixed reactions

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Reaction is mixed after the Ontario government announced it will limit the use of chemical-coated soybean and corn seeds by 80 per cent in 2017.

The province announced the plan last year, held 60 days of consultation, which farmers complained, landed in the middle of the planting season, and announced the plan would move forward June 9.

The plan calls for more training for farmers on integrated pest management to protect bees, makes farmers assess whether their pest problem needs the use of neonicotinoid seeds, tracks the sale of neonics and sets regulations for their sale and use.

Kevin Marriott, the Lambton director of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, isn’t surprised the government okayed the plan saying the Minister of the Environment “made it clear from the beginning” that was his plan.

Marriott says made the decision not to use neonics several years ago, so he could continue selling his soybeans into the Japanese market, which demands beans, which have not been genetically modified.

But he says many growers were not given the choice of what seed to buy and couldn’t find the untreated seed if they wanted to.

Davis Bryans of Munro Honey in Alvinston calls the move interesting. The company is part of a $400 million class action lawsuit against Syngenta and Bayer which developed the process. It says the technology has lead to the unusually high mortality rate in bees and has significantly damaged their business.

In 2014, Munro’s lost nearly half of their bees. This year, they lost 20 per cent of the bee population.

Bryans is hopeful this will be good for the environment and his bees but he wonders how the province will enforce the rules effectively. “I’m optimistic that it might happen, but there is a thought it (the regulations) might not be as strong as they say they are.” Bryans says it may take years to figure out if the province did the right thing.

But he says at least the move has made farmers and the general public thinks about what chemicals are doing to the environment.

“I think that’s the big plus getting people to say is it necessary am I doing damage to the environment,” he says.

“Two years ago nobody knew what this was, now everybody is talking about it – that’s a plus side, too.”