Federal Ag Minister doesn’t see science to back neonic ban

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Canada’s Agriculture Minister says he doesn’t see the science to back up Ontario’s plan to phase out neonictonoids.

Gerry Ritz visited with members of the Grain Farmers of Ontario at Dave Park’s Confederation Road farm in Sarnia.

Ritz spent about a half hour at the farm, getting a look at the new drone technology which analyses what chemicals and water is needed on a field and briefly talking to Lambton County farmers.

“There is no better environmentalist than a farmer,” says Ritz adding new technology like the chemical coated seeds called neonictonoids allow “traces of elements added to the soil instead of large gobs of it.”

Ontario has recently announced regulations to limit neonic use to just 20 per cent of the province’s fields. It was a move to protect bees, which the studies show are affected by neonics.

The Grain Farmers’ of Ontario say the regulations are unwieldy and are going to court to try to stop them.

Ritz told the 100 Lambton County farmers “groups around the world are noticing what we do (on neonics) because it is not based on science.”

In an exclusive interview with The Independent later, the Minister reiterated the federal government is still studying the science on the use of neonics and bee health but isn’t about to take action.

“I don’t see the science to back up the direction that Ontario is going,” says Ritz. “I do have a concern when environment trumps good sound agriculture policy you sometimes end up with unintended consequences.”

Ritz says in France, where neonics have been banned, farmers must use aerosol chemical sprays and that has bigger environmental consequences.

“There are all kinds of unintended consequences on birds and insects by aerosol sprays that aren’t affected of using a neonic,” he says.

Ritz, who meets with the country’s agriculture ministers later this month, says Ontario has jumped the gun on the issue.

“We’ve all seen bee health back to above normal in the last year or two. Certainly there have been bad years that come along every once and a while; most winter and weather and how long the winter is and so on and whether you’ve managed your hives properly…you can’t change all of that by attacking neonics,” Ritz says.

“The process Ontario has set up they think is workable, the farmers are saying it’s not…some people have gotten ahead of themselves without thinking of the unintended consequences.”

“There have been a number of scientific studies done that don’t support going to the end of banning neonics.”

Ritz says he will voice his opinions when he meets with Ontario’s agriculture minister at the conference.