News

Farmers vow to continue pesticide fight

By Debora Van Brenk, The London Free Press

Grain farmers say they’ll continue to fight against regulations restricting their use of neonicotinoids, a controversial pesticide linked to honeybee deaths, even though a judge has rejected their recent appeal.

Mark Brock, head of the Grain Farmers of Ontario and a Perth County cash-cropper, said the decision is frustrating, in part because it took a month to get a ruling.

The province has imposed new rules that will reduce the amount of neonicotinoid-coated corn and soybean seeds farmers use when planting.

Farmers whose fields have insect problems, which the neonics are designed to control, may use the coated seeds under highly regulated conditions.

In September, grain farmers asked the Ontario Superior Court to “stay” the new regulations — to delay their implementation — for at least another growing season.

But the court has denied the stay.

“Now we are investigating our options,” Brock said Monday as he harvested this year’s corn crop.

Those options may include an appeal or a new court filing application based on different legal information, he said.

Meanwhile, Brock has already ordered next year’s seeds — all of it with the neonicotinoid coating — but he may have to adjust his order based on what he finds when scouting the fields for insect damage.

He said the fieldwork and paperwork needed to plant coated seeds are onerous, impractical and needlessly restrictive.

“I had to order seed based on the rules that are in place ... Whether I agree with them or not, I still have to abide by them,” he said.

A few years ago, apiarists began reporting higher-than-usual numbers of bee deaths, particularly at planting time.

Other beekeepers said their bees were showing signs of chronic health problems, such as an inability to navigate back to the hive, that they attributed to neonicotinoid use near fields where the insects foraged for food.

The provincial environment and agriculture ministries then decided to take steps to slash the use of neonics by 2017.

Corn and soybeans are the two largest Ontario crops by acreage and revenue, with Southwestern Ontario the largest producing region in the province.