Ontario BeeKeepers Association Shut out of Consultations | Grain farmers hive off talks on bees | Norwich Gazette

Boycotting provincial discussion, growers to come up with their own recommendations at invitation-only session

By Debora Van Brenk, The London Free Press

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 12:31:19 EST PM

Boycotting provincial talks on how to protect bees from a controversial pesticide, Ontario grain farmers will hold their own talks instead, starting next week.

Beginning Monday, the Grain Farmers of Ontario will hold ­invitation-only sessions in Guelph to talk about neonicotinoids, which are applied as a seed coatings to most corn and soybeans planted in the province.

When the group is done, it will present its own recommendations to the province in the hope “that common sense will prevail,” said Barry Senft, who heads the GFO.

The province declared in late November it would have farmers reduce neonic use by 80% in a bid to reduce annual bee mortality to 15%, and would welcome input on how to achieve that by 2016.

While environmentalists and the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA) applauded that announcement, the GFO accused the provincial Liberals of catering to city lobbyists and ignoring agricultural interests.

Senft said his group’s consultations also will include beekeepers — although not the OBA — as well as crop scientists, seed companies and farmers.

Proposed measures the GFO could come up with after about six weeks might include mandatory deflectors on planting equipment, to keep seed dust from escaping into the environment, or mandatory permits for farmers that would allow farmers to use treated seed where needed.

Senft said it’s not too late for the province to give “sober second thought” to its plans.

Neonics have been one of the fiercest hot-button issues in Ontario agriculture this year, made even more intense by a wave of decisions in some countries to ban the pesticide entirely.

Beekeepers and farm organizations have quarrelled about the science, the perceived bias and the nuances of virtually every study that has been ­published.

Apiarists have said bee deaths have steadily increased with the prevalence of neonics; while some farmers have said any increased bee losses, if they exist, have been the result of a variety of ­factors.

Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal said the province's consultations are an essential part of a "robust and constructive conversation" that includes all Ontarians with an interest in the issue.

He said earlier this month, at a session in Guelph, that the province's proposal takes an appropriate "precautionary response to possible risks associated with the use of neonicotinoid pesticides."

It's also an approach, he said, that recognizes neonic use can be an important tool that allows for a reliable food supply for Ontarians.

deb.vanbrenk@sunmedia.ca

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