Ahead of the Heard
Once again the province of Ontario is rushing to embrace the political correctness fixation against pesticides. This time it plans to reduce the use of a group of pest control chemicals called neonicotinoids (popularly known as neonics) by 80 per cent. The Ontario government’s rationale is that the use of neonics on corn, canola, and soybeans are causing significant bee deaths. They cite high death rates during the Ontario 2012 and 2013 planting season. But that position is countered by a report that in 2014 bee deaths were significantly down in Ontario. The federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency has stated that they do not have sufficient information to draw any conclusions regarding a link between colony effects and neonicotinoid exposure.
That would be a bit of an understatement being domestic bee populations have actually been increasing everywhere in North America including Ontario. Alberta produces 50 per cent of the honey in Canada and there is no indication that neonics has had any negative impact on bee populations or honey production in this province. The Alberta Bee Commission has said that it sees no reason to take away this important tool from crop production. The fact is reducing or banning neonics would have a perverse consequence, crop growers would have to return to using more toxic pesticides like organophosphates. Those pesticides would have a real negative impact on bee populations both wild and domestic. Go figure.
So what is behind the rush of Ontario to be the first in North America to all but ban the use of neonicotinoids? It looks like nothing more than a pattern of trying to be a leader in political correctness as it is sure not based on scientific evidence. Remember Ontario has already banned the use of cosmetic herbicides in lawns and gardens back in 2009. Such bans exist elsewhere on the continent, but as with the neonics issue they are based on conjecture and wishful thinking and no proven scientific evidence. It should be noted that US Environmental Protection Agency investigated 2-4D (the main ingredient in cosmetic herbicides) for 19 years and after 700 scientific submissions could find no link to alleged health risks. But such evidence means nothing to zealous green lobby groups bent on exploiting the ignorance of gullible politicians and the public to harvest more donations. But I digress.
It would seem clear that Ontario politicians and their senior bureaucrats have succumbed to the allure of political expediency by the green industry anti-commercial agriculture lobby. It’s an attraction politicians find difficult to resist as it’s an easy way to garner urban votes by appearing to be a champion of the environment. It gets worse, an Ontario lobby group called the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, which apparently anyone can join and is funded by the rabid David Suzuki Foundation, alleged that neonics may be compromising children’s brain development. Such outrageous allegations garner cheap headlines and scare gullible voters. When challenged to back up their outlandish statement with scientific evidence, the group stated that couldn’t wait for definitive proof. Under such a premise, one could state that vehicle exhaust may cause brain damage in children – so we need to ban cars.
The European Union not surprisingly banned the use of neonicotinoids, but that’s no surprise as they also ban other agricultural practices and advancements like GM plants. The EU tends to ignore scientific evidence in favour of the precautionary principle. In the case of their neonics ban they are now beginning to face the consequences. Yields of canola in the UK and Germany are dropping dramatically due to massive flea beetle infestations. Although bad for EU farmers such bans are good for Canada as it creates more demand for our canola products. If Ontario continues on this anti-pesticide trail the same perverse consequence will happen with reduced production of corn and soybeans, which will have to be imported from elsewhere including western Canada. The irony is that those feed products will have been grown with chemical products that Ontario has banned.
The Alberta government tends to stick to scientific evidence before it makes decisions on production practices, but it too can be captured by political correctness. In an attempt to sort of get on the band wagon the Alberta government banned the sale of a cosmetic herbicide called weed and feed under the pretense that its runoff polluted waterways. It didn’t ban all cosmetic herbicides so its “science only” stand is still maintained. Time will tell how steadfast they will be with that stand.