Seed companies aim to lower neonic use on corn, soybeans

Members of the Canadian Seed Trade Association will reduce the amount of insecticide applied to corn and soybean seeds as part of efforts to improve honeybee health.

“(The) CSTA and the Canadian Honey Council came together in the spirit of collaboration to ensure that both of our sectors remain environmentally sustainable and economically viable,” said CSTA president Dave Baute.

“Both associations agreed to work together based on mutual respect and understanding and have just taken a significant non-regulatory step forward to ensuring a prosperous apiculture and agriculture industry in Ontario and across Canada.”

The CSTA has committed to cutting the application rates of neonicotinoid insecticides on corn and soybean seeds and selling more seeds treated only with fungicide.

The measures will reduce the amount of neonicotinoids in Ontario and Quebec by 15 percent on corn and nine percent on soybeans next year.

“In 2016, the reduction will climb to 31 percent in corn and 18 percent in soybeans,” the CSTA said.

The combination of lower application rates and increased availability of fungicide-only seed will also have an impact in Manitoba. The CSTA said the new protocols would reduce neonic use on corn in Manitoba by 15 percent in the next year and 24 percent in 2016.

Soybean seeds are treated at a retail level in Manitoba, so it’s difficult to estimate the potential neonic reduction on beans in that province, the CSTA said.

The Canadian Honey Council collaborated with the CSTA on the initiative.

“The Canadian Honey Council believes that this announcement underscores the importance of having stakeholders at the table, as it is an invaluable asset for agriculture in general,” the council said in a statement.

The CSTA’s plan comes on the heels of an Ontario government proposal to reduce the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments on corn and soybeans by 80 percent.

Starting in 2016, Ontario farmers who want to use neonicotinoid seed treatments will have to take an integrated pest management course, prove they are implementing IPM strategies and demonstrate that insect pressure on their farms is high enough to justify the use of neonics.

Ontario environment minister Glen Murray said the regulations are necessary because neonic insecticides are endangering pollinators and threatening Canada’s ecosystem.

The province’s proposed regulations angered many farm organizations and industry groups, including the CSTA, which said there isn’t sufficient scientific evidence to justify such “drastic measures.”

The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association supports the province’s proposal but said the CSTA’s rate reduction plan doesn’t go far enough.

“Although this initiative shows that the current level is obviously unwarranted, where is the science showing that reducing the application levels will mitigate the significant long-term effects of systemic pesticides on soil and water?” said OBA president Tibor Szabo.

“Reducing the application rate doesn’t change the fact that almost 100 percent of corn and 60 percent of soy are using treated seed prophylactically.”

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