“Corporate profits trumping ecological needs,” according to the National Farmers Union’s own website. That rather provocative statement is from the NFU’s Vice President of Policy, Ann Slater. Remembering the days when much of the NFU’s musings were simply echoes of agribusiness demands, I find such boldness rather refreshing. And surprising. Ms Slater is responding to the results of the Ontario Bee Health Working Group, which she says is “weighted with representatives of chemical companies and field crop growers” and, she continues, “essentially recommends that the use of neonicotinoid treated seed continue as usual.” This, according to the NFU vice president, is a missed opportunity to promote the “use of more ecological farm practices such as complex crop rotations, as well as to show a real commitment to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, which recommends that pesticides be used only when there is a demonstrated pest problem instead of as routine practice.”
Personally, I don’t know if neonicotinoids are responsible for massive bee deaths. Probably not, as our area (southern Alberta) uses them extensively and has not suffered troubling colony collapses while other areas (west coast BC, for just one example) have far less neonic usage, but had the deaths some people associate with this pesticide. Nor has any independent researcher proven an unequivocal link. There have been far worse chemicals used by farmers in the past and I don’t want to see a return to those if neonictinoids are banned. However, farm practices need to shift towards IPM systems which can help the farmer (by cutting costs and improving product quality) while reducing agricultural stress on the environment at the same time. And I like the boldness of Ann Slater and the NFU’s stand – it is rare to see any farm representative willing to bite the hand that often pays for the donuts at farmers’ meetings.