At the dock

Agriculture has had more than its fair share of accusations. One of the most recent allegations involves its use of a new generation of products to fight crop pests: neonicotinoids.

There are a lot of farmers using this type of pesticide throughout North America, such as corn, soya, canola and potato farmers. Such products are most commonly used to treat seeds and represent a significant technological advancement that replaces foliar sprayers that are believed to have a greater environmental impact.

Crops can be completely destroyed by pests, so using a high-performance technology may be the difference between making a profit and losing everything. When the technology in question results in environmental benefits, applied precisely and locally, then everyone comes out a winner.

Automated milking, GPS devices for ag equipment, GMOs, neonics: technologies espoused by farmers have always been in response to the market economy’s harsh reality. Users of this type of pesticide are many and include corn, soya, canola and potato farmers all over North America.

However, various pressure groups have devoted a colossal amount of time and effort over the past few months to put most of the blame - if not all of the blame, according to some - on neonics for destroying the bee population. Although bees are doing well in western provinces, where 85% of Canada’s honey is produced and a multitude of canola fields are protected with neonics, the war against neonicotinoids wages on.

In a recent report from Health Canada (November 2014), it is stated, as many scientists did, that the wellbeing of pollinators is a complex issue and comprised of a multitude of causes: meteorological conditions, availability of food, hive management, parasites, pesticides, etc. Regardless, media pressure has become so strong in Ontario that the government launched a consultation process on the use of neonics in agriculture.

Some Ontario beekeepers even filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors of neonics. But their action has not received unanimous approval from the world of beekeepers. In fact, the largest provincial association of beekeepers in Canada, Alberta Beekeepers Commission, chose to openly disassociate themselves from this legal tactic. They believe that forbidding the use of neonics would be tantamount to going back in time since other products that could be potentially more harmful to pollinators would be introduced. The Canadian Honey Council shared similar views.

Would stricter controls over neonics use be possible? Would it be possible to limit even further their environmental effects? Without a doubt. Advancements in terms of fighting pests could allow for even more judicious use. Meanwhile, in a process of continuous improvement, members of La Coop network are given access to a vast selection of seeds, treated or untreated, and benefit from exceptional professional support.

Automated milking, GPS devices for ag equipment, GMOs, neonics: technologies promoted by farmers have always been a response to the harsh reality of the market economy. Because margins have this inevitable tendency to tighten over time (competition obliges), innovation is therefore essential. By constantly aiming for a more judicious use of new technologies, we can’t help but all come out winners. As long as the current discourse remains rigorous and factual.


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