Court to hear growers’ appeal of Ontario neonic rules

Western corn rootworm larvae. (Scott Bauer photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Ontario’s soybean and corn growers have been granted an appeal hearing in their bid to delay the province’s new limits on neonicotinoid seed treatments.

Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), the body for the province’s corn, soy, wheat, barley and oat growers, said Tuesday the Ontario Court of Appeal has agreed to hear its case on March 9.

“We are pleased that the Ontario Court of Appeal has agreed to hear our case and to move quickly on the issue,” GFO chair Mark Brock said in a release.

GFO had said in November it would file for the appeal, after its previous request for a stay on the province’s neonic regulations was dismissed at Ontario Superior Court in October.

The group had sought to delay implementation of the regulations until May 1 this year, or “such time as the requirements of the regulation can reasonably be met.”

After its case was dismissed, GFO said it would also file a motion to the Ontario Divisional Court to have the request for a stay of the regulations reviewed.

Ontario’s neonic regulations were put in place last summer to meet a government target to cut use of neonic-treated corn and soybean seed by 80 per cent by 2017, to be used “only when there is a demonstrated pest problem.”

The regulations put the neonic insecticides — imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin — in a new pesticide class, Class 12.

Between now and the end of August this year, any Ontario corn or soy grower wanting to plant Class 12-treated seed on more than 50 per cent of his or her acres must complete a soil inspection pest assessment report.

Past August, a corn and/or soy grower wanting to use any Class 12-treated seed at all must complete a pest assessment report and present his or her certificate in integrated pest management (IPM) training.

Pest assessments beyond August must be done either via a soil inspection by an IPM-certified grower or professional pest advisor, or via a crop inspection by a professional advisor.

Ontario set up its neonic regs citing evidence that the Class 12 pesticides are “highly toxic to honeybees and other beneficial insects,” and could also harm aquatic insects if they run off soils into nearby watercourses.

Risk assessments

Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency is now running risk assessments on the neonics and plans to release preliminary assessments on thiamethoxam and clothianidin for public comment in December this year.

PMRA’s preliminary assessment on imidacloprid, released last week, said “no potential risk to bees was indicated for seed treatment use.” However, it noted imidacloprid has “very little reported use” as a corn or soybean seed treatment in Canada.

The PMRA last week also released a preliminary value assessment on the neonics, for public comment. It found neonic-based corn seed treatments, in 2013, showed a national economic benefit for the corn industry of about $74.2 to $83.3 million, or about 3.2 to 3.6 per cent of the national farm gate value for corn.

Neonic seed treatments on soybeans yielded an estimated economic benefit of about 1.5 to 2.1 per cent of the crop’s national farm gate value for 2013, or about $37.3 million to $51 million, the agency said.

In both corn and soybeans, PMRA said, those economic benefits appeared to accrue mostly in Ontario and Manitoba, while in Quebec, corn and soy growers’ expenses on treated seeds were “estimated to exceed the yield returns.” — Network

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