Do seeds need to be treated with neon­i­coti­noids?

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS - Vic­to­ria Vanier

Asagri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers get ready to or­der their seeds for next year’s crop, the Con­seil re­gional de l’en­vi­ron­nement de l’Estrie is ap­peal­ing to farm­ers to be care­ful when it comes to corn and soya bean seeds treated with neon­i­coti­noid in­sec­ti­cides. Re­searcher Madeleine Chagnon is co-au­thor of a meta-anal­y­sis of 800 re­ports has re­ported that the ap­pli­ca­tion of th­ese in­sec­ti­cides con­trib­utes to the de­cline of bee pop­u­la­tions and other pol­li­na­tors, but is also as­so­ci­ated with other en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age. What’s more, stud­ies have shown that the yield from non-treated seed is not in­fe­rior to the yield from the seeds treated with neon­i­coti­noids, even at the eco­nomic level.

In Que­bec, we have been us­ing neon­i­coti­noids in large scale farm­ing op­er­a­tions since the 1990’s, mostly for corn and soya. They are a class of in­sec­ti­cide that works used on such a large scale (more than 500,000 hectares in Que­bec), th­ese ‘sys­temic’ in­sec­ti­cides are known as con­tribut­ing to the de­cline of the bee pop­u­la­tions. Per­sis­tent in the en­vi­ron­ment (up to three years in the soil), their im­pact is not limited to the tar­geted plants; the neon­i­coti­noids also af­fect land and wa­ter in­ver­te­brates fish and am­phib­ians that live near fields are also ex­posed con­tin­u­ally to large doses of in­sec­ti­cide in their wa­ter or food sup­ply. The im­pact of neon­i­coti­noids can be hard to prove: be­cause it is an in­sec­ti­cide that is long-last­ing and at­tacks the im­mune sys­tem, it can be com­pli­cated to make a link be­tween the in­sec­ti­cide and ill­nesses. Even if we have found el­e­vated cases of Parkin­son’s dis­ease in peo­ple who have had high ex­po­sure to the in­sec­ti­cide in Ja­pan, more study on ver­te­brates is needed.

Stud­ies made in sev­eral lo­ca­tions around the world, such as the Mon­teregie in Que­bec, On­tario and the United States show no sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the crop yields of corn and soya whether the seed has been treated or not treated. Re­searchers and agron­o­mists are propos­ing that farm­ers use more tar­geted meth­ods in­stead of the ap­pli­ca­tion of ‘wall-to-wall’ in­sec­ti­cides to pro­tect their fields.

“The main prob­lem with th­ese in­sec­ti­cides is their wall-to wall ap­pli­ca­tion,” com­mented Syl­vain Laroche, coun­sel­lor with the Club agro-en­vi­ron­nemen­tal de l’Estrie. “Farm­ers must be bet­ter in­formed on the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts and on the yields of seeds treated with neon­i­coti­noids,” said Is­abelle Guay of the Coop des Can­tons. Two years ago, two hy­brid va­ri­eties of non-treated corn seed was avail­able at the Coop; now there are about twenty va­ri­eties of non-treated corn seed. UPA’s po­si­tion The UPA is also wor­ried about the risks as­so­ci­ated with the abu­sive use of neon­i­coti­noids. In a res­o­lu­tion voted on last De­cem­ber, the UPA called for pru­dence and mak­ing farm­ers aware of the im­pacts of their seed choices. The UPA is also ask­ing that the anal­y­sis re­sults of re­search on the risks as­so­ci­ated with neon­i­coti­noids are quickly pro­vided to farm pro­duc­ers, and that they get fi­nan­cial support with the field­work needed to find and tar­get prob­lem in­sects, thus avoid­ing the wide­spread use of those in­sec­ti­cides. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is also ask­ing that the As­so­ci­a­tion des marchands de se­mences du Que­bec pri­or­i­tizes its non-treated seeds over the treated seeds, and not the op­po­site.

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