Comments delivered by Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, at this morning’s agricultural stakeholder consultation in Guelph regarding pollinator health and proposed neonicotinoid regulations.
“It’s important that I, as minister, have an opportunity to listen and learn from those who are directly impacted by government decisions. Participating in consultations like this one is an important part of the democratic process.
To reject consultation on the basis that our partners positions are not worthy of consideration is a counterproductive approach that will impair, not enhance, the opportunity to develop and implement common sense approaches to the challenges we face.
Those in the room here today have knowledge on appropriate pesticide use, planting and farming practices and environmental stewardship, all of which are central to this conversation. That is why I want to speak directly to you today.
The issue of pollinator health impacts every Ontarian. The development of public policy is of concern to a wide range of stake holders, both within the agriculture industry and beyond.
The commitment made by our government is balanced, taking into consideration the need to protect pollinators and ensure the viability of crop production. And it incorporates principals that, as Minister of Agriculture, I believe are important.
First, it does not suggest that the scientific examination of this issue is complete. Many of the findings to date require further research and verification. What it does do, however, is take a precautionary response to possible risks associated with the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. I believe this to be appropriate.
Second, it recognizes that the use of neonicotinoid pesticides can be an important tool for producers in certain circumstances, allowing for increased production and a reliable food supply for Ontarians. The policy does not ban its use, nor does it set hard targets, rather it suggests an aspirational goal of 80% to work towards.
Third, it pledges to work with producers to develop an appropriate implementation strategy that is sensitive to the needs of farmers. I’m conscious of how difficult of a challenge this is to those here in the room today, and to many farmers who are still wrapping up their harvest as we speak.
It’s why we need to have a robust and constructive conversation today, to ensure that government implements a realistic and practical system that aspires to our goal to reduce the use of neonic treated seeds.
I cannot stress to you enough how important these consultations are, and that anything said otherwise couldn’t be further from the truth.”