While farmers and agricultural industry reps clearly have one view on the value of neonicotinoid usage in certain crops such as soybeans, corn or canola, others do not necessarily share that same opinion or perspective.
Andrea Johancsik, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association, says a moral argument can be made for a widespread ban of neonicotinoids.
“Neonicotinoids have a cascade of negative impacts to eco-systems in a number of ways,” she says, citing the findings of the ‘World Integrated Assessment on Neonicotinoids.’ “One, they are persistent, meaning they stay in water or soil for months or years. And two, they are pervasive. Which means they can pollute areas far from where they were applied. And lastly, they are water soluable, which means they can be transported far in waterways.
“What scientists have found is neonicotinoids can be harmful to beneficial species, these include bees, butterflies, earthworms, birds, aquatic insects and some other animals as well.
“To take a precautionary approach would be beneficial before we have unintended negative consequences.”
Johancsik suggests, also citing the central argument of the WIAN report, that if an outright ban cannot be imposed then perhaps a system similar to Ontario’s could be brought into Alberta.
“I think there a few strategies we can learn from other jurisdictions that have banned neonicotinoids, and some practices happening elsewhere. I think what needs to happen is a shift in mindset towards applying these systemic pesticides are the very end when all other options, in a chain of options, have been used up. Neonicotinoids should be the last resort,” she states.
“There is many options in the agricultural sector that have been used and suggested,” continues Johancsik. “A sort of integrated pest management approach. There should also be educational programs for farmers and other practictioners, and then policy and regulation changes which should encourage the adoption of alternative strategies to manage pests.”
Johancsik acknowledges, when challenged on this point, the industrial reality of modern agriculture and the vast amounts of land under discussion in Alberta would certainly not make this an easy, or affordable, adjustment for farmers.
“Instead of arguing against the change, I think we should be coming together to listen to the best available science and recommendations for agriculture,” she says.
“We as a conservation organization, as well as farmers and ranchers, care about the stewardship for soil, water and pollinators. And neonicotinoid use has been harmful for our land stewardship values.”
When it is pointed out that, likely, the Alberta Wilderness Association and most in the Alberta agriculture sector would not find much common ground, Johancsik remains hopeful.
“I do think we share the same point of view,” she states. “I guess our similarity is we care about the health of soil, water and pollinators.
“We believe it’s clear that neonicotinoid use has too many harmful impacts. The risk is too high to maintain those values (to use them) in the long run.