More than Farming: What’s a crop science regulatory consultant?

By Matt McIntosh

MorethanFarmingWhat career possibilities were you indoctrinated with as a child? Did your parents or others suggest you become a lawyer? A tradesman? Perhaps even an engineer of trains or mechanical design? What about a crop science regulatory consultant?

To that last one, I suspect your answer is no.

I know that, for my own part, I never heard such a title in my younger days. Considering I grew up a farm kid and have been working in agricultural communications for years now, I’m willing to bet very few of my less-agricultural peers have heard of it either.

What is a crop science regulatory consultant you ask? In short, it’s an individual that assists companies in registering new products – insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides for instance – with the government. Governments, as we know, need to regulate things, and registering agricultural products for sale and use within a given political jurisdiction involves long, rigid certification processes – this is particularly true in Canada, which has some of the strictest food safety regulations in the world.

Someone has to know the process, after all, and be willing to complete the associated paperwork.

Continue reading

Grown-Up Bullying Alive and Well in Ontario as Farmers Get Steamrolled Over Neonics

By: Lyndsey Smith, reprinted with permission

Yesterday, the Ontario premier’s office and the ministry of the environment and climate change revealed its plan to restrict the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments. The goal, referred to as “aspirational,” is to reduce the number of Ontario corn and soybean acres planted with the seed treatment by 80% by the year 2017. The details of the new rules, regulations and certification for using the pesticide will be determined by July of 2015, the province says, following a two month consultation process running through December, 2014, and January, 2015.

You’ll note I didn’t say that the ministry of agriculture, food and rural affairs is proposing this plan, even though, yes, technically it is. Want to know why? Because from what I saw yesterday, OMAFRA isn’t the lead on this even a little — premier Kathleen Wynne and her environment minister, Glen Murray, are. And if I were Jeff Leal, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, or an Ontario farmer, I’d be feeling more than a little bullied at this point.

That this isn’t being driven by OMAFRA is a significant point, and speaks to the challenge ahead for farmers. It’s one thing to have to deal with changes and increased regulation stemming from your own ministry — a ministry that should understand and respect the complexity of your industry. It’s another beast to be expected to morph and fall in line with the demands of a ministry that is only handing down demands and not offering up any help on the solutions side. Mix in a bit of blatant ignorance of (or disregard for, I can’t tell which it is) farming and agriculture, and we’ve got ourselves a hot mess.

Farmers are, understandably, upset over the coming regulations. Wynne and Murray are busy patting themselves on the back and reminding voters how great they are, while simultaneously disregarding what it means on the ground for farmers and the environment. How so? Read on.

Access the full article here.

A neonic ban not supported by science, and would make things worse

By Terry DaynardFlower

Some environmental groups have called, in an October 9 Guelph Mercury column, for a ban on use of neonicotinoid insecticides. They support this with dubious information and claims. This column provides an alternative perspective.

Neonic insecticides do kill insects, including bees if not used carefully. In some situations, with certain dust-emitting corn planters, there can be deaths at seeding time in spring. Farmers, seed and equipment suppliers, and governments have moved quickly to reduce this risk. Preliminary statistics from Health Canada indicate springtime bee deaths were down significantly in 2014. Continue reading

Ontario Pesticide Survey extended to include 2014 growing season

By Lilian Schaer for Farm & Food Care

A confidential, anonymous survey asking Ontario field crop, fruit, vegetable, and specialty crop growers to record their crop protection use has been extended to include the 2014 growing season, and farm groups are encouraging their members to participate.

Results from the Ontario Pesticide Survey will be used to demonstrate responsible use and support education efforts regarding future crop protection policy decisions. This includes minor use registrations, the Grower Requested Own Use (GROU) program, and product re-evaluations.

Outcomes also help farm organizations push for new product and minor use registrations. The survey has been conducted every five years in Ontario since 1973. Continue reading

Don’t Believe everything you see on the TV, but you’ve heard that before, right?

By Micah Shearer-Kudel, Environmental Coordinator, Farm & Food Care

Glossing over my Twitter feed, I stumbled upon an interesting article recently. A tweet shared an article by Tom Spears, a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen. Continue reading

Dr. Oz’s GMO Global Conspiracy…debunked

Guest blog by Katie Pratt

Reprinted with permission from http://illinoisfarmgirl.wordpress.com/ Originally posted on February 13, 2014)

Today, Dr. Oz uncovered the “global conspiracy” surrounding GMOs.  I usually avoid these types of sensationalized “investigative” reports because they are nothing more than a regurgitation of biased studies, “expert” testimony supporting the biased studies and absolutely no exploration of another side to the story.  However, this blog is not a commentary on sensational journalism.

It also isn’t meant to attack the character of Dr. Oz or the producers of his show. I don’t know them.  They could be really nice people just doing their jobs.  They don’t know me either, but I kinda wish they did because I could have helped them clarify some of the pseudo facts they presented during their segment on “Stealth GMOs”.

Dr. Oz began his rant against genetically modified organisms by describing a tomato that can withstand frosty temperatures because its DNA has been modified with a gene from a fish.

Clarification: In the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, the company DNA Plant Technology used DNA from the fish, winter flounder, and inserted it into the DNA of a tomato in order to make the fruit frost-tolerant. This “fish tomato” never went into field testing or made it to market.  Yet, Dr. Oz viewers were left to contemplate a picture of a bin of tomatoes labeled gmo and a bin labeled non-gmo.  No tomato in your grocery store is a gmo.  Only eight crops with genetically modified varieties are commercially available to farmers – corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, papaya, sugar beets, and squash.

Then Dr. Oz switches the topic from gmos to the use of pesticides.  He gives his own example of how plant scientists “improved Mother Nature” by making seeds resistant to pesticides.  But then, alas, insects became resistant to these gm-crops and farmers had to apply even more pesticide.

To read the rest of this blog visit http://illinoisfarmgirl.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/dr-ozs-gmo-global-conspiracy-debunked/

Obsolete pesticide collection campaign is a great success

by Micah Shearer-Kudel, Farm & Food Care Ontario

It’s a busy October day at Woodrill Farms in Guelph, Ontario. It isn’t because trucks are going to and from the grain elevators; it’s because of the CleanFARMS Obsolete Pesticide and Animal Health Product Collection Campaign.

The program is Canada-wide and began in Ontario in 2000. Since 2000, CleanFarms has overseen the collection of more than 400,000 kilograms of unwanted and obsolete pesticides, fertilizers and similar products.

Russel Hurst, Director of Obsolete Collection for CleanFARMS,  shows some of the obsolete pesticides collected.

The success of the program has encouraged it to branch out and starting this year, animal health products such as vaccines and antibiotics will also be collected at designated pickup locations. Continue reading

Farm & Food Care talks about bee health

By Crystal Mackay, Executive Director, Farm & Food Care

Questions around bees and why they are dying or not dying are being asked around the world.  In recent years, an unusually high number of bee deaths have occurred in some areas of Europe, Canada and the United States, while other areas have seen bee population growth.  All types of farmers rely on pollinators and are concerned about bee health and the environment.  It’s a complex issue with no easy answers.

Bees pollinate an Ontario fruit orchard in the spring of 2013

Researchers around the world are currently working to determine the cause of the increase in bee deaths in certain regions and why populations are increasing in others. While the EU has announced a moratorium on the specific type of pesticide called neonicotinoids or “neonics” because of a believed connection, the British government has announced that it rejects the science behind the moratorium. In Canada, Health Canada is investigating bee deaths to determine what role, if any, pesticide may have played in the incidents. Continue reading

Farmers embrace free program to dispose pesticides

While farmers tend to buy only as much crop protection product as they need, sometimes they have leftover pesticides that they no longer want or they may have an older pesticide that is no longer approved for use or which they may just not want to use. Farmers are very protective of the land and resources both on and around their farms, so getting rid of the unwanted pesticides is a concern.

In Canada, the companies that make and sell pesticides have established a collection program that runs free of charge to farmers. The program is run by CleanFARMS, a national, industry-led agricultural waste stewardship organization. The companies that make pesticides pay for the collection program as part of their commitment to responsibly managing their products through to the end of their life cycle.

“Farmers participate in this program in large numbers,” says Barry Friesen, general manager of CleanFARMS. “This is a great example of farmers and industry working together to protect the environment.”

Barry Friesen

Farmers drop their products off at locations across the country and CleanFARMS arranges for disposal in a high temperature incineration facility. The program has taken care of more than 1.5 million kilograms in an environmentally responsible way since its inception.

More information is available online at www.cleanfarms.ca.

Soil is key to farm success

Farmers rely on good, fertile soil to be successful. Without it, they simply cannot produce enough food to ensure our grocery store shelves are fully stocked.

“Soil is the well spring of future income for the grower, and if we did not have modern tools we would have to revert to more tillage and other practices that are unsustainable,” says agronomist Mark Goodwin.

Before farmers had access to crop protection products to control weeds, Goodwin says, they used to till, or plough, their fields to get rid of the weeds. This was hard on the soil, however. It would break down organic matter and make the soil more susceptible to being swept away by water or wind. Continue reading