FUD from the Grain Farmers of Ontario

/fəd/, noun
fear, uncertainty and doubt, usually evoked intentionally in order to put a competitor at a disadvantage.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario have been very vocal opponents of Ontario’s recently approved and soon to be implemented restrictions on the neonicotinoid pesticide seed treatments. If you listen to their argument, it’s going to mean the end of grain farming as we know it. Never mind that the US EPA has concluded that “these seed treatments provide little or no overall benefits to soybean production in most situations.” Never mind that a researcher with Perdue University came to the same conclusion for corn in 2011 and replicated the results in 2012. Apparently grain is entirely different.

On June 11, GFO sent this letter and attached memo from their lawyer to their membership:

GFO Member Letter - 2015 06 11 - Pg 1GFO Member Letter - 2015 06 11 - Pg 2

Angry BeeOn the one hand, advising their membership on the potential legal implications of entering into a business agreement with another producer is definitely within the purview of the group. What I strenuously object to are the insinuations made about beekeepers who support Ontario’s efforts to limit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides:

  • “majority of beekeepers are still our rational, practical-minded partners”
  • “relationships with beekeepers remain based on good science”

An organization that’s spending massive amounts of its member’s money to protect their use of a seed treatment that doesn’t work is calling me irrational?

Their lawyer, Rob Wilson, isn’t averse to throwing stones at us either. When he raise the spectre of returning to the bad old days of spraying the living daylights out of every planted crop, he uses this gem:

“Grain farmers and knowledgeable beekeepers have expressed concern that such applications may be more harmful to bees than the seed treatment that has been banned.”

I sent this email to the GFO this morning:

Good morning,

I’ve just had your June 11 memo to your members passed along and I have to say that I’m disappointed that your organization take such a tack.

As you say, beekeepers and farmers have relationships built on respect, but when someone messes with that, we have a problem.

I’m just one beekeeper and a small one at that. I realize that you’re upset about the incoming pesticide regulations, but there’s a growing body of science showing that no only is there no need for this particular class of pesticide, but that the farmer gains little to no benefit from their use. Not for soybean and not for corn. Grain cannot possibly be any different.

Why on earth you would attempt to poison the well over new restrictions on an expensive synthetic chemical treatment that doesn’t actually provide the claimed benefit is completely beyond me.

I look forward to continuing my relationships with local farmers. We need each other to survive, but dogma gets in the way.


In less than an hour, I had this non-response from Meghan Burke, Manager of Communications:

Hello Gord,

Thank you for your email. The letter you are referring to was sent to all Grain Farmers of Ontario members, not to discourage hosting bee hives on their farm, but rather to ensure that when doing so, farmers take the appropriate measures to protect themselves. While we recognize that these measures may affect relationships among farmers and beekeepers, it is our responsibility to ensure farmers are informed about the possible legal risks of establishing or continuing these relationships.

I suggest you bring these concerns forward to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Ontario Beekeepers Association, as these are the entities responsible for the potentially significant impact at the grassroots level.

Best Regards,

The GFO “represents Ontario’s 28,000 growers of corn, soybean and wheat,” three crops that aren’t pollinated by honeybees. It’s pretty easy for them to just not give a damn about what their chemical treatments do as long as they get their crop and get a good price for it. The problem becomes the wider price that the rest of us have to pay for this kind of selfish, head in the sand, behaviour. Another issue is whether the GFO is really speaking in their members’ best interests or just parroting the line being fed to them by the pesticide industry through their lobby group CropLife Canada. I’ve heard rumblings that some percentage of the membership is not happy with the stand that the board has taken.

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