The Gleaner

Quebec introduces new requirements for agricultural pesticides

A revision of the regulatory framework governing the use of agricultural pesticides has taken place, and producers will have to adjust their practices as of January 1, 2025.

The new requirements are aimed at improving the accuracy of the portrait of pesticide use in Quebec. They are based on advances in research and more rigorous monitoring of the province’s waterways, which show an increase in the concentration of certain pesticides, most notably those that replaced the neonicotinoids that were banned in 2019.

One change that is likely to cause some difficulty for producers is the generalized registration of seed coatings as Class 3A, meaning any insecticide-coated seed will now require a prescription and justification from an agronomist. Fungicide coatings are not affected by the new regulations, so growers can continue to use them without a prescription, provided they have a regular E1 or E2 permit.

The new measures are necessary to avoid the systematic use of insecticides that are often unnecessary to ensure good plant growth. “We know, for example, that nearly 80 per cent of corn acreage uses coated seed, whereas science tells us that only around four per cent really needs it,” said agronomist Jacques Fadous, during a videoconference on the new standards organized by the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight Against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks (MELCCFP). “We need to change our thinking. It is not just a seed, it’s a seed coated with a pesticide.”

According to Fadous, lowering the systematic use of pesticides should also reduce the risk of resistance developing in insects. He was quick to point out that the ministry is making efforts to limit paperwork requirements; however, producers will need to register the use of insecticide-coated seeds in the Pesticide Register as of 2025.

Many growers are already taking steps in the direction of the new regulations, but some are questioning the methods being proposed: “Personally, in the short term, it won’t affect me. I haven’t used insecticides on my corn for two years already,” says Marie-Claude De Martin of Fermes Ajiro Inc. in Godmanchester. “On the other hand, I’m not sure I didn’t have an insect-caused germination problem … In the long term, there’s nothing to tell me that I’m safe from a huge infestation that could occur at random one year. Insecticide is seen as a bit like insurance. Who’s going to pay for the losses?”

According to the MELCCPF, the Financière agricole du Québec is working with the Ministry of Agriculture to help producers adapt to the new requirements, but this does little to reassure De Martin.

“I agree that pesticides should not be used systematically everywhere. With the agri-clubs, we used to do our own trials on this side. I’m tired of people taking us [producers] for fools and imposing regulations here in Quebec that don’t even apply in Ontario or the United States. We are left to think, what’s the next thing to be regulated?” says De Martin, who suggests the government should instead apply the reciprocity principle and compensate producers for the risk incurred.

At least the producers’ toolbox remains intact for the time being, even if its use will be more closely supervised. “We’re looking at this more in terms of support than as a ban,” emphasized MAPAQ agronomist Marie-Edith Cuerrier, who took part in the videoconference.

“We don’t work like they do in Europe, where molecules are completely banned. We are just asking that they be used when really necessary to solve a problem,” said Cuerrier.

New measures include a ban on the possession of pesticides unless authorized to sell or use them, and a requirement that producers doing custom seeding will need a permit to apply pesticides on cultivated land. The permits are available through the SOFAD website.

The measures do not include any new reporting requirements for producers to the MELCCFP. The ministry will collect data on pesticide sales directly from retailers in order to have a more complete picture of the quantities being used in each region.

Agronomists will also be trained in the new requirements to help farmers adapt. Other training sessions will follow, and growers are asked to keep an eye out for communications from the ministry and the UPA.

More information is available on the website by searching for “Règles d’application des pesticides en milieu agricole.”

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