Farm groups want a voice at pesticide meeting

“Farmers are a lot more conscious of the impact of pesticides and the need to apply them properly.”

Some farm groups want to be sure delegates to a Canadian Cancer Society conference on agricultural pesticides get the farmers’ side of the story.

“We want to ensure the voice of producers is heard on the need for science-based decision making,” says Richard Phillips, executive director of Grain Growers of Canada. His organization along with the Canola Growers and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture are organizing producers to attend the Exploring the Connection conference Nov. 12 and 13 in Toronto.

“Frankly, we’re disappointed the cancer society didn’t assemble a more balanced program,” he said. “They only invited CFA.”

Also not on the invitation list was CropLife Canada, says spokeswoman Jill Maase. The national voice of the pesticide industry has asked the society for a spot on the program. “We haven’t heard back from them on our request; we hope the agenda isn’t finalized yet.” CropLife representatives will be at the conference “to participate in question-and-answer sessions and to get engaged in the proceedings.”

CropLife wants delegates to understand the industry’s products “undergo strict regulatory review before they can be used in agriculture and that we are committed to health and safety,” Maase said.

A society spokeswoman said the CFA was invited to represent the farm community.

Ron Bonnett, CFA’s second vice-president said in an interview his participation in a closing panel will be an opportunity to explain why pesticides are important to farmers as well as the steps taken in recent years to make safer for the environment, people and wildlife. “I see it as presenting a reality check.”

He plans to stress toxicity in modern pesticides is reduced, meaning only the intended target is destroyed, that farmers are using less pesticides and they must pass growers certification courses before applying products. “Farmers are a lot more conscious of the impact of pesticides and the need to apply them properly,” he said.

As well, there’s increased reliance on integrated pest management and farm environmental plans to control unwanted bugs and weeds, he said.

He hopes the conference will consider what would happen if farm pesticides were prohibited. It could mean lower yields and the need to turn more land into food production.

The cancer society says “experts from world-renowned organizations such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization and the U. S. National Cancer Institute will lead discussion on the state of the science on pesticides and cancer.”

Speakers will look at the cancer risks associated with foods and measures to minimize pesticide exposure. The society said the conference is in response to growing public concern about human exposure to pesticides.

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