Pioneer offers neonicotinoid-free corn, soybean seed in Canada

Pioneer, the world's largest producer of hybrid seeds is offering a neonicotinoid-free option for corn and soybean seed but only in Canada. Dave Harwood, technical services manager for Dupont Pioneer in Eastern Canada, said the move began with a request from the Grain Farmers of Ontario. They sent a letter to the Canadian Seed Trade Association asking for the choice.

Farmers will need to order ahead. The new option does include a fungicide treatment. With soybeans, farmers will pay less for their seed without the treatment, Harwood said. With corn seed, they'll pay the same price.

Neonicotinoid seed treatments have been linked to bee deaths in Ontario and Quebec. A suspension on the products was announced in the European Union earlier this year. "The situation that has developed here has been an association made with these neonicotinoids … either acute injury to bees or, there has been speculation, there's been more of a chronic effect. That's the discussion, Harwood said. "It is good press for production agriculture to bring that option.

Asked whether the option would be offered in the U.S., Harwood said that neonicotinoid issue is "less visible there. He announced his company's intention at the annual field day near Chatham, next to its Eastern Canadian headquarters.

In response to questions from the group, Harwood said much of the issue is likely to be addressed through planter modifications and by switching to a new wax-based seed lubricant. Compared to talc, the wax-based seed lubricant reduces the level of neonicotinoid-laced dust being emitted from air planters by as much as 90 percent, he said.

Growers expressed a concern that yields will be negatively impacted if the seed treatments are banned. Harwood said a ban is possible and with the absence of insecticide seed treatments entirely, corn yields would likely be reduced. "We did a lot of yield testing of these products and in corn it would five bushels less without these products. There are insecticide alternatives, although they may not have the broad spectrum of control as with neonicotinoids, he said.