Pesticide use on Quebec farms on the rise

Most of us have learned to cut down on pesticides in our own gardens, but pesticide use on farms in this province is actually going up — not down.

Pesticide sales in the province from 2006 to 2012 went up 27 per cent, Radio-Canada learns

Corn and soy farmer Heidi Asnong says she'd like to use less pesticides, but also feels a lot of pressure to produce nice fields and crops. (Radio-Canada)

Most of us have learned to cut down on pesticides in our own gardens, but pesticide use on farms in this province is actually going up — not down.

That's according to Radio-Canada, which has learned that Quebec farmers are setting new records in pesticide use to protect their crops.

Heidi Asnong is a corn and soy farmer in Pike River in southern Quebec, situated about 15 kilometres north of the US border.

She said she wears a hazmat suit and a breathing mask when she sprays her crops.

Heidi Asnong wears a hazmat suit and a gas mask every time she sprays her field with pesticides. (Radio-Canada)
"Ever since I started spraying, I wanted to wear a suit because at school they told us so much about the harmful effects. Sometimes, even when I spray using my tractor, I'm in the cabin and I really feel like I have a headache," Asnong said.

The 33-year-old farmer told Radio-Canada that she'd like to use less pesticides, but feels the pressure to produce nice crops.

"You have to perform — better yield, nicer fields."

Quebec's 10-year goal

In 2011, the Quebec government set a 10-year goal to reduce pesticide use by 25 per cent.

The amount of pesticides found on cultivated land is slightly on the decline. For each hectare (10,000 square metres) of cultivated land, 2 kilograms of pesticides are spread.

But sales are at an all-time high. From 2006 to 2012, pesticide sales increased by 27 per cent in Quebec.

Among the most used pesticides:

  • glyphosates, which the World Health Organization calls a probable carcinogen.
  • neonicotinoids, which are linked to colony collapse in bees

Environment Quebec has been studying the rivers in the province's agricultural zones, and found pesticides present in almost all the samples.

"We should be concerned because the actual report is very negative, and as long as the trend is not reversed we should be worried," said Quebec's agriculture minister Pierre Paradis.

Nadine Bachand, a project co-ordinator of the environmental group Équiterre, said the provincial government must do more to help farmers figure out how to cut back on pesticides.

"There is an urgent need to give more support to farmers in terms of expertise, support for them to adopt best practices... cultural practices to really have the possibility to reduce pesticides," she said.

Investment from the government has dwindled. The province spent more than $11 million on research in 2013, compared to about $1 million in 2015.


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