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Farmers oppose possible strychnine ban

Farmers oppose possible strychnine ban

Strychnine is a key ingredient for gopher control

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Producers are unhappy with the federal government’s proposal to ban the use of an important rodent control tool.

On June 29, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) announced it was looking into banning the use of strychnine to control gophers.

The health ministry is proposing the ban because it can kill other animals including the swift fox and burrowing owl, which are both listed as “at risk”.

Manitoba farmers aren’t allowed to use strychnine, but producers in Alberta and Saskatchewan can.

The gopher control comes as baits or as a concentrate, and farmers require a special license to obtain the products.

Gophers can cause extensive damage to crop fields and pastures, which is why strychnine is necessary to control them. In addition, current replacement products aren’t as effective, said Lynn Jacobson, president of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture.

“The other available products, which I’ve used, are pretty much useless,” he told “They might slow the gophers down for a day or two but then they’re right back at it.

“If there’s a heavy enough population of gophers they can strip large acres off susceptible plants like canola.”

Gopher activity can also injure livestock.

Burrowing gophers can create holes in pastures, which create holes that cattle can step in. Gophers usually start their activity on pastures, Jacobson said.

An outright ban on strychnine doesn’t help farmers if similar products aren’t available, he said.

“If you want to take a tool away, at least make sure we have something that works in the same fashion,” he said. “Right now nothing like that is available, so we still need strychnine to protect our fields and livestock.”

Other ag groups are also displeased with the potential ban and the government’s consultation process.

Health Canada opened a public consultation window on June 29 which ends on Sept. 27.

Farm organizations feel the allotted timeframe isn’t enough.

“Saskatchewan’s ranchers and farmers are the only sector that would be impacted by the PMRA review,” Todd Lewis, president of APAS, said in a joint statement with the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association and Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association on Sept. 11.

“The time-period for the consultation is totally unreasonable, given that they are all completely involved in harvest and preparation for winter.”

MriyaWildlife/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

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