Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

The president of the Order would like to make them obligatory, but a bill to this effect is slow to be re-submitted.

Agronomists: declarations of interest “optional” quo;

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The president of the Order of Agronomists of Quebec, Martine Giguère (Archive photo)

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    After becoming mandatory in 2021, the declaration of a conflict of interest by agronomists to their professional order is once again optional, Radio-Canada has learned. The Order of Agronomists, which has just appointed an agrochemical industry lobbyist as director, says it wants things to change, but says it is waiting for a gesture from the Legault government in this direction.

    < p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">In Quebec, the majority of agronomists who advise farmers on their use of pesticides are employees of companies that market pesticides. Some even receive financial incentives to sell more.

    In the wake of the denunciations of whistleblower Louis Robert, the Order boasted, in April 2021, of having obliged all agronomists to declare their interests when renewing their membership . We could read, at the time, in a press release, that this new requirement allows the Order of Agronomists of Quebec to be consistent with its Code of Ethics, particularly with regard to the method of remuneration in the form of rebates, commissions linked to the sale.

    The Code of Ethics for agronomists obliges them, in theory, to avoid any situation where [ they would be] in a conflict of interest and even in the appearance of a conflict of interest.

    What the public did not know is that the obligation to declare interests imposed in 2021 by the Order disappeared the following year. According to our sources, legal opinions convinced the Order to reverse its decision.

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    It is always requested, but it is not obligatory, confirms the director of public affairs of the Order of Agronomists , by email. This is only a recommendation.

    Today, when renewing, agronomists fill out a form where it is indicated that the answers to the questions in the declaration of interest are optional .

    To use personal information collected from members with the aim of faulting an agronomist in relation, for example, to respecting his code of ethics, a legal provision would have to authorize it.

    A citation by Naömie Goyette, director of public affairs of the Ordre des agronomes du Québec

    This is why the Order wishes to modernize its professional law and its code of ethics in order to add provisions in this direction, adds the director of public affairs of the Order, Naömie Goyette.

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    The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Quebec , André Lamontagne (Archive photo)

    The bill that would clarify things is already written. It was even tabled in June 2022 by the Minister of Agriculture, André Lamontagne. He proposed prohibiting an agronomist from selling both pesticides and providing advisory services to farmers.

    The problem is that Bill 41 was introduced a few days before the end of the parliamentary session and it died on the order paper.

    The minister's office does not know when it will be redeposited and is also not in a position to say if it will be redeposited. Analyzes of the proposals made by the Order of Agronomists are underway, we are told.

    On Monday, the news of the appointment of Benoît Pharand as general director caused a strong reaction among the 3,300 members of the Order of Agronomists, because he previously held the position of CEO of the Réseau végétal Québec, an association of around fifty #x27;companies, including Bayer, Corteva, Syngenta and Sollio, major manufacturers and sellers of pesticides in Quebec.

    In this capacity, he acted as a lobbyist with the aim of influencing the Ministry of Agriculture and the Office of Professions regarding the revision of the Agronomists Act.

    We're going back, reacts Thomas Bastien, member of the board of directors of the Order of Agronomists from 2021 to 2023. According to him, this appointment is contrary to all the conversations we have had in recent years with the Order.

    It's as if the president of Formula 1 became general manager of Vélo Québec.

    A quote from Thomas Bastien, former member of the Board of Directors of the Order of Agronomists of Quebec

    Mr. Bastien, who heads the Association for Public Health of Quebec, plans not to renew his registration with the Order next year, for this reason.

    The president of the Order of Agronomists, Martine Giguère, explained Monday that the new general director will have the obligation to follow the directions of the board of directors, whatever his past positions.

    Following the Radio-Canada article, the Order announced to its members that Mr. Pharand will answer their questions during x27;a virtual meeting, Wednesday noon. He will officially take office on April 15.

    The board of directors also held a special meeting on Monday, while the Order was the subject of public criticism.

    The Victims of Quebec Pesticides and Vigilance OGM groups said they were outraged. What is the next step? To table a bill to clean up the profession of agronomists or for [minister] Lamontagne to be replaced by another pesticide industry lobbyist?, asks Pascal Priori, co-founder of Victimes des pesticides du Québec.

    It is urgent that the government modernize the Agronomists Act, almost two years after the draft law 41.

    A quote from Pascal Priori, co-founder of Victimes des pesticides du Québec

    When boards of directors and management are made up of pesticide sellers, it is no surprise that our agricultural model becomes dependent on these products and that their sales increase, declared Thibault Rehn, of Vigilance OGM.

    < p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">According to Équiterre, this appointment is all the more “worrying” as an important bill on the separation of the sale of pesticides and the advice provided to farmers is expected shortly. All of this places the new DG in an apparent conflict of interest.

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