The quality and reputation of Canadian canola and cereals is amongst the best in the world, and Canadian growers work hard to produce crops to the highest standard.
Our domestic processors, grain buyers and export customers trust the quality and cleanliness of these crops, but are increasingly testing shipments with highly sensitive equipment for levels of pesticide residues and traces of disease to ensure they comply with set maximum residue limits (MRLs). Additional challenges include different MRLs around the world and a country’s potential refusal to accept any residues until a standard is in place.
How crop protection decisions affect market risk
Agricultural exports must meet the standards set by importing countries, including their tolerances for pesticide residues. For an export-dependent nation like Canada, that means all parts of the industry must pay close attention to these standards as crop protection technology continues to evolve.
Why these challenges are becoming more difficult
- Different standards around the world: More countries are now making their own rules for pesticide residue tolerances, instead of following one internationally recognized standard. And countries don’t make these decisions at the same time. It isn’t unusual for one country to adopt a Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for a certain pesticide-crop combination several years before other major trading partners do.
- Zero tolerance until a standard is in place: If a country hasn’t yet set an MRL for a certain active ingredient, there are countries that can refuse to accept imports containing any amount of the residue in question. Importing countries test shipments regularly to make sure their standards are met. If a shipment is turned back because of unacceptable residues, it could result in millions of dollars of lost revenue and damage to Canada’s reputation for consistency and quality.
- Highly sensitive testing equipment: In addition, the potential for detecting residues is increasing. Testing equipment is becoming more sensitive and is being used more frequently as the technology becomes more affordable. New technology can detect levels close to one part per billion, and in some cases parts per trillion. One part per billion is equivalent to about nine canola seeds in a super B truck, while one part per trillion is one second in 32,000 years. These are small numbers but still bigger than zero.
For all of these reasons, Canada’s entire value chain is focusing more attention on meeting the residue tolerances of important global markets.
How the extent of market risk is determined
When considering the market risk of using a pesticide, our value chains look at a combination of factors, such as:
- The likelihood of a product leaving detectable residues
- The frequency and quantity of detectable residues
- Regulatory changes in export markets
- Industry intelligence on market sensitivities
- Pest pressures and product use patterns
- Regional concentration of use
These factors help to determine the likelihood of a problem emerging. When warranted, the Canola Council, Cereals Canada or Pulse Canada will discuss concerns with the company introducing the product and encourage it to consult with other parts of the value chain that will be affected.
What growers can do
To avoid unacceptable residues, it is essential for growers to follow these tips:
- Use acceptable pesticides only.
Only use products that are registered for your crop and won’t cause concerns for customers.
- Use pesticides correctly.
Consult the label for proper rates and timing.
Check this page for the latest updates on products of concern and MRLs.
What the rest of the industry is doing
The Canola Council of Canada, Cereals Canada and Pulse Canada continuously monitor potential risks in major export markets. We also encourage all companies to follow our guidelines for responsible commercialization of new crop protection products, which means making sure that any market access issues or other potential problems have been addressed before a new product is introduced or before a new use is added to the label.
In addition, we are always working with the Canadian government to encourage other trading nations to adopt more consistent review processes and import rules. In an ideal world, all global trading partners would agree on common standards for agricultural commodities. Progress is being made, but the global regulatory landscape remains complex.
The process of responsible commercialization is voluntary and relies on a strong commitment to open communication and co-operation throughout the value chain. With rare exceptions, co-operation throughout the industry has been very strong.