Making Sure to Keep It Clean

Knowing the maximum residue limits can help your crop get access to market

by Megan Madden

Canada exports 85 per cent of its pulse production, reaching 130 countries worldwide, making trade access critical to the profitability of the industry and its producers. A significant factor in maintaining this access is ensuring that all crop protection products are being used legally and responsibly, to ensure product residues remain at trace levels, or levels well below accepted maximums on exported pulses.

The Keep it Clean! campaign advises there is no need for caution if products are applied properly early in the season, but very late applications of fungicides or insecticides may result in residue levels found in the seed. With desiccants and harvest aids, there could be more risk with residue on the seed as these products are applied very late in the season. As a result, growers must ensure that they take appropriate risk mitigation steps to assure product residue remains below maximum residue limits (MRLs) set by regulatory agencies.

“More countries, including China and Korea, are moving away from the global standard (CODEX) and are implementing countryspecific, national MRL lists. A national MRL list means the country sets their own acceptable residue levels for each crop and active ingredient,” says Mac Ross, Manager, Market Access and Trade Policy with Pulse Canada.

“In many cases, countries employing national MRL lists will have missing MRLs and not have a clear deferral policy on how they will handle these missing MRLs. Default MRLs are also used by some markets when a missing MRL is encountered and are
commonly set at zero or near-zero (0.01 parts per million) levels.”

Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) Chair and Radisson area farmer Corey Loessin comments that most of the potential market interruption could arise from one of those absent MRLs, rather than an exceeded tolerance in a particular shipment. “This
is really the largest area of concern and one that the pulse industry, and the agriculture industry as a whole is working on to minimize the likelihood of it being a problem,” he explains.

“This means working at the international level to try and get uniform MRL coverage established in importing countries that have their own MRL lists, and encouraging CODEX (the body established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations and the World Health Organization to develop food standards), to becomemore current on establishing MRLs for other countries to reference.”

Ross adds that residue testing equipment can now test down to one part per billion, which is relative to three seconds in a century, for perspective. Although simply detecting the presence of something is not a cause for concern to human health, these advancements in residue testing technologies have created the opportunity for countries to find an exceedance of a zero default MRL if they wish to do so.

“MRL non-compliance can cause a whole slew of issues such as trade disruptions, reputation damage, even restriction to crop protection tools that are available to Canadian farmers,” warns Ross. “MRL issues can lead to reduced investment in crop protection innovation by life-science companies, due to the complexity of the global marketplace.”

Further to the reputation issue, Loessin adds that has the potential to make importers wary when bringing in shipments from Canada, perhaps heightening scrutiny and testing, and potentially losing those markets due to the perceived risk. But risk is not just to the industry, it can directly affect the noncompliant producer as well. “Most grain companies have systems in place to trace shipments back to delivery points and even individual farms,” Loessin says. “Therefore, costs associated with a MRL violation could be passed back to the farm or origin of the issue.”

In 2011, there was a market disruption issue with green lentils in Europe and as a result, the pulse industry was the first to create a grower advisory to ensure growers are informed and using crop protection products in ways that are both safe and
accepted internationally.

Currently, a committee consisting of grain merchants, agrologists, market representatives, Pulse Canada market access specialists, and growers meet multiple times per year to examine markets of interest, identify use patterns and products with missing or misaligned MRLs, and identify new products in various stages of MRL acceptance, to create the advisory. This advisory is distributed to all pulse growers in the Prairie provinces, and the information is available on the website. The Keep it Clean! initiative is a partnership between the Canola Council of Canada, Cereals Canada, and Pulse Canada, working together to continuously monitor potential risks in major export markets.

How Can You “Keep it Clean”?

  1. Do not exceed product labelled rates. If you exceed the labelled rate, you risk surpassing recognized MRLs and this can have serious consequences in terms of both domestic pesticide laws, and international acceptance of the crop.
  2. Use products at the labeled timing and crop stage.
  3. Consult with your exporter or processor. Ask which crop protection products are acceptable in international markets for your crop.
  4. Visit regularly for specific products and recommendations.