Europe’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals and Feed (SCoPAFF) recently adopted a regulation to set clethodim maximum residue limits (MRL’s) to the limit of quantification (LOQ) for the European Union. Clethodim is the active ingredient in BASF’s Select and Centurion, Loveland’s Shadow RTM, and NuFarm’s Statue, among other brands. Industry experts are not planning to change recommendations around products carrying the chemistry at this point.
Consumer risk assessment incomplete
The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed plays an important role in ensuring EU measures on food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, and plant health are both practical and effective. It delivers opinions on draft measures that the Commission intends to adopt.
In its review of the existing maximum residue levels for clethodim, the European Food Safety Authority (ESFA) wrote that an MRL could not be proposed because an overall consumer risk assessment could not be finalized.
“Until a conclusion on the toxicological properties of the metabolite is reached, a decision on the residue definition for risk assessment cannot be made which is a prerequisite to perform a reliable dietary risk assessment,” the paper concludes.
A significant market for oilseed and pulse crops
The EU represents a significant market for Canada’s canola, soybean and pulse crop growers. In 2020, Canada exported €1,03 billion ($1.5 billion) worth of oilseeds and €495 million ($723 million) worth of soybeans to the EU.
EU pulse crop imports are fairly significant as well. In 2019–20, for example, Canada exported 273,308MT of pulse crops to the EU. Broken down, roughly 50–55 per cent of these volumes were dry beans, with lentils accounting for about 35 per cent. Figures are tracking similar through April of 2020–21.
Anytime an MRL is revoked in an export market, it causes concern, especially when it’s a product that’s used widely in the industry. Pulse Canada has a process in place for dealing with MRL misalignments. It’s a three-step process that looks at the pesticide, the markets it impacts, and the criteria to review.
The first part of that process involves asking the licensing company, in this case UPL, if they have residue data. “In this case, they had some, but they didn’t have a full data set,” said Greg Bartley, director of crop protection and crop quality at Pulse Canada.
The next step then was to gather on-farm samples of crop where product was applied and test it for residue as well.
“The company has provided residue data that indicates that residues on the crop, when applied, are below the default level where the MRL is going to fall to,“ said Bartley. “We believe that it won’t be an issue for pulse growers in the future.”
At this point, the change has simply been proposed, but industry experts like BASF senior brand manager Daniel Packer believe the regulation will be entered into force later this year. At that time, MRLs will be lowered to 0.02 ppm, which is the LOQ for most crops. Packer said the company doesn’t plan on making any registration changes for the registered crop.
BASF worked closely with Pulse Canada and the Canola Council of Canada to test crop for residue. Like Bartley, Packer doesn’t expect any change to their recommendation to customers. Factors that impact residue levels include the rate of product used, pre-harvest intervals and application timing.
“We expect farmers to continue to use the product according to the label,” said Packer. “I think farmers are doing a good job today for the most part, and need to continue to do that.”
Clark Brenzil, Government of Saskatchewan provincial specialist weed control, said canola and soybean both have options other than a Group 1 graminicide. Some of the pulse crops and flax are going to be more vulnerable, though.
“Most of the in-crop applications have already been completed, so whatever will happen is essentially already cast in stone,” he said.
Brenzil recommends that growers talk to their grain buyers to find out how they are going to handle crops treated with the products they choose.
Ninety percent of canola and the majority of pulse crops are shipped for export markets. Getting applications right means avoiding market disruptions. Industry puts a lot of work into avoiding this through the Keep it Clean program. Following the guidelines helps ensure that growers’ crops are market ready and helps protect Canada’s reputation as a trusted supplier of canola, cereals and pulses.
The program reiterates the importance of staying on label, using the right product at the right rate in the right place at the right time.
Keep it Clean also extends product advisories if the residue profile no longer meets specs in an exporting country or if the exporting country just doesn’t have an MRL yet. This is done through marketing material, a series of webinars and by industry experts.
“We work very closely throughout the value chain,” said Ian Epp, Canola Council of Canada agronomist. “So our messaging is very aligned with everything you’re going see from chemical companies, grain companies, exporters.”
“We want to be very proactive,” Epp added. “We don’t want disruption. That’s really terrible for the entire value chain from growers, processors, exporters everybody.”
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