CGC changes allow grain firms to test for Triffid

Coming changes at the Canadian Grain Commission have led to an amendment of the Triffid testing protocol for flax shipments destined for the European Union.

Rail cars that tested positive for the unapproved genetically modified trait were previously sealed in a bin at port and re-tested under the supervision of commission staff.

The commission ensured that bins reaffirmed to contain Triffid would not be loaded onto vessels bound for Europe.

Commission employees who performed those functions were also responsible for inward inspection and weighing duties.

However, those duties are no longer required under legislation to reform the commission, which comes into effect Aug. 1.

The change forced the Flax Council of Canada, the grain commission and Agriculture Canada to approach the EU about changing the shipping protocol.

“The protocol in Thunder Bay was affected, so we had to find an alternative way to continue on with the protocol,” said Flax Council of Canada president Will Hill.

The solution was to allow grain companies to perform the tasks previously carried out by commission staff. The commission still provides a letter to importers assuring them the shipment was filled solely with flax from bins testing negative for Triffid.

Hill said the changes will increase efficiencies and decrease costs. Grain companies no longer have to work around CGC schedules, which could result in overtime and poor rail car management at the port.

A more meaningful way to reduce costs would be to convince the EU to abandon its testing requirement altogether or at least increase the acceptable amount of Triffid contamination in a shipment above .01 percent.

“We continue to discuss it with them and they continue to listen, but there has been no change to their approach to it,” said Hill.

Exporters have shipped 100,000 tonnes of flax to the EU this year, up from 25,000 tonnes last year. The increase is the result of a disappointing Black Sea flax crop.

Hill expects continued strong demand from the EU, China and the United States in the new crop year, which is good because it appears Canada will have a good-sized crop.

Statistics Canada is forecasting 1.24 million acres, which would be the first time since Triffid was found in Canadian flax shipments that the crop has climbed back over the one million acre mark. Hill said the number appears to be fairly accurate, based on feedback he is receiving from the industry.

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