MRLs continue to be vexing issue for farmers

Japan, one of our major markets for canola, has established a maximum residue level for quinclorac, the active ingredient in Clever.

You would think this would resolve the marketing issue for canola treated with Clever to control cleavers, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

China still doesn’t have an MRL.

It is a huge market, and the main elevator companies say they will not accept any canola treated with Clever this year.

Some companies begrudgingly put programs in place to segregate treated canola last year, but the marketing programs are reportedly quite limited and some farmers have tens of thousands of bushels that they aren’t sure what to do with. They are in a tough position through no fault of their own.

Clever is a registered product promoted and marketed exclusively by Great Northern Growers. Warnings from the Canola Council of Canada not to use Clever were issued too late, and many growers applied the product last year with no knowledge of an MRL issue.

The canola council and the major elevator companies have issued their warnings early this year, which means they won’t be obliged to show sympathy for growers who ignore the warnings and still use the herbicide.

Many registered products on the market do not have MRLs established in all importing countries. This is particularly true for pre-harvest products used in pulse crops, which will typically leave a much higher residue than a herbicide applied early in the growing season.

“Testing after the 2015 crop year showed that when quinclorac was used on canola according to label directions, detectable residues occurred in the canola seed, oil and meal most of the time,” the canola council said.

However, a Feb. 2 summary of recent quinclorac research conducted by the Canadian Grain Commission’s Grain Research Laboratory reports that residues were not found in any of the harvest composite samples analyzed. As well, residues were not detected in any of the 14 randomly selected export shipments sampled last year between Aug. 1 and Dec. 30.

All of this means that quinclorac residue may be detectable in farm samples, but it appears to be difficult to find even in parts per billion when canola is aggregated from many producers.

Great Northern Growers questions whether China is even concerned with quinclorac. It quotes experts as saying that China refers to the international standard known as Codex when it doesn’t have a domestic MRL. In this case, Codex doesn’t have an MRL either, so China then defers to the country of origin, and in this country there’s an MRL.

The pulse crop industry is able to manage the MRL issue on a number of products and markets, but the main elevator companies are unable or unwilling to manage quinclorac. It does represent extra cost and risk, and the companies apparently believe this shouldn’t be their problem.

GNG says the issue is mainly about elevator companies trying to slow down a generic product supplier that has many other products in the pipeline. The Western Grain Elevator Association steadfastly denies that, saying it’s all about the costs associated with segregating a bulk commodity with low margins.

Maybe a canola buyer will step up with a program to buy quinclorac treated canola and send it to accepting markets, but that hasn’t materialized yet.

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