The company that sells quinclorac herbicide thinks there may be a loophole that allows its customers to sell their canola into the mainstream grain-handling system.
The Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA) and the Canadian Oilseed Processors Association (COPA) say their members will not accept any quinclorac-treated canola because China has not established maximum residue limits (MRL) for the chemical.
Growers will be asked to sign a declaration at their local elevator or crush facility stating that the canola in their truck has not been treated with the product.
Sean Cooper, director of corporate development with Great Northern Growers, said that is not going to be an issue for most of its customers who bought its Clever quinclorac-based herbicide.
That is because they used the product as a pre-emergent burn-down herbicide rather than applying it directly on the crop.
“The declaration as it currently stands is saying that it is sprayed on canola and this isn’t sprayed on canola,” he said.
Cooper said they have conducted tests on the canola seed from fields that received a pre-emergent treatment of quinclorac and there was no residue.
“That would suggest that canola can be marketed anywhere,” he said.
Cooper estimates about one million acres were sprayed with quinclorac this year.
Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the WGEA, said it is up to growers to determine whether they are complying with the declaration.
“If spraying (quinclorac) on the soil prior to the canola emerging means to them that they can declare that they have not used it on their canola, then I guess that’s the way they declare it,” he said.
But they will be held liable for damages if their canola contaminates the system, so they better have high risk tolerance.
“Are they comfortable that it’s not going to result in a quinclorac residue showing up on a canola shipment? If they are, they’re probably in the clear,” said Sobkowich.
Rick White, chief executive officer of the Canadian Canola Growers Association, said growers need to fully understand what they are signing and adhere to the declaration because it is a legal document.
“If they are not sure, they should have an honest conversation with the grain company or the buyer who’s going to be buying that from them to make sure there is no misunderstanding and no problems,” he said.
White worries that the pre-emergent justification is splitting hairs and could get growers in trouble.
“Whether you put it on the soil or the plant itself isn’t the issue. It’s the residue that’s the problem regardless of how it got there,” he said.
Cooper said growers who do not want to deliver to WGEA or COPA member companies or who applied the product on the crop have alternative delivery options.
“We’ve been finding some markets ourselves and the fact is we have substantial markets for it and we will be helping farmers connect to those markets this year,” he said.
Those markets are in Canada and the United States where MRLs are in place for quinclorac.
Brian Innes, vice-president of government relations with the Canola Council of Canada, said the council has asked the federal government to push for the establishment of a quinclorac MRL at the next CODEX meeting.
But it is not a certainty because every year more dossiers are put forward by governments than can be reviewed.
“There is some horse trading that goes on,” he said.
The Canadian government attempted to get quinclorac on the CODEX list last year but there were problems with the dossier.
BASF, which is the registrant of the active ingredient, is conducting additional research to address those problems.
Innes said if quinclorac is identified as a priority at the upcoming CODEX meeting, there should be an MRL in place by the end of 2017.
That would give exporters a level of comfort and confidence because World Trade Organization countries like China rely on CODEX MRLs when they don’t have one of their own.
China tends to wait for a CODEX MRL to be established before creating one of its own. It recently published a list of 1,058 draft MRLs including 13 for products used on canola. All 13 had MRLs identical to the CODEX MRLs.
Cooper said it would be great if a CODEX MRL was established in late 2017 but he said the council and the grain companies should be developing markets for quinclorac-treated canola before then.
“I don’t think farmers ought to have to wait until then to be able to take care of their cleaver problems,” he said.