Every day seems to bring another story of a food processor fighting claims that its products contain dangerous levels of pesticide residues.
Companies have had to replace packaging and product descriptions because of legal actions. They have been forced to acknowledge that tiny residues may, in fact, be found in their products. They have then struggled to explain the matter of legally approved tolerances and health-risk science.
The issue came up at General Mills recent annual meeting.
These issues are all signs of the pressures coming down on food companies.
The issue is pushing its way back to the farmgate not only in North America, but around the world.
Food processors might be facing the pressure directly, but they will push that back onto the farmer as they attempt to minimize residues in their products.
“There obviously is increased scrutiny. What happens on the farm really does matter beyond the driveway,” said Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada.
Cereals Canada has been running a campaign to encourage farmers to strictly follow pesticide label instructions and “best practices” when using in-crop pesticides because of growing consumer concerns. Those concerns are being borne out by the recent controversies.
“We’re seeing more and more trade barriers come up. This was the summer of trade barriers,” said Dahl about the worldwide growth of protectionism.
Farmers need to avoid being caught up in the various trade wars. Right now, Canadian grain has a sales advantage versus some other competitors, but that could be undermined if farmers aren’t careful with pesticide use.
“One of our brands is our reputation for delivering consistent high quality product. We have to work to preserve that brand,” said Dahl.