Canadian farmers and cereal crop associations want to speak to Kellogg’s.
The maker of iconic cereal brands like Mini-Wheats and Froot Loops has decided to ban pre-harvest glyphosate in its supply chain for wheat and oats.
Farmers and farm groups want to tell Kellogg’s why farmers use glyphosate prior to harvest and how the herbicide is part of a farming system that increases carbon sequestration, reduces soil erosion and improves soil health.
“That’s really the critical point. To have the dialogue with our customers on how glyphosate is used…. And have the dialogue on the sustainability story of modern Canadian agriculture, which depends upon modern agriculture tools,” said Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada.
“I don’t know if that opportunity is still there because we haven’t had a chance to have that discussion with Kellogg’s.”
Kellogg’s is phasing out the use of pre-harvest glyphosate for wheat and oats within its supply chain by the end of 2025. Growers apply glyphosate before harvest to control weeds and to dry down the crop.
The decision applies to Kellogg’s major markets, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and France.
This move is part of a broader pesticide strategy for Kellogg’s. The company wants to reduce pesticide use within its supply chain.
“We have been engaging with our suppliers about pesticide use, including desiccation with glyphosate, in our ingredient supply chains since before 2017,” said Amy Senter, Kellogg’s chief sustainability officer.
Kellogg’s didn’t actually announce its new position on glyphosate.
As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy group based in California, made the announcement. It has been pressuring Kellogg’s to take action on pre-harvest glyphosate because the herbicide has become controversial.
In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans. Hundreds of toxicologists denounced the IARC decision as flawed and biased. Regulatory bodies around the world, including Health Canada, the European Food Safety Authority and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have reviewed the safety of glyphosate and concluded it’s not a carcinogen.
Nonetheless, in North America more than 18,000 lawsuits have been filed related to the safety of glyphosate.
Such lawsuits are a massive financial risk to food companies, including Kellogg’s, said As You Sow.
“Kellogg’s failure to address pesticide use in its supply chains creates legal and reputational risk for the company … and consumer lawsuits have targeted manufacturers of foods containing such residues.”
So far, Kellogg’s hasn’t met with Cereals Canada or other farm groups.
“No consultations with the oat growers of Western Canada occurred prior, or after, the Kellogg announcement,” said Shawna Mathieson, Prairie Oat Growers Association executive director.
Kellogg’s has already made its commitment, but Cereals Canada still wants to meet company officials about glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.
Dahl wants to explain how glyphosate helps farmers reduce tillage, which improves carbon sequestration and enhances soil health.
“Glyphosate is one of the tools … that has enabled the sustainability story that we see now in Western Canada,” he said. “Taking away those tools will make these modern agricultural practices more difficult.”
The Kellogg’s policy could also affect cropping decisions. Oat growers, particularly in northeastern Saskatchewan, rely on pre-harvest glyphosate because the climate is cooler and it’s harder to dry the crop naturally.
“In regions without enough dry days, the elimination of glyphosate as a pre-harvest weed control would encourage some producers to grow other crops in place of oats,” Mathieson said.
Many growers are worried that a ban on pre-harvest glyphosate is just the beginning.
Gary Stanford, past chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission, also wants to speak with Kellogg’s. Canadian farmers need to share the potential consequences of the phase-out, such as more tillage.
“We’ve heard from other cereal companies and food companies, that they’re concerned about the use of everything,” said Stanford, who farms near Magrath, Alta.
“I’m concerned about us going down the avenue (that) Europe is (taking), where they are going to ban all pesticides.”
There’s also the matter of weed control.
Some growers choose glyphosate over other dry-down products because it also kills weeds like Canada thistle. Late summer and fall is the best time to spray for Canada thistle, which has become an issue in certain export markets.
Vietnam is now testing wheat imports for thistle seeds.
“We’re also seeing pressure from international markets on things like weed seed,” Dahl said.
“Vietnam is closed to bulk shipments from Canada now because of thistle.”
Pre-harvest glyphosate is an important tool for thousands of Canadian farmers, but it is possible to carry on without it, Stanford said.
He hasn’t sprayed pre-harvest glyphosate for years. Instead, he lets crops stand longer to dry or has them dry in a swath. That’s feasible because he farms in southern Alberta.
Growers in the northern Prairies have a shorter drying period at harvest time. Still, there are other options besides glyphosate, Stanford said.
Farmers can use a desiccant like Reglone or return to swathing their crops.
“I do believe we can work on the solutions,” Stanford said. “I’m glad they (Kellogg’s) gave us five years to work on it.”