The Ultimate Game of Quinclorac Chicken

Did you ever play a game of chicken as a kid? You know the game where you and a buddy ride your bikes full speed at each other and the first one to bail off the collision path is the chicken. Its truly a silly game that lacks true skills of intelligence or strategy but rewards the behavior of recklessness.

What started as the Canola Council being proactive to warn growers about not disturbing exports to China has evolved into the ultimate game of quinclorac chicken.

In any game of chicken you have two sides barrelling towards each other insisting that the other will blink first.

The participants in our game of quinclorac chicken are Great Northern Growers (GNG) versus the Canola Council of Canada and its stakeholders. GNG is the small Saskatoon-based company selling the herbicide with quinclorac as its active ingredient under the brand name Clever. Like any game of chicken each side has an entourage whose main role is to cheer and help maintain their participants courage as they each speed towards each other at a ferocious pace.

GNG’s entourage of encouragement includes some growers that want to be able to use quinclorac to alleviate their cleaver problem. Some of these growers believe that quinclorac-treated canola will find a buyer or market because the free market hand of Adam Smith is a wonderful powerful thing.

Also in the GNG entourage is the former federal agriculture minister and now official opposition Trade Critic, Gerry Ritz. You can listen to Gerry’s passionate questioning of the “oxymoronic Canola Council stance” by clicking here.  Gerry is critical of the Canola Council because many products do not have MRLs (maximum residue limits) in China.

In the Canola Council’s entourage are growers that believe if there is any threat to the canola export market, the industry should be cautious to not jeopardize a 20 million acre crop.

Also in the Canola Council’s entourage is the Western Grain Elevator Association and its members — the main grain companies who actually sell the canola into export markets. Wade Sobkowich has been emphatic that its membership will not be buying any quinclorac treated canola and will make delivering farmers sign a waiver. The WGEA, COPA and Canola Council acknowledge that many products do not have MRLs in China, but quinclorac has a residue which makes it different.

Clearly we have two sides that disagree. The Canola Council and grain companies are saying that due to the fact quinclorac does not have a MRL in China and carries a residue, growers need to exercise caution and attempt to deal with in-field cleaver issues in other ways than Clever. GNG is emphatic that it is being picked on by Council and its members. GNG has claimed publicly that at least 300,000 acres of the product has been sold. Several provincial canola farmer board members were personally lobbied at the Canola Council convention in March to influence council to take a more farmer-friendly position.  Many farmers are behind Canola Council’s position and believe not using quinclorac is the farmer friendly position.

The game of quinclorac chicken is on. VROOM VROOM.

Who will back down first? Will either side back down? Will this small group of farmers be cautious or insist the Canola Council is bluffing? Do the Canola Council and grain companies actually have anything to gain from telling farmers to not use a product with an active that’s off patent? Will grain companies hold their position and not take quinclorac regardless of how many acres you farm or your prior history? Will farmers fill out the waiver honestly? Are we willing to risk access to a gigantic market like China over 300,000 acres? If China does reject shipments or the entire market due to traces of quinclorac, do individual growers understand the liability they are assuming?

As these two sides barrel down on each other decision day is coming fast. Ultimately, the farmers with the Clever (quinclorac) in their sheds will decide. Do I spray or not? It’s gut check time. Don’t worry, its only a 20 million acre crop, historically the most profitable crop, and involves China, our largest and most unpredictable customer. In games of chicken there is raised heartbeats, sweaty palms, stomach butterfly’s, and broken pride. Someone will have to blink.  Just who will it be?

 

 

Shaun Haney

Shaun Haney is the founder of RealAgriculture.com. He creates content regularly and hosts RealAg Radio on Rural Radio 147 every weekday at 4:30 PM est. @shaunhaney

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4 Comments

Hugh skotheim

I have not yet met a farmer who is on the side of the canola Council of Canada. I am a grower of canola north of Prince Albert Saskatchewan. We have group 2 resistance clearing up here. Quinclorac is the only chemical that will control them. Have you look to see how many other chemicals that do not have mrl in China? What about spraying glyphosate on canola in the fall to pre harvested so that we can straight cut it? There is way more glyphosate residue left on the canola than quinclorac. This is just a game of big companies trying to control the Canadian agriculture sector. I would be completely on the side of the canola Council of Canada if every herbicide that we used had an MRI for China. They want us to use edge granular herbicide to try and control cleavers, and it does not have an mrl in China. The hypocrisy is just too much. If the chemical comes from BASF or Monsanto or DuPont it’s fine.

Reply
Shaun Haney

Hugh,
You are correct that Edge does not have an MRL but it also does not have residue. Quinclorac has a residue and that is one of the issues.

Reply
Ash Skinner, CEO of GNG

Dear Mr Haney
I respect that your media blog (company) is heavily slanted toward sponsoring organizations like the Canola Council but must object to the painting you have drawn with your choice of words above.
Lets start with your scientific claims that products like Edge have no MRL. The 53 registered MRL products for use on canola all but a handful have MRLs. MRLs are established for each by testing them at maximum recommended use rates at latest recommended times of the year and them deemed by Health Canada as safe for consumption. Short of possibly a few seed treatments, that adopted the actives safe rates in order to minimize the analysis and cost in registering them, all have established MRLs. To state only quinclorac has one is not accurate to say the least. The tested MRL for Clever averaged below .02 parts per million given usage rates established for canola, Edge has an MRL of .05 ppm. Glyphosate which has no MRL established in China has an MRL of 20 ppm, 1000 times that of quinclorac. Now some might argue that glyphosate, unlike 23 others that have no MRL in China or Codex, has an established MRL on Codex, however, China has the exact same policy for the use of Codex MRLs as it does for country of origin.
Also the same WGEA members sell barley and wheat with higher use rates of quinclorac into China with no established MRL or Codex. China is 80% of the Canadian export market for barley. Mr Ritz as well as ourselves and many experts have asked Chinese authorities and they are clear they have NO MRL issues with Canada. However, Canada does risk exports to China over dockage of which cleavers are not removed.
Now to be clear we have no issue with sitting out on quinclorac if it was the right thing to do for farmers. Cleavers through pesticide alternative costs, grade loses and yield loses are estimated to cost farmers in excess of $300 million this year. We have Chinese buyers who are happy to write into contract that the canola may contain quinclorac, after all they are the number one producer and user of quinclorac in the world.
The issue is a few grain companies have monopolized port access and even if someone wants to ship said canola to interested buyer they will not allow it. Our entire grain industry is built on segregation by grade, variety, GMO vs non etc down to what ever specs the customer wants. Shipping canola with quinclorac on it is a non issue, in the words of our Chinese contacts it is a made in Canada problem only.
In our opinion this comes down to the desire of mega corporations to take pesticides the way they did canola seed. To eliminate low cost alternative pesticides for under patent ones allowing $30 to $50 an acre to be extracted, hence the reason all new actives will be registered on Codex while so many off patent alternatives will never be, giving the excuse to eliminate them. As with canola seed that once a grower could seed for under a dollar an acre the pesticides soon will cost growers $30 to $50 an acre once old actives are refused by the grain companies who will happily handle many new ones. As we witness the current state of many new pesticides are on the market with no Codex, no MRLs in major markets and no objection by the Canola Council or the WGEA even though their testable levels would be higher then Clever. As you should well know Mr Haney these mega corporations have a loud voice given their ability to buy influence. We at GNG will continue to stand up for growers. By the way thanks for reaching out to GNG for the other side of the story (haha for those who didn’t catch the sarcasm).

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