The Canadian agriculture system is complex and integrated from start to finish. What does that mean? It means that grain systems might include forages, manure, or livestock, and fruit and vegetable systems might send byproducts to be fed to livestock to avoid expensive tipping fees and adding to landfills and waste.
Even in the vegetable oil and biofuel processing systems, livestock play a key role as an end-use market for canola meal and dried distillers’ grains (DDGs) as a protein supplement.
To put it bluntly, it’s rather difficult to really, truly separate horticulture and grain production systems from livestock. And that’s not a bad thing — it’s quite the opposite, as livestock eating “byproduct” turns it into valuable meat and milk and keeps byproduct and nutrients out of landfills. The same goes for barley, oats, or wheat intended for food markets — while feed value may be lower than food, having the feed option means grain growers know any crop they grow will find a home.
All of that said makes the decision to maintain sales of the insecticide Matador in Ontario but pull lambda-cy products in Western Canada a real head-scratcher. Matador and other lambda-cy products won’t be available in Western Canada because of the label change to eliminate their use on anything destined for feed. That makes sense, somewhat, for canola, where the meal is nearly exclusively fed to livestock, but the product is also approved for lentil, chickpeas, and other pulses.
So why then is Syngenta still planning to sell it in Ontario? Carrot peelings, potato culls, and spoiled or damaged fruit and vegetables will get fed to livestock. Barley and oats that don’t make the human consumption cut will be valuable livestock feed. But, when farmers and agronomists make the call on using an insecticide, it’s not yet known where the final crop will land — if farmers are to adhere to the label of eliminating feed use it becomes a de-facto ban on use of the product.
It’s unclear to me how the label, as written, is workable. According to Syngenta, makers of Matador, the product will be available for crops such as oats, barley, and potatoes in Ontario, but “end users must not feed any part of treated crops to livestock.” Regional differences in pest pressure and crop types also factor in to the difference, the company says (more to come on that).
Then, there’s imports.
Ignoring Canada’s own domestic production, we import tonnes of grain and grain byproducts from the U.S. Lambda-cy has maintained its full label approval there. MRLs (maximum residue limits) are used between countries to regulate differences in registered product approvals. Put simply, so long as the grain tests at or below the MRL, it can enter Canada.
I reached out to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency about lambda-cy MRLs. The reporting limit for this pesticide is 0.04 ppm. The CFIA has not detected any residues of lambda-cyhalothrin above the reporting limit since it began testing, the agency says.
If I understand this correctly, Canada is using MRLs as a benchmark of safety for grain coming in to Canada, and, when testing our own domestic production, the MRL in question is not being exceeded. But “we” are still not allowed to use it for feed. Pardon my language, but that makes absolutely no bloody sense.
In my view, either the product label needs to include feed (and there is science to support that being a safe move), or, Canadian grain should be tested to current MRLs before it is sold as feed. If the final the product passes the MRL, it should be available for feed. Full stop.
That will cost money, yes, but the alternative is millions of tonnes of “food” being deemed worthless and ending up costing money to be tipped in to landfills (hello, emissions), and livestock producers will be forced to buy and/or import more expensive feed sources that may have been produced with lambda-cy from outside of Canada.
I’m not sure what the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s intention was in making this label change, but surely it can’t be this, can it?
This story has been edited to include a statement from CFIA, as well as clarify Syngenta’s position.