The decision by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) to allow lambda-cy sales with a food-only use label has the potential to put producers in a difficult position early in the growing season.
Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA), says that this is an incredibly difficult situation, but it hasn’t been created by producers, grain handlers, or crop protection companies — the government’s own regulatory body and bureaucratic timelines are to blame.
Sobkowich says that the PMRA decision to allow lambda-cy to be used on crops intended for food but not feed creates an “untenable” situation for farmers. “We don’t see how a farmer could possibly know [at the time of spraying] how their quality is going to come out at the end of the year,” he says.
As it stands, producers delivering to an WGEA elevator must sign a declaration are required to declare that their deliveries have been treated with crop protection products and active ingredients registered for Canada in accordance with the label directions. But, this is where the difficulty come in — the farmer is required to follow the label, but how can they possibly follow the label when they don’t necessarily know where the product is going? Even if the crop is sold as food, does the farmer know that all byproducts will be used as food, too? (more below the audio)
There’s also the issue of different regulations in the U.S. The U.S. reviewed lambda-cy and came to a different decision than PMRA, allowing the label to remain for food and feed use. The difference calls in to question how American feed grains will be assessed at the border — is it going to be enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in some way?
“Does that mean now somehow there’s going to be testing of that grain as it enters. enters the livestock sector here in Canada, or, or are they not testing? And therefore, what’s the enforceability on that?” he asks. “The other question is, what kind of a playing field does it create or unlevel playing field does it create between Canadian producers and U.S. producers when on each side of the border [as] they will be following different labels and coming up with different market opportunities.”
Sobokowich says that PMRA should be ramping up the timelines to to to relook at new data that’s available, which was included by the U.S. in its evaluation, so that farmers have the information that they need in order to make purchasing decisions coming into the spring.
The vast majority of farmers are law-abiding, says Sobkowich, and if farmers understand that a portion of what they’re growing at least either all or a portion of it is going for feed use, then they would have to make some hard decisions about whether to apply the product or not. That said, he understands that when farmers are faced with pest pressure, that’s the immediate problem that needs dealt with.
“We can understand why they would make that decision [to use lambda-cy], [but] they would be doing so with the knowledge that they could be limiting their marketing opportunities for for what they’re growing,” he says.