The announcement in late November that Health Canada is moving forward with a label change for lamba-cy insecticide products, ie. Matador and Silencer, effective April 2023, immediately set off alarms across Western Canada regarding problems with flea beetle control in canola.
Ontario agronomists and growers then began to ask if they too would have access to the products for use on wheat, oats, and potatoes. The initial answer was, yes, so long as it is used for food crops only, which, for anyone who has grown a crop, it’s rare that a farmer grows a food-quality crop and hopes it gets downgraded to feed. What’s more, even within horticulture crops, such as potatoes, a certain amount of byproduct or culls are efficiently repurposed by, you guessed it, livestock.
Gord Kurbis, vice-president of trade policy and crop protection for the Canada Grains Council, says it is rare that a crop protection product is approved for food-crop use only, especially because so many crops have some byproduct of processing fed to livestock. But it does happen, and that is where we are at with the Health Canada ruling on lambda-cy.
Kurbis explains that we have real-world data to show “zero to near-zero” detection of lambda-cy in Canadian grain, but Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency is drawing on modelling data to support its decision to remove feed from the approved application label.
The decision, Kurbis says, shows a disparity in the full understanding of not just Canada’s crop production and grain handling systems, but a lack of consideration for imported products as well.
“This is unworkable…we pointed out that, for example, the U.S. EPA came to the conclusion that, yes, because of the extreme unlikelihood of having residues detected, lambda continues to be registered for both food and feed uses in the U.S. So therefore, U.S. grain produced using lambda may not be eligible for import. If the PMRA decision proceeds as it is, we don’t think the government has thought through all the implications for trade, which could be massive,” Kurbis says. (more below the player)
If other geographies, such as the U.S., maintain access to the product, which they are, will U.S. corn be allowed north? What about distillers dried grains from ethanol? The label, as written, could potential impact a huge portion of livestock feed here at home and imported.
“In the end, if we had regulators listening to interviews like this, we would say we really, really rely on the PMRA to make science-based decisions, which they do,” Kurbis says. “We also need timely decisions that give us a measure of regulatory predictability like, look, this is what’s coming down the pipeline, and we need those decisions to be workable. And so not all those pieces add up on this decision, and it looks like a mess is going to be created as a result. And all of this is avoidable. But that requires an immediate decision from the (Health) minister.”