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Glyphosate increasingly under the gun

This year’s Keep it Clean! campaign is warning producers not to use glyphosate as a desiccant

The glyphosate you use on the farm hasn’t changed — but public attitudes, at least in some quarters, have radically shifted.

That’s part of the warning in this year’s edition of The Keep it Clean! Program. The site has information on maximum residue levels and regulatory updates but also reflects developments at the national and international levels.

Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada.
photo: File

“The Keep It Clean! campaign is targeted to increase awareness of these international issues,” said Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada.

“Missing maximum residue limits might pose a trade risk and that happens if one of our major trading partners has not approved a product. It might be legal to use in Canada, but if its use is going to put markets at risk, this is something that we will use the Keep It Clean campaign to notify farmers about.”

Growers “should be very careful” in following instructions on labels when spraying, he said.

“That especially includes the fall application of glyphosate,” said Dahl. “Glyphosate is not registered as a desiccant and is not meant to be used to dry down crops.”

Glyphosate is labelled for the fall control of weeds, but should not be used when the crop is fully mature, in either high or low spots.

“If the label isn’t followed, we do see incidents of residues occurring and that can create international problems,” said Dahl.

No countries have actually imposed restrictions on glyphosate. However, Italy has put in place protectionist country-of-origin labelling laws, and Coldiretti, the country’s largest farm group, has been aggressively waging a campaign that has denigrated Canadian exports. The influential farm group has condemned Canadian durum by saying farmers here make “intensive use of glyphosate… in the pre-harvest phase.”

“They have convinced our consumers here that Canadian durum wheat is not a safe product to consume because of the presence of glyphosate,” Luigi Cristiano Laurenza, pasta secretary at the Italian Association of Confectionery and Pasta Industries, said in a March interview.

“Unfortunately, our pasta makers are buying less durum wheat from Canada as a result.”

In fact, Italy — which typically buys about one million tonnes of Canadian durum annually — hasn’t bought any since last fall.

“One of the hooks it’s used has been the presence of glyphosate,” said Dahl.

However, the real goal is to shield Italian growers from competition, he said.

“That is at the heart of the Italian issue. There is a rising protectionist sentiment within Europe and with Italy in particular,” he said. “Countries that have a protectionist bent are going to be looking for reasons to block trade. If the tools of tariffs have been taken away through trade agreements, then they will be looking for sanitary reasons to block trade. These are things that farmers need to pay very careful attention to.”

Ottawa is considering making a formal complaint to the World Trade Organization on Italy’s new country-of-origin labelling policy for pasta, but that process would likely take years to run its course.

In the meantime, farmers should not be using glyphosate to desiccate crops prior to harvest, he said.

“If farmers are using it as a dry-down, then farmers should be changing their practices,” said Dahl. “That’s not what it is registered to be used for. There is more scrutiny on all products, but glyphosate does seem to attract particular attention from the activist community.”

The scrutiny is coming mainly from Europe, but beyond Europe as well.

“There is increasing scrutiny on everything because we have the increased ability to test. We have testing in range of parts per billion or parts per trillion,” said Dahl. “These are very, very minute numbers. Our ability to test has far outstripped indicators of risk for products. That doesn’t necessarily stop activists who are looking to scale back on modern agriculture practices.”

Producers should also talk to their grain buyers before spraying to ensure that the products they are using are acceptable to customers, he added. Canadian growers should follow labels for rate, timing and pre-harvest interval in order to reduce market risks, Dahl said.

“These are issues for domestic processors as well, to protect our markets and ensure that we continue to be known as that reliable safe supplier.”

About the author


Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.


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  • Than Nguyen

    I definitely agree that producers should also talk to their grain buyers before spraying to ensure that the products they are using are acceptable to customers. Transparency and honesty is key to long term relationships and trust.
    Than Nguyen

  • Rob Bright

    Given the IARC’s classification of glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen and a known animal carcinogen, it makes more sense that glyphosate be banned altogether. And given the fact that toxicological analysis of RoundUp Ready shows that the formulation is hundreds of times more toxic than glyphosate is on its own, it seems obvious that glyphosate based herbicides should also be banned immediately. Why this dangerous herbicide is being used illegitimately to “burn down” mature crops (eg used as a desiccant to dry them and speed up harvest times) should be viewed as criminal negligence.

  • Ian Forrester

    Given a choice to consume a product that has been sprayed with a toxic substance or one which hasn’t only a fool would select to eat the one with the toxin.

    • LD50

      The fool is the one who believes that glycophosphate is sprayed on any actual consumable items. Gullible, credulous, junk-science-believing fool.

      • Ian Forrester

        So what is grown in farmers’ fields is non-consumable? You are an even bigger fool than you showed yourself to be while discussing climate change. Corn, soybeans and canola are all “consumable items”.

        In addition, glyphosate (please get the spelling correct) is sprayed on wheat, barley, oats and other non-GMO crops as a “desiccant” just before harvest. You are just a dishonest non-scientist who knows nothing about science, whether it be agricultural science or climate science.

        • LD50

          It’s not sprayed on growing foodcrops, idiot.

          • Ian Forrester

            Of course it is. You are the idiot or dishonest fool. Have you never heard about “round up ready crops”? You do know that the active herbicide in Round up is glyphosate?

            And it is used as a desiccant just before harvest on other crops. A little bit of honest research and you would know all of that.

          • LD50

            Imbecile — glycophosphate is used BEFORE PLANTING. You are truly a moron to refuse to accept this basic farming fact, and to continue to assert that it’s applied to things people eat.

            Or, it could simply be that you’re really not this spectacularly dumb … but, rather, you’re the most-despicable type of liar.

          • Ian Forrester

            Thank you once again for showing your ignorance. Glyphosate (please use the correct spelling since misspelling the name makes you look even more silly) is a post emergent herbicide and is sprayed 2 or 3 times after the crop and weeds have germinated. It is also used as a desiccant just before harvest of certain non RR crops.


  • Athena Emmanouilidis

    Ban all the toxic herbicides! Use natural methods to kill of weeds.They are not only harming those who consume these products, but they are hurting the farmers too! It’s as if farming wasn’t efficient when it was much more natural

  • David Dockendorff

    Sorry Cam Dahl, the CFIA and the PMRA did approve the use of Glyphosate as a desiccant. And the result is high levels of Glyphosate and AMPA (the metabolite) in Canadian produced cereals and pulses. Average residue levels of Glyphosate in Canadian cereals and pulses is 450 parts per billion. Compare that to the USA at 59 parts per billion. Canadian bran (wheat especially at 2483 ppb) is a big concern.
    Mr. Trump, here is another reason to by American.

  • Neil Batchelor

    “Brought to you today by Reglone (TM)!” Okay, okay, that’s a little cynical sure. Glyphosate residues are in fact a genuine concern for both consumers and the grain trade in general. Anything that reduces our ability to compete in the global market, right or wrong, has to be taken seriously by growers. If that means the reduction of the use of glyphosate as a dessicant (or even altogether), then that’s a positive step forward. We’re a pretty smart bunch. We’ll figure something else out and we’ll have plenty of support doing it. For example, there is a quiet revolution going on today in Agriculture: under aliases such as “Groundswell”, “Soil Health”, “The Albrecht Method”, and “Bio-Dynamic” farming and others, there is a significant move afoot to follow more natural processes to achieve both sustainability and profitability on the farm. Perhaps the days of the sprayer being the busiest piece of equipment on the farm are indeed numbered. Certainly it is an exciting and historic time to be involved in Canadian Agriculture!

  • Nora

    Ottawa shouldn’t bother going to the WTO. It will be a waste of millions, as was fighting for the right to use hormones in meat production. We won, but we still can’t sell meat in Europe.

    The fact is, if people don’t want to eat something, they won’t. Increasingly, people don’t want to eat food that has been sprayed with anything. It’s that simple. The solution is to switch over to other techniques, like cover crops. It’s a business reality: adapt or face the consequences.