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EU’s glyphosate tolerances loom over lentil trade

Updated, April 13 –– Canada’s lentil industry wants to see the European Union afford the same tolerances for glyphosate residue on lentils as it does on other pulse crops.

The CEOs of Pulse Canada and the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council say they’ve booked meetings this week across the European continent with pulse buyers to “work to ensure that there is a clear path forward” on the issue.

The EU’s maximum allowable level for glyphosate — the non-selective Group 9 active ingredient in herbicides such as Roundup — is now 0.1 parts per million (ppm), compared to a tolerance of 10 ppm in peas, Pulse Canada said in a release last week.

By comparison, maximum tolerances for glyphosate residues on lentils in Canada are four ppm for lentils and five for peas, Pulse Canada said. In the U.S., those tolerances are set at five ppm for lentils and eight for peas.

According to the Winnipeg-based pulse industry body, the issue of the EU’s tolerances first emerged when a shipment of organic lentils from Turkey was tested and found to exceed the EU’s tolerance for glyphosate. (To Pulse Canada’s knowledge, the EU has the same tolerance for glyphosate on both organic and conventional lentils.)

The majority of North America’s lentils will have no detectable level of glyphosate because the bulk of the crop was not treated with the product, Pulse Canada CEO Gordon Bacon said.

That said, “Europe is an important market for North American lentils and we need to ensure that there are workable solutions in place for the trade to address the differences in glyphosate tolerances,” Bacon said. “This issue clearly points out the need for more harmonization across jurisdictions.”

Canada’s pulse exporters have said they’re now being especially cautious until they have a better understanding about how their product will be handled on arrival overseas, Pulse Canada’s Carl Potts said in an interview April 13.

Canadian exporters shipped 118,000 tonnes of lentils, worth $111 million, to the EU in 2010, Potts said, making the European bloc Canada’s second largest total lentil export market after Turkey.

“Model”

Glyphosate residues in lentils “must be considered in the context of what is deemed to be acceptable levels in other foods in Europe,” Pulse Canada said in its release.

Glyphosate is tolerated at levels 500 times higher in mushrooms and 100 times higher in wheat, canola and peas in Europe compared to the bloc’s tolerance for lentils, Pulse Canada said.

The two pulse groups and both countries’ federal pesticide regulators “are working together to submit an application to the EU to establish an MRL (maximum residue level) that we hope will end up being more in line with the MRLs in place in Canada and the U.S.,” Tim McGreevy, CEO of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, said in the same release.

Under normal circumstances the EU review process may take one year or more, the pulse groups said in their release. There don’t appear to be any fast-track options available to change such MRLs, Potts said.

The Idaho-based U.S. council feels the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s treatment of dry peas, lentils, chickpeas and dry beans as a single crop group with more similar MRLs is “a model to be considered by other regulatory jurisdictions,” McGreevy said.

The two groups said they also plan to work with their respective countries’ governments to press for “a glyphosate tolerance for pulses that facilitates trade (and) the value of crop groupings” at Codex Alimentarius, the United Nations’ body for development of internationally recognized standards in food safety.

In the meantime, the groups said, “there is limited capacity to test for glyphosate residues in laboratories with experience and expertise to ensure accurate and repeatable results.

“The Canadian and (U.S.) pulse industries have started to expand testing, and are working to ensure sufficient laboratory capacity so that samples can be assessed in a timely fashion.”

Both groups said they’re also “working with the crop protection industry to identify alternate crop protection products that meet domestic and export country tolerances.”

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