Starting with the 2015 crop, oat buyer Grain Millers will no longer accept oats or oat products treated with glyphosate because of research showing it can change the processing quality.
“We wouldn’t have taken this step if we didn’t think we had to,” said Terry Tyson, grain procurement manager for Grain Millers Canada based in Yorkton, Sask.
He said the company recognizes glyphosate is a valuable harvest aid for oat growers. Applying glyphosate to oats just before harvest kills weeds in the crop and also dries down the crop usually allowing farmers to straight combine the field instead of swathing, which puts the crop at more risk if it rains before harvest.
But several years ago Grain Millers started to see problems with groat or flake integrity, Tyson said. During processing, some oats acted as if they had been frozen, even though they hadn’t been, he said.
The company traced the cause to applying glyphosate before the oat had fully matured.
“Then we did some plots and applied glyphosate at different timings and examined starch maturity at the University of Minnesota,” Tyson said. “That was the final piece of the puzzle.”
Research also revealed glyphosate reduces the production of beta glucan, a polysaccharide that makes some food products such as oats heart healthy.
Grain Millers’ decision is strictly based on glyphosate’s impact on oats during processing, he said. Glyphosate is deemed safe to apply to oats by regulators in Canada and the United States.
“We have not had any consumer-based or customer-based push-back on (glyphosate) residues,” Tyson said. “And we did not find through the course of this research any samples that exceeded the max limits.”
So far, Grain Millers is the only buyer to adopt the policy, Morris farmer and Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA) president Art Enns said in an interview May 20.
“Maybe Grain Millers has a different process, because we know of no other miller like General Mills or Quaker that have taken this stance,” he said.
Company officials with Richardson Milling (formerly Can-Oat) and Emerson Milling confirmed it will still buy oats sprayed pre-harvest with glyphosate.
“We are not aware of any findings that would suggest the quality or functionality of oat products is being affected by glyphosate applications,” Richardson spokesperson Tracey Shelton said.
Emerson Milling, which prepares oats for the pet food industry, has not encountered problems but grain buyer Tyler Palmer added Emerson Milling uses a different milling process than Grain Millers.
Some farmers have wondered if the policy change was linked to concerns about glyphosate residues, especially after the World Health Organization stated in March that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic” — a finding many experts disagree with.
POGA and Grain Millers are still discussing the purchasing policy change, Enns said.
“We’ve asked Grain Millers to share some of the information with us and I’m sure it will,” he said.
POGA is also funding a study by University of Saskatchewan on the effects of glyphosate on oats, Enns said.
POGA has urged oat growers to respect the policies their buyers have in place. It also stresses farmers need to follow herbicide label directions.
Canadian maltsters have prohibited pre-harvest glyphosate on malting barley for years. They say it inhibits germination, which is critical to the malt-making process.
Some beer makers have said they don’t want customers worrying about even trace amounts of glyphosate in their suds.