MRL Issues for Exporting Crops Worldwide

MRL Issues for Exporting Crops Worldwide

January 31, 2017

Challenges of MRLs on Exported Crops

By: Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California farmers are careful with agricultural crop protection products because it is critical that they produce safe and wholesome food for their customers across the nation and the export markets.

“I think that there are some real challenges facing growers in California today as they send their commodities around the world. They're facing increasing challenges of knowing what the right chemicals are to apply and on what levels” said Thomas Jones, Senior Analytical Services Director for the Safe Food Alliance, a division of DFA of California.

Thomas Jones

“We have our own strict regulations within California, not only for the application, but also for the maximum residue levels (MRLs) that are allowed in various crops. That is also carried on to the federal level.  As we go into other countries, they may have entirely different regulations,” Jones said.

It can be confusing to not only farmers, but to registrants of materials, because there's a lack of standardization on the MRLs in different countries. “Historically, there was the CODEX system, which was a UN-based system, gearing towards a more international standard for pesticide residues. Very well-thought out, very scientifically-based,” Jones explained.

Increasingly, many countries don't want to adopt the CODEX system. Those countries wish to set up their own system and tolerances. “They may be responding to their own political pressures within their countries. We are seeing a process called de-harmonization, in which every country wants to establish its own positive list of what is allowed and what is not allowed in products,” Jones said.

Some of these countries have systems that agree with the U.S. and California state regulations; others, not so much. Jones said, “It is important that the growers not only know what is legal in this country and in our state, but also what is allowed in the target markets that they're looking at.”

Other marketers in areas such as the European Union are creating their own standards due to consumer pressure. “Some of these marketers put on random low MRLs on some of their own products and keep them high on the others in the store. It's all about getting a marketing edge,” Jones said.

“Some of those may or may not be based on any scientific standards. Anything that they can get out of the print media or an educational course is essential. It is important to work with your PCA, as well. It is important that they know what they're up against as far as growing these crops” he said.

DFA of California is available to growers to help them qualify to meet the standards in the U.S. and abroad. "We have training programs. We do training twice a year on fumigation safety for the various processors of dried foods and tree nuts, particularly in terms of commodity fumigations and what treatments are allowed and not," Jones said. "We also have a full-service pesticide testing laboratory and are very aware of the requirements in these other countries, so we are happy to help both processors and growers with our monitoring efforts.”