The Need to Harmonize Maximum Residue Levels

Nearly All Produce Has Zero Residues of Crop Protection Products

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

It can be tempting to grab a piece of produce right off the shelf and take a bite. We have the California Specialty Crops Council and the MRL Workshop to thank for this! MRL stands for the Maximum Residue Level on any agricultural produce.

Now, the words “residue level on produce” may be alarming, but it is important to note that we are talking about parts per billion that are far below the unhealthy level. In fact, nearly all produce has zero residues!

maximum residue level
Gary Van Sickle, Specialty Crops Council

The MRL Workshop is an event that has been held for the past 12 years in San Francisco, where experts from around the world come together to discuss new findings and challenges.

Gary Van Sickle, executive director of the California Specialty Crops Council, explained that a significant issue within the industry is the lack of harmonization amongst the countries.

“You’ve gone from a situation where many countries that used to use the Codex Food Safety Standard are now moving forward with setting their own, and every one of these standards is a little different,” Van Sickle said. “This creates problems for agriculture producers trying to export produce to countries with their standard.”

The MRL Workshop helps to identify these problems and recognize how to start solving them. According to Van Sickle, the keys are transparency and regulations that are reasonable.

When considering the number of specialty crops California exports across the world, the importance of this workshop becomes more and more evident.

Food Waste Solutions Include the American Farmer (Part 2)

Biotechnology is Part of the Food Waste Solution

by Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm Director

Last week, California Ag Today published an article about the food waste in America discussion held at the 2016 Maximum Residue Level (MRL) Workshop in San Francisco. Jay Vroom, CEO of CropLife America, felt the farmer’s voice was largely absent from the topic of food waste. In the second part of this series, Vroom advocates for the use of bioscience to help eliminate food waste.

According to Vroom, the most vital occurrence of food waste is in production. Consumer food waste is very high, but Vroom believes bioscience is key to keeping the statistics low in all areas of production. “The opportunities for crop protection and biotechnology span a visual that would certainly overcome food waste yield potential with biotechnology,” he said.

In addition, Vroom stated that other genetic enhancements, crop protection tools, seed bed preparation, soil health, moisture management, modern plant nutrient, fertility programs and equipment advances all underscore why farmers need to be included in the food waste discussion. “Most especially,” Vroom said agriculture community can contribute, “the miracles of precision agriculture that are out there in the hands of farmers in almost every corner of the United States today and in almost every farming system.”

At the MRL Workshop, Vroom told the audience, “The farmer’s role and the farmer’s voice in all this is largely absent. We’re looking to help lead—with many of you and others who are willing to participate in a broad coalition—in getting the farmer’s voice in there.”

Jay Vroom, CEO, CropLife America
Jay Vroom, CEO of CropLife America

The farmer’s voice, equipment and biotechnology are imperative because, “modern genetic seed advancements and breeding also generate plant material that is healthier and results in longer storability,” said Vroom. If food were to have longer storability, it wouldn’t be as much of a consumer issue.”

Vroom’s affiliates, who have surveyed the food waste landscape and uncovered results that encourage farmers to speak up, concluded, “The farmer’s voice in the food waste conversation is an opportunity that we see as wide open.”

“I think a place for us to start would be to get the facts together,” Vroom stated, “such as, ‘How much more food would be wasted if the technologies the farmers used to produce those crops today weren’t available and you would have a lot less storability, shelf life, etcetera?’”

“We know that insects, disease, weed control, regulators, fumigants, direct and indirect food waste data is out there,” Vroom said. “We need to gather that up, work together, and assemble it by crop to tell that story about the crops that are directly consumed by consumers.”

Vroom discussed food waste mostly with regard to produce; however, animals and dairy are equally important in the conversation. “Certainly  it gets a little more complicated with protein; but once again, better animal nutrition results in less food waste from meat, milk and eggs. Those are animal agriculture partnerships that we don’t often reach out to, yet another opportunity for us to be able to tell that indirect story as well,” he said.

Vroom contended there are many ways for farmers in every aspect of agriculture to “join forces, connect to the food waste and food safety debate, and to eliminate these critical issues, which certainly time to time is also front of mind for consumers and voters. And we’ve got a great story to tell,” he concluded.

Food Waste Solutions Include the American Farmer

American Farmers are Part of the Food Waste Solution

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

At the Maximum Residue Level (MRL) Harmonization Workshop in San Francisco earlier this month, California Ag Today spoke to Jay Vroom, CEO, CropLife America about food waste. This is part one in a two-part series; part two will be published on June 21, 2016.

Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America (CLA) launched the MRL workshop with a discussion of food waste in America and the strong message that we can all do better. We can all reduce food waste in our homes and restaurants; farmers readily reduce food waste in their growing practices. Vroom said famers have the opportunity to spread the word on how they are a big part of the solution in reducing food waste.

Jay Vroom, president and CEO, CropLife America
Jay Vroom, CEO, CropLife America

“Readily-available facts about food waste on social media are often sensitive and misunderstood,” said Vroom, particularly the comparison between the large amounts of wasted food every year and poverty levels. Vroom said circulating speculation includes the claim, “Roughly 80 billion pounds of food is wasted annually and supposedly accounts for an estimated 20% of landfill volume.

The majority of food waste comes from the consumer level, Vroom noted, and includes school cafeterias, restaurants and institutional facilities. “Yet, growers are just as important because the product they are producing suffers an avoidable fate in early production,” Vroom said.

The grower’s voice deserves to be recognized at the start of the food waste conversation—where it begins—in production losses. “Farmers do not get credit where food waste has already been reduced,” Vroom stated. “We need to highlight the fact that food loss is already prevented because of modern agricultural technologies.”

“When we do landscape surveillance on the internet and elsewhere,” he said, “there’s virtually no voice of the American farmer in this conversation about food waste.” The farmer’s voice is crucial to determine the time their goods get to the consumer and the time they are thrown out, Vroom emphasized. “A consumer may have produce that goes bad within three days of purchase. If biotechnology could increase that time by a day or even two, the amount of food waste could be reduced,” Vroom said.

Part two of the series, to be published on June 20, will cover the ways Vroom recommends ensuring farmers have their voices heard and how bioscience could eliminate food waste.

Washington, D.C.-based CLA, the largest trade association that represents pesticide manufacturers, distributors and formulators in America,  supports farmers and growers with environmental policies based on scientific facts.