After finding that growers who sprayed their grain crops with glyphosate ended up with an inferior product, Grain Millers, Inc. announced that it will avoid buying western Canadian oats that have been treated with the herbicide.
Procurement manager for Grain Millers, Inc., Terry Tyson confirmed that the company will only accept oats that have been allowed to mature naturally, either while still in the field, or in the swath (a holding place for harvested grain). He argued that use of glyphosate as a pre-harvest management product disrupts the natural maturation process and negatively affects starch development, resulting in lower quality flakes and flour.
“Last summer, in 2015, we introduced our new policy on the use of pre-harvest glyphosate, in effect banning that practice, (but) we had already taken a large position in the new crop market by that time so we are (phasing in the) policy this year.”
The company seems tone-cold serious about not buying grains that have been treated with glyphosate. All growers are required to sign an affidavit that prohibits pre-harvest glyphosate.
Though Grain Millers’ headquarters is in Minnesota, is buys oats primarily from Canadian growers, taking delivery in a facility in Yorkton, Sask. Many growers were caught off-guard when the company refused to purchase from them, and though their policy is controversial, they are standing by it.
Tyson said that Grain Millers’ decision to avoid glyphosate-treated oats had nothing to do with health issues or food safety concerns, but was about quality issues that the company noticed in its products about five years ago.
“Our policy is about functional performance.”
The company first scrutinized its processing systems and then looked into external factors such varietal characteristics, fungicide use and chemical applications. They found an undeniable correlation between poor flake and flour quality and glyphosate use. These findings were supported with laboratory analysis.
“The early use of glyphosate as a desiccant really doesn’t allow the plant to mature. It kills the oat plant, and the results are comparable to an early freeze. It doesn’t continue to mature like it would in the swath. That prevents the starch … from maturing, and immature starch makes poor quality flakes and flour.”
The use of glyphosate before harvest is argued to negatively affect maturation, hurting beta glucan production, a key nutritional attribute of oats which promote heart and cardiovascular health.
Willie Zuchkan, an oat grower from east-central Saskatchewan and former chair of SaskOats, said the loss of glyphosate as a pre-harvest management tool will present a challenge, as he believes it is effective for weed-control.
“It’s going to be an adjustment because glyphosate was very valuable for weed control,” Zuchkan said.
“But if it’s causing a problem at Grain Millers, then I guess we’ll have to swath the crop versus trying to desiccate and straight cut it, or we’ll have to wait for it to be dead ripe and then straight cut it.”
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.