Glyphosate in wheat and Canadian legumes, all the fault of snow?


Glyphosate or glyphosate? One name is as good as the next, to express a concept that retail buyers and industries still struggle to grasp. Canadian wheat and legumes are routinely treated with glyphosate and other agrotoxics at the pre-harvest stage. All the fault of the snow? That one is not lacking, by the end of September it is already 30 cm on the fields to be harvested. But there is also more.

Glyphosate, the long-awaited ban

There is no basis for questioning the legality on the use of glyphosate,’ the EU Court of Justice recently said. (1) European farmers can therefore continue to use the world’s best-selling agrotoxic. After the five-year renewal of its authorization on 5.11.17, which was also joined by the government then led by Paolo Gentiloni and Italian politicians in the European Parliament. All serving the Big 4, the four global pesticide and seed monopolists. With an eye on German Corporation Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2016. (2)

The European Commission, in March 2019, announced its intention to carry out a new risk assessment plan for this molecule. (3) In view of the possible renewal of its permit, which will expire on 12/15/22, activities will begin by December 2019. EFSA, which is charged with risk analysis, has already completed its review of maximum glyphosate levels. (4). Based on data provided by member states on glyphosate residues in food.

Maximum residue levels (MRLs) are to be established to ensure public health protection with respect to dietary exposure to each ‘pesticide’ following analysis of all its current and authorized uses in the EU. However, the European Food Safety Authority itself has pointed to uncertainties arising from gaps in the data collected. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an organ of the World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, has classified the agrotoxic under review-still, the world’s best-selling one-as probably carcinogenic. On a par with various others, such as diquat for example.

Scientific research on glyphosate, as on numerous other herbicides and pesticides, has also revealed its endocrine-disrupting action. Namely, the ability to alter the function of the endocrine system, with serious consequences for human health. Experiments conducted on human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells have shown that glyphosate induces necrosis and apoptosis even at very low levels of exposure, resulting in abortions and malformations. Also noting the higher occurrence in exposed individuals of neoplasms and neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s). As well as dysmetabolic, autoimmune, and degenerative diseases, diabetes, male infertility, and childhood leukemia.

More recent studies have since shown how glyphosate negatively alters the microbiota, in humans and animals. Including pollinating insects, to which we still owe a significant share of the food supply on Planet Earth. With impact, consequently, on so-called food security.

Glyphosate, the ‘reasons’ of Big 4

In 2011, the European Union rejected a shipload of lentils because the maximum residue limits (MRLs) of glyphosate exceeded the threshold (0.1 ppm) then set by the EU legislature. The Big 4 lobbies reacted vehemently to the point of obtaining, after tight negotiations, an approximate 100-fold (10 ppm) increase in the residue limits allowed on lentils. Endorsed by EFSA(European Food Safety Authority) in its opinion 13.1.12. (5)

The extraordinary tolerance introduced by Efsa on glyphosate contamination can only be explained by pressure from large global players in grain and legume production. Active substances such as glyphosate and other desiccants are in fact widely used in agriculture and horticulture:

before planting, as well as on fields dedicated to multi-year crops, for weeding. That is, to combat ‘weeds’ that compete with crops,

– at the pre-harvest stage for desiccant treatment to speed up and even out the ripening process.

The use of desiccants on legumes and cereals turns out to be essential, in the leading production countries, due to the unsuitability of their respective climates. In Canada-the leading global producer (40 percent) and exporter of lentils-as in the northernmost states of the U.S., Kazakhstan, and northeastern China, climatic conditions greatly reduce the production cycle. And it is necessary to anticipate harvesting, to avoid losses, by desiccation with chemicals. This eliminates weeds to facilitate early harvesting and evenly levels out lentil maturity before weather conditions deteriorate further.

Glyphosate on grains and legumes, Canadian agricultural practices


Saskatchewan Pulse Growers

, GSP, a body representing almost all (97%) of Canada’s pulse growers, provides its members with precise guidance on how to use various agrotoxics. Recommending their use, in the 3-14 days before harvest, (6) focusing not on food safety but on how to escape export problems in the various countries of destination. Attached is an Italian-language translation of the GSP manual, eloquently titled Keep it Clean (instead of Keep it Safe!). (7)

It should be noted well that several agrotoxins used on Canadian lentils-widely distributed in Italy, including in Christmas baskets, as we found in special market survey in 2018-are not authorized in Italy. Other agrotoxics are not authorized on legume crops. Still others report wider safety ranges on their data sheets than those recommended by SPG.

Fall 2019 worries Canadian farmers due to adverse weather conditions in recent weeks. In Saskatchewan, wheat fields (about 30 percent harvested) and lentil fields that have not yet dried out, with green plants in the field, have already been covered by about 30 cm of snow. Over the next few weeks, grains and legumes will be dried, immediately threshed wet, dehydrated in ovens and sold around the world.

All the fault of the snow? The responsibilities of industry, large-scale retail trade and Italian politics

Snow, of course, is a problem for Canadian farmers to whom all our sympathy goes. But it is not worth justifying the opportunistic choices of Italian industrial and distribution groups, which persist in chasing only price in their procurement policies. Neglecting altogether:

supply-chain sustainability that consumAtors themselves have learned to value even before operators have organized to ensure it,

food safety, which is certainly not a given just because the goods-thanks to the gimmicks suggested by Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (see Appendix)-meet the maximum residue limits for glyphosate raised 100-fold by Efsa,

consumer demand to know the origin and provenance of grains and legumes, in pasta as well as lentils. And their interest in prioritizing the purchase of products that are derived from short, fair and sustainable supply chains, all the better if traced in its true and organic values.

Newly appointed Minister Teresa Bellanova, instead of extolling CETA (EU-Canada Treaty), would do well to turn her attention to Italian grain and legume supply chains. Remembering that the climate and production capacity could enable us to quietly regain the self-sufficiency we lost in the 1970s. We could even become exporters again, as was the case in the 50 years before the crisis.

Moreover, legume crops play a valuable role, in rotation with cereals, in increasing soil fertility. Provided that agroecology-and thus, the organic system-is ensured as the high road to sustainable development. Without wasting time, the government led by Joseph Conte must demonstrate the political will to work in this direction. Beginning by incorporating the demands for changes to the unacceptable draft NAP (National Action Plan on Pesticides), formulated by the #NoPesticides coalition with the support of Égalité.

Dario Dongo

ANNEX Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Keep it Clean manual, Italian language translation



(2) Monsanto is remembered for having developed several weapons of mass destruction, in the 20th century. The contributions made to the atomic bomb were followed by dioxins, DDT, Agent Orange and glyphosate, among the most famous. And some poisons for personal consumption, including saccharin and aspartame. Bayer in turn may be remembered as the supplier of the gases used in Nazi concentration camps, as well as for the invention of heroin

(3) SEE

(4) SEE

(5) V. EFSA (2012). Modification of the existing MRL for glyphosate in lentils. EFSA Journal 2012;10(1):2550. doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2550

(6) SEE

(7) Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, The attached Italian translation