Canada is growing into a global player in the processed potato market, thanks to a rapid expansion in processing capacity in this country. However, our ability to produce the most sustainable, environmentally responsible product continues to be hamstringed — compromised by slow international acceptance of newer, better chemical solutions.
Today’s consumers care about sustainability. Increasingly, they expect greener production practices including the replacement of traditional, harsh, broad-spectrum chemicals with newer technologies like bio-chemicals. Options exist. For example, 1,4-Dimethylnapthalene (1,4DMN, sold as 1,4SIGHT) is a naturally occurring potato hormone which stabilizes dormancy, then volatilizes entirely away. Available in Canada for the past 15 years, 1,4DMN is so safe and natural that neither Canada nor the US require it to have an MRL. Logically, bio-chemicals like 1,4DMN would be welcomed and celebrated, especially in places like Europe, which recently deregistered CIPC, and Japan, which is a global leader in green technologies. That’s not the case. Instead, gaining global acceptance of newer, more sustainable options is expensive, challenging, and – most frustratingly – highly political.
Some argue the fact North America is ahead of the rest of the world in registering certain biochemicals is a good thing, since it allows producers here to get familiar with new options ahead of their global competitors. Unfortunately, taking the lead in developing new products like the biochemical 1,4SIGHT has provided a new set of problems which stifles this innovation.
Today’s processors produce for a global market and rarely designate specific harvest regions or lots to specific markets. Because their final product must be shippable anywhere in the world, processors are reluctant to take a chance on a chemical which could lead to customer rejection of their finished product in any market. For exactly that reason, international hesitation on any new biochemical product translates to usage hesitation here at home too.
At the end of the day, Canadian farmers, processors, retailers and consumers want the same thing — a viable, sustainable potato industry which produces quality potato products for the long-term. I am convinced our counterparts around the world want the same. To get there, we need to work together as a united industry, both domestically and internationally, to encourage government regulators to make decisions which unify international regulations and eliminate unnecessary regulatory barriers.