Setting and changing grades

Grain grades in Canada are set or changed only after careful consideration and research. While the system is flexible enough to meet the changing needs of producers, industry and customers, it is also stable and reliable.

The Canadian Grain Commission sets standards and specifications for grades of grain based on recommendations from the Eastern Standards Committee and the Western Standards Committee.

The Western Standards Committee includes sub-committees that provide information and expertise for specific crops, including wheat, barley, oilseeds and pulses.

Grade change process

1. Concern brought forward

Anyone can bring forward a concern about grading, a quality issue or any specification in the Official Grain Grading Guide by contacting a standards committee member, a sub-committee member, or the Canadian Grain Commission. The committee or sub-committee member brings the item forward for discussion at the appropriate sub-committee's meeting.

2. Sub-committee discussion and scientific study

The sub-committee discusses the potential impact a change would have on the grain industry and the customers of Canada's grain. The sub-committee decides if further study is required. If so, the sub-committee seeks input from stakeholders and arranges for scientific research where necessary.

3. Sub-committee decision

Once consultation and research are complete, results are brought back to the sub-committee for further discussion and consideration. At this point, the sub-committee may:

  • ask for more evaluation
  • choose not to support the proposed change
  • recommend that the relevant standards committee support the proposed change

4. Committee discussion and decision

The Eastern Standards Committee and/or Western Standards Committee discusses the recommendation and does one of the following:

  • requests more evaluation
  • decides not to support the recommendation
  • decides to support the recommendation

If the committee supports a recommendation to change a particular grade or specification, the Canadian Grain Commission makes the change in the Official Grain Grading Guide.

5. Grading change announced

Any change made to current grading specifications is announced well in advance of the new crop year in order to give the grain industry, including producers, time to adjust to any change.

Example: Fusarium-damaged kernels

Adjustments to tolerances for Fusarium-damaged kernels in wheat were made in 2011.

Fusarium damage results in thin or shrunken, chalk-like kernels. It is caused by Fusarium graminearum, a fungus that infects wheat. Fusarium graminearum contains deoxynivalenol (DON), which is toxic to both humans and animals.

Tolerances for Fusarium-damaged kernels were adjusted because research conducted by the Canadian Grain Commission found that a new strain of Fusarium graminearum contained more deoxynivalenol than other strains. This meant that the relationship between Fusarium damage and levels of deoxynivalenol was no longer accurate. Tolerances needed to be adjusted so that wheat shipments continued to meet customer tolerances.

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