Canada decides not to allow release of GM alfalfa this spring

Monday, April 21, 2014 by: L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
Tags: GMO alfalfa, Canada, Roundup Ready

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(NaturalNews) Roundup Ready alfalfa will not be available to Canadian growers this spring. Farmers from Ontario to Manitoba have decried the release of this genetically modified strain of alfalfa into agriculture, citing contamination problems. The National Farmers Union of Canada has brought forth valid concerns about the approval process for genetically modified crops.

A huge turn of events: Commercial provider halts government-approved GM alfalfa

The commercial provider, Forage Genetics International (FGI), must have felt the heat. FGI global traits leader Mike Peterson confirmed that they would not be releasing the new GM alfalfa strains this spring:

"For spring of 2014, Forage Genetics will not be commercializing Roundup Ready alfalfa in Canada anywhere. That's the only decision we've made so far. We're just going day to day on the decision making process, but we have made a decision about spring."

This is a huge turn of events in Canada, since the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) granted registration of the GM variety in 2013 and gave FGI exclusive rights to begin commercializing the seed in 2014.

In fact, proponents for biotechnology were betting on the new alfalfa's commercial release, but when the FGI pulled back in March and stated so in The Western Producer, many officials were taken aback. Some see this genetically altered variety of alfalfa seed as the driving force for ultimate weed control. Roundup can be sprayed en masse, choking back nature's eclectic array of weeds, herbs and flowers that get in the way of crop production. The seed strain is manufactured to resist the glyphosate in Roundup, allowing the alfalfa crops to dominate.

Most of the alfalfa (80 percent) growing in Canada is raised in the western parts. A trial of the genetically modified alfalfa was set to be released in the easternmost parts of Canada, as to not contaminate the natural alfalfa in the west, but FGI put a halt on the entire GM alfalfa endeavor in Canada.

"It's the right decision to keep GM alfalfa off the market this spring and every spring in the future," said Canadian Biotechnology Action Network coordinator Lucy Sharratt. "It's great if Forage Genetics is actually listening to farmers on this issue. The government certainly didn't."

Sharratt stated further, "We've heard a lot of opposition from Ontario and Quebec farmers to release of GM alfalfa, so it in fact looks like farmers across Canada are asking the company not to put this product on the market, and I hope that this is actually a response to that voice."

Another group active in stopping the spread of GMO alfalfa is Quebec's general farm group, Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA). In February, they passed a motion to block the marketing of GM alfalfa in Quebec to stop potential cross-pollination. When cross-pollination between natural alfala and GMO strains occurs, a country or province cannot export the crop to countries that only accept organic or non-GMO crops.

Extra care is taken to ensure that cross-contamination does not occur. For the Canadian Seed Trade Association, this includes extensive management practices such as testing, controlling wild plants and working directly with growers to establish safe crop distances.

NFU Farmers challenge federal process for approving GM crops

Back in in 2013, Ontario grass-feeding beef farmer Dave Lewington met with a fellow National Farmers Union member and decided to challenge the federal process of approval for GM crops. After requesting a full environmental assessment of the Roundup Ready alfalfa, Lewington realized that the federal registration process for approval does not serve the public's best interest. The farmers highlighted the gaps in the processes, pointing out that officials do not even consider the social and economic consequences of releasing the GM crops. Furthermore, they contested that the process goes on behind closed doors to begin with.

NFU President Jan Slomp stated publicly, "FGI's decision for this year is the right decision. Even so, NFU members will continue to pressure both industry and the government to stop the release of GM alfalfa. The federal government should de-register all varieties of [Roundup Ready] alfalfa. Before approving any more GM crops, the government must revamp its process so that it conducts a full assessment of the environmental, economic and social impacts based on public research and input from a cross-section of farmers and Canadians, rather than simply relying on information provided by the seed companies seeking regulatory approval for their products."

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