Canada Delays Spring GMO Alfalfa Release


alfalfaThe decision to keep genetically modified crops from being sown is sweeping the globe. After valid concerns about cross-contamination between GMO and non-GM crops have been presented by the National Farmers Union of Canada, from Ontario to Manitoba, Quebec to the Yukon, a huge turn of events has ensued. For example, RoundUp Ready alfalfa will not be available to Canadian growers this spring.

Many in Canada have been concerned about the approval process for GM crops, and after activists and farmers notched up the pressure, a commercial provider of GM alfalfa has held back its GM creation.Forage Genetics International (FGI), lead by Mike Peterson, confirmed that they would not be releasing GM alfalfa this planting season:

“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 significant development since the Canadian version of the US FDA – the CFIA or Food Inspection Agency – grated registration of the GM variety in 2013 and gave FGI exclusive rights (which includes seed patents) to begin commercialization of the crop this year. Many in the biotech industry were looking to FGI’s planting rights as an open door to get future GMO crops into Canada. FGI announced in The Western Producer in March that it would not make its seed available; many officials were surprised.

Read: Letter Shows Monsanto Planted GMO Alfalfa Before USDA Approval

FGI and biotech planned on using GM alfalfa as the ultimate weed control, since Monsanto’s RoundUp chemicals can be sprayed at liberty, choking back all sorts of flowers, weeds, and herbs that interfere with mono-cropping. The alfalfa seed created by FGI was specifically manufactured to be resistant to RoundUp chemicals (glyphosate primarily), so that it could dominate any field where it was planted.

Eighty percent of all alfalfa grown in Canada is currently grown in the western territories. A trial was set to release the biotech crop in far eastern Canada as a way to try to prevent cross-pollination, but FGI has halted the entire alfalfa endeavor in Canada. Why the sudden change?

FGI was perhaps smart enough to listen to farmers saying they didn’t want their GM alfalfa, but more likely, groups like Quebec’s general farm group, Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), and other activists are keeping biotech on their toes. The UPA passed a motion last February to block the marketing of GM alfalfa in Quebec to stop potential cross-pollination.

“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. . . 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.”