September 12, 2013, Ottawa – The Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) has launched its “Coexistence Plan for Alfalfa Hay” to pave the way for Forage Genetics International to sell genetically modified (GM) alfalfa in Canada. The plan was released just as a report of possible GM alfalfa contamination in US exports came to light.
“The industry plan is not based on science or reality. The reality is that GM alfalfa will contaminate farmers’ fields and no plan can stop it,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, “The industry has made up a list of impractical measures for farmers to follow and called it a plan.”
The “coexistence plan” includes a one page list of “best management practices” for farmers to follow, to attempt to keep GM and non-GM alfalfa separate.
“The bottom line is that contamination will happen and no one’s taking responsibility,” said Sharratt, “With GM alfalfa, contamination will impact more farmers than ever before. Contamination takes choice away from farmers.”
Reuters is reporting that U.S. government officials are now testing alfalfa after a Washington farmer reported that his alfalfa export shipment was rejected due to contamination from GM alfalfa.
Alfalfa is an important crop, used as pasture and hay for animal feed, particularly for dairy farmers. It is perennial, and is pollinated by bees and other insects. If put on the market, GM alfalfa would be the first GM perennial crop released in Canada.
Farmers protested outside the CSTA meetings held to develop the plan, in October 2012 and in July of this year. In addition, on April 9, 2013, farmers and consumers in 38 communities across Canada rallied to stop any market release of GM alfalfa.
Most recently, two Ontario farmers have taken the unprecedented step of asking for an environmental assessment of GM alfalfa under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights. Ontario’s Minister of Environment will respond with a decision by September 30.
The company Forage Genetics International has said it would wait until a coexistence plan was published before releasing its herbicide tolerant (Roundup Ready) GM alfalfa on the market. The company has also stated its intention to initially only release the seeds in Eastern Canada.
“The industry is calling their report “planning for choice” but they should call it “planning for contamination” because that’s what will happen,” said Taarini Chopra of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.
The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network and the National Farmers Union rebutted the CSTA’s “coexistence plan” in a technical paper released in July (www.cban.ca/planrebuttal) which criticized the plan as ignoring basic facts of alfalfa biology and many realities of farming.
For more information: Lucy Sharratt, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, cell (September 12-13) 613 263 9511, (after September 13) 613 241 2267 ext 25; Taarini Chopra, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 226 606 8240