Today, 14 farm organizations repeated their joint call for the federal government to cancel variety registration for all genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered) alfalfa until a full economic impact assessment is conducted, and to establish a protocol for testing all imports of alfalfa seed grown in the US.
“Through cross-pollination, GM alfalfa poses a potential risk of contamination of feral alfalfa plants that grow in ditches and pastures over significant distances, as well as neighboring alfalfa fields, including those that are certified organic,” said Marcel Groleau, President of the Union des Producteurs Agricoles (the Union of Agricultural Producers in Quebec). “An important element is the demand for non-GMO food products or food from animals that do not consume GMOs. It’s very important that producers, including those with organic certification or who are engaged in the non-GMO market, do not bear losses caused by the commercialization of GM alfafa, which clearly cannot be prevented from spreading,” concluded Mr. Groleau.
The letter asks the Minister to take three actions:
- Deregister GM alfalfa varieties
- Make locations of GM alfalfa plantings public so farmers can protect their fields and crops until all GM alfalfa varieties are taken off the market, and
- Test imports of alfalfa seed grown in the US
“Because we grow, process and sell alfalfa we understand the risks and the unacceptable consequences of GM contamination. If this issue remains unaddressed by the Minister, we will all pay the price,” said Peter Eggers, an alfalfa producer in Alberta and National Farmers Union Board member, “We represent the industry and its time the federal government assessed the economic costs of its decisions on our sector.”
“We are not opposed to GM technology overall, but we are very concerned about the market impacts that GM alfalfa would have on alfalfa seed growers’ and the whole forage seed business, as it only takes one GMO alfalfa seed for any forage seed shipment to be rejected by an overseas buyer,” said Danny Limoges, board member for Peace Region Forage Seed Association. “We are asking the federal government to act before it is too late to prevent market loss for our members.”
Alfalfa has great economic value in Canada. It is used by farmers across the country to produce a number of commodities with different production systems, for domestic use and export. It is also used to produce of a wide variety of foods for Canadians, and it is a cornerstone crop in sustainable agricultural practices.
Alfalfa is the first perennial crop to be genetically modified and approved for sale in Canada, and this fact, along with other biological realities such as insect pollination, seed size and the existence of feral (wild, or uncultivated) alfalfa populations, means that if its continued planting is allowed, GM alfalfa will certainly contaminate non-GM alfalfa.
“GM alfalfa needs to be deregistered and taken off the market as soon as possible,” said Lisa Mumm, board member of the Canada Organic Trade Association and a farmer-owner of Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds which grows and sells organic spouting seeds for the consumer market.
Through local distributors, the company Forage Genetics International (FGI) is marketing alfalfa with combined GM traits for low-lignin and glyphosate tolerance. In 2016, the company sold a limited amount of seed in Eastern Canada and is selling the seed on wider scale for 2017.