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Mostly Citizen Groups Attended Guelph Anti-GM-Alfalfa Protest

Stop GM-Alfalfa Guelph Rally Draws 100 Concerned Citizens and Some Organic Farmers

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The National Farmers Union - Ontario (NFU-O) held a “Day of Action” in Guelph on Tuesday [April 9, 2013], which was just one of 13 co-ordinated protests that occurred across Ontario. The Day of Action called on farmers and concerned citizens alike to rally-up -to stop the commercial release of genetically modified (GM) – alfalfa into Canada.

The NFU-O which is still in a battle with the province to gain accreditation status as one of three recognized general farm groups in Ontario, were the lead on the province-wide GM-alfalfa protest that took place on Tuesday.

A company called Forage Genetics International has applied Monsanto’s GM Roundup Ready (herbicide resistance) technology to alfalfa. Canadian regulatory authorities already approved GM-alfalfa for health and environmental release in 2005 – but the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has to approve it for variety registration, which is the final step before it can be released for commercial use. The U.S. has already approved GM-alfalfa for commercial purposes more than two years ago.

The farm group partnered with citizen groups at some of the rally’s across the province, with Guelph appearing to have the biggest showing – which included: Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Council of Canadians - Guelph Chapter, Guelph Wellington Coalition for Social Justice, and OPIRG-Guelph. The farmers who attended were largely organic farmers from the outskirts of city, with citizens making up the majority of the rally. spoke with two farmers who were at the rally who fear that their livelihoods could be altered if GM-alfalfa does get commercial approval. Kaj Hansen owner of Bernway Farms near Acton, Ontario says that he is against “…any GMOs and especially GM-alfalfa because it’s pollinated by bees and you can’t contain it…I hope that the government won’t allow them to do it [commercialize GM- alfalfa],” says Hansen.

Linda Leapple owner of Leappple Organic Farm near Petersburg, Ontario echoed many of Hansen’s concerns saying that contamination cannot be avoided. Leapple says the introduction of GM-alfalfa poses a risk to the environment, human health, and might shut down market opportunities for farmers who want to grow organic alfalfa. Leapple also explained that farmers in Canada are in a different situation compared to farmers in Europe “neighbouring farmers are held liable if they contaminate another farmers field…in Canada the farmer can be sued,” said Leapple.  

Held outside of the Stone Road Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) building, the approximately 100 demonstrators rallied on the sidewalk of the OMAF building and then marched a short distance to Monsanto’s office.

Following the protest, some members of the group met with local MP Frank Valeriote (Liberal Agriculture Critic) where they delivered a petition which called for a moratorium on GM-alfafla. Valeriote told the group that he plans to table a moratorium on Roundup Ready alfalfa. spoke with John Sutherland, NFU – O President on Thursday to inquire about how the farm group thought the Tuesday demonstrations went. Sutherland notes “something has been done very positively against GM-alfalfa” referring to an email that he had received one day after the rallies saying that GM-alfalfa won’t be available for sale this year.  “It was interesting timing,” said Sutherland, but he cautioned that it still needed to be verified. “I think they might be doing a double-think of introducing it [GM-alfalfa]."

See image below for a copy of the speech read at the protest:

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