Plan to pave way for Roundup Ready alfalfa

Reduce GM migration | Forage Genetics International will apply for commercial registration once issues have been addressed

The Canadian seed industry is working on a plan that could set the table for the commercialization of Roundup Ready alfalfa in Eastern Canada as early as next year.

Stephen Denys, president of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, said the association has begun work to develop a co-existence plan for the production of genetically modified alfalfa as a hay crop in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

The plan would outline steps that should be taken to ensure the orderly production of Roundup Ready alfalfa and minimize the chance of gene and pollen flows between fields.

It would also deal with set-back distances between GM and non GM alfalfa crops, equipment sanitation and seed migration from one region to another.

Forage Genetics International (FGI) of Wisconsin, which has exclusive rights to commercialize Roundup Ready alfalfa in Canada, has indicated it will not do so until a co-existence plan has been completed and other issues related to agronomic management and producer stewardship have been addressed.

Last week, CSTA members took an important first step in that direction.

Stakeholders from the seed and forage industries took part in a CSTA sponsored workshop in Kitchener, Ont., to discuss co-existence issues, including liabilities associated with the potential migration of GM alfalfa seed from Eastern Canada to Western Canada.

FGI officials say a plan could be in place by late 2012 or early 2013.

The company could apply for commercial registration in Eastern Canada next year once the plan has been finalized and other outstanding issues have been addressed.

Denys said the co-existence plan is being formulated specifically for alfalfa forage producers in the East.


“I think everyone in the industry recognizes that the elements of the industry are different in Western Canada, so Western Canada is going to have to be dealt with in a different way,” he said.

Regulatory authorities in Canada have already approved the use of Roundup Ready alfalfa and have concluded it poses no risk to human health or the environment.

However, FGI has yet to apply for commercial registration, partly because of persistent concerns by organic farmers and conventional alfalfa seed growers, who say potential market damage is likely to occur if the crop is commercialized.

A significant portion of Canada’s conventional alfalfa seed production is exported to Europe, where GM alfalfa has yet to be approved and where low tolerance thresholds for unapproved GM varieties have the potential to disrupt trade.

Denys said it is important to have a co-existence plan in place, even if commercialization of GM alfalfa does not occur in Canada in the immediate future.

Although some alfalfa growers are opposed to the crop, others are eager to see it commercialized because it simplifies weed management and offers potentially higher yields.

Roundup Ready alfalfa is already produced in the United States and accounts for nearly 70 percent of total production in some states.

“One of the reasons that the CSTA is facilitating this process … is that when we look ahead, it not just alfalfa (that will be affected) but other crops as well,” Denys said. 

“Today it’s GM alfalfa … tomorrow — maybe 10, 15 , 20 years from now — it could be cereal crops. There’s going to be demand for certain traits in the market so we want to make sure there’s a process in place.”


Mike Peterson, lead of global traits with FGI in Janesville, Wisc., said the commercialization of Roundup Ready alfalfa in Canada is not a done deal.

“What we’re doing right now is … testing experimental Roundup Ready varieties in Eastern Canada and looking at local adaptation and yield and winter hardiness and those types of things. We’re also in the process of gauging … commercial marketers’ interest … but this is all focused in Eastern Canada right now.”

If it does occur, commercialization in Western Canada will not take place until growers have been consulted, he added.

“It’s really going to have to be driven by the western Canadian hay growers and seed growers.”

In Ontario, Ann Slater, co-ordinator with the National Farmers Union, said support for GM alfalfa among the province’s forage producers is far from unanimous.

Commercialization will have an unknown impact on Ontario’s alfalfa seed and organic farming industries, she added.

She said exercises aimed at controlling pollen flow from one field to another will be unsuccessful, regardless of the distances involved. 

The result for organic producers and seed growers will be the loss of markets.

“Our experience with GM Triffid flax shows how quickly export markets can be shut down due to contamination,” she said.


  • Wendy

    I hope they send the memo to the bees and pollenators about the appropriate set-back distances…
    This sounds like a fantastic way for Monsanto to sell more Roundup and get the patent for yet another life form. Gradually they will corner the market completely and farmers will have no choice but to grow their seed, just like in India with bt cotton.
    They will have complete control of supply AND demand and can introduce the terminator gene for guaranteed contol of all farmers. Brilliant. That is quite the corporation to have in control of the food supply.

  • Glenn Wakeling

    So disappointing where is the vision.

  • April Reeves

    So last weekend at the Seeds Conference in BC, a well known and respected farmer from Oregon (who was a guest speaker) stated that they have found the GM alfalfa no longer fixes nitrogen! If this is true (and we’re testing it personally) then that’s a huge statement! I don’t see the point of it (other than Monsanto shareholder profits) but hey, let’s keep inventing a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist….

  • Linda

    This cannot happen! Our ecosystems will be destroyed and small organic farmers will die out with Monsanto’s airborn GMO pollen. This is what Monsanto wants as he gets richer and gains more power in the courts, banks, and through advertising. We have more and more health problems each day as this seed has been floating around for years without our knowledge. But we can’t prove GMO’s are making us sick with cancer, allergies, stomach issues,etc…! GMO Corn/soya oil is in everything pretty much everything we eat, and we assume it’s safe because the government wouldn’t allow this if it wasn’t. As science says “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. We are talking about DNA changes here that follow the food chain. Science and testing can never prove this GMO practice to be safe. The future generations will be our proof when we are all sick and reproduction fails. GMO or Monsanto’s seed has to be bought every year because it is infertile and the rich get richer and gain more power! Organic farmers cannot compete and many loose their farms because of cross pollination when Monsato takes them to court for using GMO seed unknowingly. As well, alfalfa does not need roundup! Wake up Canada!!!

  • Linda

    I should have mentioned I live in Eastern Canada. This issue is extremely disturbing; in that it is being considered!

  • Priya

    This will be a disaster. There is no distance that is “safe” for GMO and non-GMO crops to be grown. Bees, wind, water flow and soil erosion are things we can’t control that all contribute to the contamination of pure, genetic strains of crops and the fake GMO crops.

    As a Canadian, I am asking all other Canadians to write, phone AND comment on Facebook, Twitter about your opposition to ALL genetically modified organisms. Whenever you come across an article, post it on the PC, Liberal, NDP and Green party Facebook pages. We need to get in their face about it and bombard them with the fact that we, as the people, KNOW what they are doing! Especially since the government deems it not necessary to label products that contain these GMOs. If GMOs are so safe, then label it! We have the RIGHT to know!

    Here are the links to the Canadian political parties’ pages.


    New Democratic Party:

    Green Party:

  • Our farm, Steveston Stock and Seed Farm was the first seed company in Western Canada, established in 1878. At present we grow organic alfalfa and raise and sell grass fed beef. We also grow and save organic open pollinated vegetable seed. This is Evil! Only Monsanto and incompetyent farmers will benefit. Growing a thick crop of alfalfa snuffs out weeds. Will there be legislation banning the trucking of GM alfalfa off the farms it is produced on? Look at the alfalfa growing along roadsides where seed has blown off of trucks hauling hay to see the immediate results of this folly. As for increased production, that depends upon the variety of alfalfa, availability of water and farm management practices, not whether roundup is used instead of other methods of weed control.

  • According to the article,’Crop Wars’ in the April,2013 issue of “Discover” magazine, it is too late to save America from genetically modified crops.
    In Europe, concerned people have been fighting to keep Monsanto and its ilk at bay for a long time. Here in North America, government and big agrobusiness walk hand in hand.
    If GMO grains are so safe ,why are people and livestock( like dairy cattle) developing more and more gastrointestinal and bowel syndromes?