Flax growers try to flush Triffid from system


New program unveiled | Industry optimistic that CDC Triffid can be eliminated from seed inventories by early 2014

The Canadian flax industry hopes to rid the country’s commercial flax supply of the last troublesome traces of CDC Triffid, a genetically modified variety that disrupted flax exports to Europe in 2009.

The Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission and other flax industry stakeholders unveiled details of the Reconstituted Flax Seed Program Jan. 7 during Crop Production Week in Saskatoon.

Success of the program hinges on two factors.

First, flax growers across Canada will be encouraged to market all stocks of commercial flax seed produced prior to 2013 before early 2014.

In addition, seed growers holding CDC pedigreed flax seed will be asked to deliver those seed lots into the commercial grain handling system.

Second, farmers throughout Canada will be encouraged to plant certified seed, including reconstituted pedigreed flax seed that will be available for 2014 planting.

The two measures are expected to flush all remaining traces of CDC Triffid out of the Canadian flax pipeline and ensure that all new production is derived from GM-free seed.

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Linda Braun, executive director with SaskFlax, said the industry is optimistic that the final traces of CDC Triffid can be eliminated from commercial and pedigreed flax seed inventories by early 2014.

“We’ve done the Triffid testing program and we’re continuing with that but we can’t get to zero unless we start with zero Triffid in the planting seed.”

Another central component of the plan involves the reconstitution of all breeder seed from selected flax varieties developed at the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre.

Led by flax breeder Helen Booker, the CDC has reconstituted four CDC flax varieties to ensure that all breeder seed from those varieties contain no traces of Triffid.

The reconstituted varieties are CDC Bethune 14, CDC Sorrel 14, CDC Sanctuary and CDC Glas.

Certified seed from those varieties will be available in time for spring 2014 planting.

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Additional CDC varieties — including Vimy — will also be reconstituted but certified seed from those varieties may not be available until 2015 or later.

Braun and SeCan’s western Canadian business manager Todd Hyra said the industry is confident that there will be enough Triffid-free certified flax seed to plant more than one million acres in the spring of 2014.

In 2012, Canadian farmers planted roughly one million acres of flax.

Industry estimates suggest that roughly 80 percent of Canada’s total flax acres are planted to CDC varieties.

Braun said she expects that farmers will support the program.

“I think farmers realize that if we don’t do this, we may never get some of those markets back,” she said.

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In 2009, traces of Triffid flax were found in European shipments. The variety was approved in Canada but the European Union’s zero tolerance for trace levels of GM material led to the shipments’ rejection.