Only for Eastern Canada | At least five varieties are registered for commercial use, but plans have yet to be finalized
Canada’s first Roundup Ready alfalfa crops could take root in Ontario and Quebec as early as next spring, according to officials from a pair of Canadian seed companies involved in registering and selling the crops.
Documents posted on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website confirm that at least five Roundup Ready alfalfa varieties have already been registered for commercial sale and production in Canada.
The first of those lines — WL 373HQ.RR — was registered by the CFIA’s variety registration office April 26.
Four more lines received CFIA approval Aug. 22 and will be marketed under variety names 428RR, Ariad RR, Freedom RR and Mission RR.
The Canadian representative for all five varieties is listed as Gold Medal Seeds of Brooks, Alta., a subsidiary of U.S. based Forage Genetics International (FGI), which holds commercial rights to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa varieties in Canada.
Canadian distributors for the varieties include Growmark Inc. of Kitchener, Ont., Quality Seeds of Vaughan Ont., Pride Seeds of Chatham Ont., Pickseed Canada of Lindsey, Ont., La Co-op Fédérée of Longueuil Que., and Synagri of Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.
Stephen Denys, vice-president of sales and marketing with Pride Seeds, said Canada’s first commercial plantings of Roundup Ready alfalfa could occur as early as next spring.
“Potentially, but that’s going to depend,” he said.
“We want to make sure that all the stewardship requirements are in (place) before we go to market.”
Denys, a past-president of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, said Pride Seeds will begin selling Freedom RR seed once Monsanto and FGI finalize stewardship agreements that govern the sale and production of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed in Eastern Canada.
He said it is not clear how long it will take for stewardship agreements to be drafted, reviewed and approved.
“I believe Monsanto and Forage Genetics are working on those stewardship agreements,” Denys said.
“That all needs to be in place before the varieties can be commercialized so they won’t be in place this fall, that’s for sure.”
Erick Lutterotti, general manager with Gold Medal Seeds, said spring is more likely.
“I don’t see it being available until probably next spring but that’s going to be up to Forage Genetics and … (the distributors) to decide.”
The introduction of GM alfalfa varieties in Canada has been several years in the making.
Health and environmental approvals have been in place for some time, but officials representing FGI have repeatedly said that the company will not bring the products to market until certain steps are taken. They include industry-wide consultations and the development of a co-existence plan to address the concerns of conventional alfalfa producers, alfalfa seed growers and alfalfa hay and seed exporters.
A co-existence plan, facilitated by the Canadian Seed Trade Association, was released earlier this year.
The plan, which was criticized by environmentalists and organic farmers opposed to GM alfalfa, contained a series of best management practices aimed at limiting the potential for commingling and cross-pollination between GM and non-GM alfalfa crops.
CFIA officials have confirmed that the five RR alfalfa varieties registered in Canada were granted national registration, meaning they can be marketed anywhere in the country.
However, Denys and Lutterotti said there are no plans to expand the sale of GM alfalfa to Western Canada.
Alfalfa growers in the Prairies and British Columbia would have to demonstrate that adequate demand exists for the product before it is sold in the West, they added.
Stakeholders in the western forage and alfalfa seed industries would also be consulted and a co-existence plan drawn up for western Canadian production.
Denys said the co-existence plan released earlier this year pertains exclusively to the production of GM alfalfa as a hay crop in Eastern Canada.
An FGI spokesperson issued a short statement Oct. 16 confirming that Roundup Ready alfalfa has been approved for use in Canada.
“Forage Genetics International is considering opportunities in Eastern Canada for Roundup Ready alfalfa for use as forage,” said Rebecca Lentz, a corporate communicator with the U.S.-based farmer co-operative Land O’Lakes, the parent company of FGI.
“No decision has been made on sales in Canada.”
Lutterotti said Gold Medal Seeds has no plans to sell or distribute Roundup Ready alfalfa.
“We registered the varieties, but all of those varieties will be available for sale in Eastern Canada only,” he said. All seed production is done in the U.S..… There is no seed production in Canada and none planned … for the near future.”