Roundup Ready in alfalfa exports ‘catastrophic’

China market closed | U.S. exporters blacklisted because of GM presence in the crop

BROMONT, Que. — The discovery of Roundup Ready alfalfa in global hay exports should be on Canadian farmers’ radar, says a Canadian hay exporter.

Ed Shaw, who exports forage around the world, including to China, said three American hay exporters have been blacklisted from exporting hay to China, and hundreds of container loads of hay have been turned away after Roundup Ready alfalfa was found in the loads.

“In the export market, it has be-come a really hot topic item with the Chinese market. The Chinese have zero tolerance for GMO,” Shaw said during a discussion about the introduction of Roundup Ready alfalfa in Canada at a recent forage conference. “It’s catastrophic.”

Forage Genetics International, which has the right to sell Roundup Ready alfalfa in Canada, seeded 11 test plots in Quebec and Ontario this year and is looking to expand its test locations and studies next year.

Roundup Ready alfalfa is registered and allowed to be grown in the United States, but Shaw said U.S. exporters have been blacklisted because of the genetically modified crop.

“They have had three strikes against them and the U.S. is considering totally shutting down the Chinese market until we get something established,” he said.

“China has zero tolerance and I mean zero tolerance, not several parts per million but zero tolerance.”

Shaw is worried that Canadian hay exporters will be shut out of the market if GM canola seed is found in hay crops.

“I am afraid that if we start testing our alfalfa for zero tolerance, I bet we would fail,” he said.

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“Now the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and the Chinese are trying to work on a tolerance level. If you have canola field next to an alfalfa field and get some trash, it’s going to check positive on the forage.”

Forage Seed Canada president Heather Kerschbaumer said a container load of her farm’s timothy hay was rejected because of the discovery of one canola seed in a 25 gram sample destined for Japan three years ago.

“(It) was enough to cause the company we had the contract with to cancel our contract,” she said.

“We lost $20,000 because of one canola seed.”

It’s a troubling trend for Canadian grass and forage seed growers, who export thousands of tonnes of seed around the world. The discovery of a Roundup Ready alfalfa seed in an alfalfa, timothy, red clover, brome or fescue shipment would put an end to all export markets.

Kerschbaumer said her Golden Acre Seed Co. had nine non-Roundup Ready alfalfa samples tested last year for the presence of Roundup Ready alfalfa, and all tested negative.

“We find alfalfa in 60 to 70 percent of the lots shipped out of the Peace. If it is genetically modified, we would lose all those markets as well.”

Kerschbaumer said she recently visited the Imperial Valley in California, where counties have outlawed the growing of Roundup Ready alfalfa because of their large vegetable production. Alfalfa is used in the rotation with vegetable crops.

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Kerschbaumer said she returned from that trip with a glimmer of hope that there are ways to stop Roundup Ready alfalfa from being introduced into Canada, at least in Western Canada.

“They told us if they can’t keep it out of Canada, keep it out of the West,” she said.

“If you can’t keep it out of the West, you should keep it out of Alberta. If you can’t keep it out of Alberta, you should keep it out of the Peace because there will be benefits and bonuses paid on the seed that is produced that is GE free.”

Shaw said the three blacklisted hay producers are from the Imperial Valley. The rules that prohibit the production of Roundup Ready alfalfa don’t stop the hay from being processed in the area.

“What has been processed there has been contaminated. They’re bringing hay in from God knows where. You can’t grow it, but processors can still bring it in.”

Kerschbaumer said Forage Seed Canada wants to raise awareness of the issue and encourage farmers to test their alfalfa seed before it’s planted.

“It’s a big awareness issue,” she said.

“You want the cattle people to be aware not to plant it. They could be unknowingly planting this stuff and contaminating fence lines and ditches, which could contaminated someone’s seed fields.”

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mary.macarthur@producer.com

  • Bob_Phelps

    This is more evidence that the GM industry and government agencies tell big lies when they claim that the coexistence of GM and non-GM production systems is possible. Ignore evolutionary and ecological processes at your peril! http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/regulation/coexistence/201.coexistence_is_possible.html

    • Sheryl McCumsey

      Exactly…how can Monsanto sue a farmer for this? The Chinese people are wise…..so much is wrong with this technology and people are beginning to trust their “gut” with how they feel when they remove genetically engineered products from their diet.

    • SageThinker

      I would add that glyphosate is not shown to be safe. Effect on gut microbiome, which is an essential organ of the human organism, is very probable and not disproven because the relevant science has not been done. Monsanto didn’t want to turn over too many stones for fear of what they may find.

      A strictly rational person looking at the science has very good reason to suspect that glyphosate causes disruption of the human gut microbiome in the amounts that are ingested in the typical diet. One microgram per day provides enough glyphosate to expose each of the 100 trillion microbes in our gut microbiome to 35 molecules of the chemical. It’s a small molecule, molecular weight 169, and it kills plants except HT resistant plants by blocking the EPSP synthase enzyme molecule in the shikimic acid pathway. The industry assures us that humans, like all mammals, do not have this pathway and so it doesn’t affect humans. This is half true and half lie, because humans contain a gut microbiome in which most of the microbial cells *do* in fact utilize the shikimic acid pathway. The basic science tells us that it’s likely that these cells uptake glyphosate and have their shikimic acid pathways blocked, and then probably upregulate the pathway and produce more of these large molecules that make up the whole pathway (molecular weights around 40,000 to 70,000) at significant cost to them in terms of energy, materials, and space. It is also clear that various bacteria have differential levels of resistance or sensitivity to glyphosate. For example, Pseudomonas spp. are 50 to 100 times more resistant than other gut bacteria which are generally more beneficial. Therefore, it seems reasonable to expect that the presence of micrograms of glyphosate on a daily basis in the human gut would cause changes in the makeup of the microbial population, and the well being of some of these microbes which perform vital functions for human health. The surprising part is that this has not been effectively studied. A chemical that has entered the foodstream for most people on Earth has not been studied for some likely effects on the human organism. That to me is a glaring case of negligence to perform due diligence regarding protection of public health and safety. That is my prime concern, not the risk of carcinogenicity of glyphosate. I wish that the critics would take chill pill and realize that studies on full formulations of Roundup are not so relevant to the health effects on humans, but rather would follow up diligently on the real dangers presented by this chemical’s widespread adoption by agribusiness.

      By the way, here is a taste of the literature on differential effects of glyphosate on bacteria including Pseudomonas, which are found in the human gut. As you can see by the date, 1985, this has been known since before glyphosate was used widely with HT crops, and therefore by all reasonable standards of behavior for anyone wishing to market this chemical as an herbicide for human-ingested crops, the effects on human gut microbiome really should have been studied. It’s negligence not to have done so, and i think on a very serious scale.

      Differential sensitivity of bacterial 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthases to the herbicide glyphosate
      A. Schulz , A. Krüper , N. AmrheinFEMS Microbiology Letters
      Volume 28, Issue 3, Pp. 297 – 301
      First published online: 1 July 1985

      In fact, plant cells that are starved for aromatic amino acids by the application of glyphosate, which chokes their shikimic acid pathway, are shown to over-express shikimic pathway enzymes at rates up to 300+ fold. This means that, as glyphosate disables their EPSP synthase, resulting in lack of production of aromatic amino acids, the cell senses the unsatisfied need for aromatic amino acids, and produces more shikimic acid pathways, at significant cost to themselves. Production of a pathway with molecular weight 200,000 is not free. The cells in the study below end up expressing the pathway hundreds of times, and each time it gets blocked again by another glyphosate molecule. I would understand that if aromatic amino acids are available from outside the cell, it *may* be able to uptake those directly and then the pressure to produce them within the cell *may* be relieved, but this is a very big *if* and i would give it a low probability of proving true.

      “Glyphosate Inhibition of 5-Enolpyruvylshikimate 3-Phosphate Synthase from Suspension-Cultured Cells of Nicotiana silvestris”
      Judith L. Rubin, C. Greg Gaines and Roy A. Jensen
      Plant Physiology July 1984 vol. 75 no. 3 839-845

      As you can see by the date of 1984, this dynamic has been well-known in the field since long before glyphosate was used widely with HT crops. Once again, it’s a glaring omission that effects on mammalian gut microbiome have not been studied in depth. My critics *ought* to be able to cite multiple studies to say “Hey Sage, you’re wrong” but they cannot, and there is a very good (or bad) reason for that. It is not known, and this lack of knowledge is negligence.

      “Isolation and characterization of endophytic bacteria from soybean (Glycine max) grown in soil treated with glyphosate herbicide”
      Júlia Kuklinsky-Sobral, Welington Luiz Araújo, Rodrigo Mendes, Aline Aparecida Pizzirani-Kleiner,João Lúcio Azevedo
      Plant and Soil, June 2005, Volume 273, Issue 1-2, pp 91-99

      This paper is extremely interesting as it shows differential effects on edophytic bacteria by glyphosate. This means that the HT plants that survive the spraying and provide our food are *not* the same plants as those grown without glyphosate, because *their* own gut microbiome, so to speak, is also changed by the selective pressure of glyphosate’s presence in the plant.

  • Rob Bright

    Bloody ridiculous! Farmers, governments and biotech corporations were all warned that this is EXACTLY what would happen; but because they swallowed the biotech corporate pseudoscience/ propaganda whole, without any considerations for actual peer reviewed science, they are now facing the very economic reality they were warned about. I hope SOME of them learned a lesson from this!

    • johnhs

      The government and politicians didn’t swallow the pseudoscience, they swallowed the money from their corporate backers.

    • disqus_zy94ZqGoVL

      Hopefully America will cave before China caves and stops demanding zero tolerance. Go China!

  • Carson Y.

    GMO crops are costing our farmers millions. GMO farmers need to wake up that other countries do not want our GMOs. Look at Russia – anyone growing or selling GMOs are considered terrorists now.

    Cross contamination is a serious problem. There is no way organic and GMOs can co-exist. Eventually, everything will be contaminated and America will no longer export their foods. GMOs are not only bad for our health and environment but for our economy.

    • MacLeodProducer

      Hi Carson. Is Russia the example of good political policy? Certainly not in other areas. Seems we should be looking at all the science then setting policy.

  • Sadie

    I hope GE farmers start to wise up and switch to organic before it is too late… I wish they had liability for growing gmos that contaminate non-gmo crops, yes even the farmers should have liability…

    and keep suing Syngenta and all of the AgriChemical Cartel!!

    Syngenta Faces Dozens of Lawsuits Over GMO Seed – ABC News
    http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/syngenta-faces-dozens-lawsuits-gmo-seed-26975112

    NEW STUDY: 10 year risk assessment finds that corn pollen could contaminate crops 2.8 miles away. In the EU, there are mandatory buffer zones, which were set to protect non-target organisms and farmers growing organic and non-gmo crops nearby. The study found the EU buffer zones are not wide enough. At least they’re trying. In the U.S., buffer zones are not mandatory. Our farmers and our food supply are not protected by the law. BOYCOTT GMOs. And then BAN THEM.
    READ: http://www.enveurope.com/content/26/1/24

  • Kris Snider

    Now I understand why the alfalfa grow around us has been replaced with a corn-wheat-beans? rotation….They have lost their market for convensional alfalfa, that, by the way, is sprayed with glyphosate to speed up processing….TY for the article

  • Louise Hamm

    The US gov’t will try to get China to buy this crap using strong arm tactics (as they have done in the past). As a consumer, I will not buy GMO alfalfa which is grown in CA and invades our supplies. I have stopped buying hay cubes that are made using GMO alfalfa and have switched to pellets grown in Utah. What a shame that I can’t support my local hay farmers. I have had inquires on where to buy GMO free hay. Our $$$ will dictate what type hay is grown.

  • vgchef

    Just ban GMOs in the US – PERIOD – & be done with it. Problem solved.

  • anonymous

    I am totally against GMO anything in our ecosystem.

  • reginabee

    The first crop I am going to grow on my organic farm is alfalfa. Why? Because it is used as forage for honeybees, feed for farm animals and cover crops by farmers.

  • Monte

    I love the flexibility of the “anti” crowd in changing their story…for a group that is primarily in favour of “local production and consumption”, how can they rally to the support of an industry that ships leaves and stems half way around the world to feed to livestock? Using China and Russia as the gold standard in dealing with human health and safety is also a good one. Forages need the tools of modern plant breeding as much or more than annual crops to solve the problems that face them…seems to me not using them would be the “catastrophic” scenario.

    • seed guy

      Well not all of us are changing our story. MARKET ACCEPTANCE prior to release of the seed. IE: China, EU, Russia, etc Canada does and has an opportunity to sale seed and hay to all markets at this time, once this product is released for commercial sale, contamination will happen as it has the US and we will be left with only a few markets vs. all the markets. Who wants to have seed or hay they can not sale or can only sale to a few customers. We have an chance to learn from the US producers experience in both hay and seed. There is little to no demand for the product in Canada, as most of our fields of hay are mixed with a grass and RRA does not work with any mixture of other articles. We do not need to add to the list of Round up Resistant weeds and who needs RRA when weeds are cut and removed in a hay field.
      Catastrophic, is the correct term.

    • richard

      I love the inflexibility of the “pro” anything crowd……. who believe that when something is not making sense to society that we simply hurl a whole lot more of the same nonsense at them until they submit…..to infinite illogic powered by marketing…..

    • disqus_zy94ZqGoVL

      >Forages need the tools of modern plant breeding as much or more than annual crops

      They don’t need THESE tools. The currently available GMOs don’t increase yields; their purpose is to apply patents to seeds and increase sales of herbicide — and as a result of the herbicide soaking the soil, additional GMOs. It’s a profit cycle.

      >how can they rally to the support of an industry that ships leaves and stems half way around the world to feed to livestock

      China has terrible environmental standards in general, but their stance on this issue might be the only way to put enough pressure on American industry to stop the contamination of non-GMO crops. Coexistence without contamination is impossible — if coexistence continues, the only option will be to change the definition of “organic” and not tell consumers. But that’s probable, since there’s no downside except for you and me (consumers).

    • alfalfaseedfarmer

      While forages should continue to be improved through breeding, the development of forage seed resistant to glyphosate serves very little other than the pocketbook of the license holder. I am a western canadian alfalfa seed grower, and as a grower and marketer of various gmo and non gmo seeds/crops I feel I have a very unbiased opinion. Certain gmo plants/ crops make sense, those where the only herbicide options are a toxic concoction far worse than the roundup/clearfield/liberty link systems- there are a few. Alfalfa already has several very effective herbicides that can be used if needed, with a decent stand the alfalfa does a good job of choking out most weeds by itself, naturally. Glyphosate applications tie up available Nitrogen in the soil preventing it from being as available to successive crops, and as Alfalfa fixes N naturally why would you want to work against yourself?. Lastly, there has been a disturbing trend throughout the alfalfa seed growing regions in the US, conventional seed producers have all but lost their seed markets worldwide. Between wild birds, insects, and wind it is impossible for gmo and non gmo alfalfa plants to coexist in the same area without cross pollination. Cross pollinate your non gmo seed field and it is game over for ALL of our forage seed markets. I am fed up with the standard response that our federal government has put forward: RR alfalfa seed has been found safe in regards to environmental testing done by the CFIA. How will you spray out unwanted volunteers if it is already roundup resistant? This is the line I recieved after sending a concerned letter to my member of Parliament. THEY RUBBER STAMPED THE APPROVAL OF RR ALFALFA FOR ALL OF CANADA. So where does this take us? just look south of the border.Several family owned non gm alfalfa seed businesses in Idaho have been forced out. The forage seed company with the license to sell roundup ready alfalfa seed in canada just needs to peddle GM seed to a few farmers in the non gm seed growing area (which is supposedly western canada) and presto, they have eliminated all competitor forage seed companies. With volunteer gm alfalfa growing feral in the road allowances, (as we all see gm canola) there will be zero chance that longer term our non gm seed will remain as such. As a grower and seller of my own non gm seed, I am afraid that it is only a matter of time before my seed will test positive for gm, and we will lose our markets. Do you think monsanto or the licensed gm seed company will cover the difference? Please write or call your mp, gm alfalfa should not be permitted on this side of the border. There is something sinister in what they are doing here.

      • richard

        Well written analysis…..Please allow me to finish it for you…..And that something sinister is nothing more than absolute hegemony over the seeds of the earth. Pollution of the biosphere by GM seeds will result in all producers being co-opted by the “owners” of the germplasm. All the rest of the bafflegab about “progress” and “9B 2050” is merely subterfuge for the end game of stripping you the producer of the last vestige of management choice…..what you grow……Read Edward Hyam’s “Soil and Civilization” if you wish to see where this one ends up.

    • Seed guy

      the problem which is catastrophic is our science based process which does not take into account economic or environmental harm. With an article such as RRA where the demand is little to none, and where the value of exports of both seed and hay far outway the benefit of a few, it is worth the risk?

  • Seed guy

    Contamination from conventional certified seed. They have an agreement not to plant RRA in the valley however the non GE seed, or conventional seed produced in the USA is contaminated with RRA. This is happening at the seed production fields.

  • farmersdaughter

    ok I think most people understand how pollen travels ( at one time taught in elementary school), the marketing technique which only benefits the company ( Monsanto example), and how government employees are paid off to mislead consumers ( that’s what they call us). SO how do we stop them from introducing this product into Western Canada. Ontario and Quebec will already be contaminated if they have field tests. Is the company going to sue the neighbour’s for having the GMO genetics in there fields next year? Can we prevent imports of alfalfa into Western Canada?

  • Joan Russow

    Yes There should be a global ban, the precautionary principle should be invoked, and charges of criminal negligence be levied against Monsanto et al corporations.

    please sign the call for a global ban

    http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/the-un-general-assembly-institute-a-global-ban-on-genetically-engineered-food-and-crops

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  • abrxas

    “The russian government actually tries to look out for its people…”

    Bwahahahahahahahhaahahahaahahhaahhah!