Farmers urged to fight GM alfalfa

LEDUC, Alta. — Alberta farmers need to lobby their local politicians to keep genetically modified alfalfa out of Alberta, said the president of Forage Seed Canada.

Heather Kerschbaumer isn’t against genetically modified crops, but said the detection of any GM alfalfa in export hay or seed sales could cost Canada billions in lost sales.

“Our main concern is the potential loss of export markets. It is not about the technology. It is about the economics of losing the markets. Alberta is an export market,” Kerschbaumer told the Alberta Forage Industry Network.

The U.S. has lost export markets because many countries have low tolerance limits for GM material found in alfalfa shipments. China has a zero tolerance policy and other international markets accept 0.1 percent GM in imported product.

The trouble with establishing a tolerance level is the only important tolerance level is the customer’s tolerance level, she said.

“Non detection is not clean enough for us. We need zero contamination.”

A resolution at the upcoming Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties convention will ask local councillors to reject requests to allow the GM alfalfa into Alberta.

GM alfalfa is grown in the U.S. and has been approved for growth in Eastern Canada, but Alberta seed growers worry its spread will be difficult to contain.

The discovery of the Roundup Ready forage in one Saskatchewan and one Alberta field within the past few years is an indication of how difficult it can be to contain.

“As far as anyone knows it shouldn’t be in the province al-ready.”

Forage Genetics International, which has the rights to sell Roundup Ready alfalfa in Canada, seeded 11 test plots in Quebec and Ontario in 2014 and hoped to expand its plots in 2015.

The Peace Region Forage Seed Association has approached Forage Genetics to declare the Peace Region a GE alfalfa free zone and included in any Technical Use Agreement with any seed sales.

mary.macarthur@producer.com

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