Alta. RMs vote to halt GM alfalfa at border

Alberta’s rural municipalities association passed a resolution last week aimed at preventing the in-troduction of genetically modified alfalfa to the province.

A resolution to that effect, brought forward by the County of Northern Lights, passed with a reported 59 percent in favour during the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties’ spring convention.

It will now be sent to the provincial government for consideration.

The resolution asks that Alberta Agriculture and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency work with service boards, marketing groups and Forage Genetics Canada to prevent the introduction of GM alfalfa “until there is a marketplace and consumer acceptance in Alberta’s export markets, including China, Japan, the European Union and the Middle East.”

Forage Genetics Canada has the distribution rights for Roundup Ready alfalfa in Canada, which is a GM variety.

Heather Kerschbaumer, president of Forage Seed Canada, said she was pleased the resolution passed and congratulated rural councillors on their foresight.

“We’re not about anti-technology, anti-GMO, anti-increases or improvements,” she said in a March 21 interview.

“We are saying, until the world market catches up, we don’t want to develop something and contaminate ourselves and shoot ourselves in the foot, waiting for the world to catch up. We’re saying, let’s wait until we get them to accept it and then if that’s what they want, well, I guess then you have to start producing it.”

The trade show booth allowed her to meet councillors and answer questions about the resolution and GM alfalfa. She said several councillors told her about their objections to the resolution, noting their support of new technology and praise for the value of GM crops.

“I’m not anti-GMO,” she said.

“I’m just telling everybody to slow down. We’re trying to get people to take a second look at this before we contaminate, and its perennial and its forever.”

Background to the resolution, which was provided to AAMD&C delegates before the vote, said GM alfalfa in Alberta could affect hay and seed exports.

“As some countries have strict importation laws forbidding GM products, the presence of GM alfalfa in Canadian hay exports could potentially put an end to export markets for Canadian grass and forage seed growers,” it said.

“The economic benefits of GM alfalfa crops are unclear at this time. They have not produced higher yields, herbicide costs have risen and exported alfalfa products have been rejected due to contamination.”

Roundup Ready alfalfa has been grown in the United States since 2005. It provides weed control in the crop, which has limited herbicide options.

A low-lignin trait, also developed through genetic modification, is in the pipeline. Low lignin could allow alfalfa forage to better compete with corn as dairy feed.

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