Monthly Archives: June 2013

Update: Roundup Ready Alfalfa in Canada

Genetically modified Roundup Ready alfalfa is a product that is able to withstand the application of Roundup herbicide, which could allow alfalfa producers to control weed growth in their crops.  Roundup Ready alfalfa is already produced in the United States and accounts for nearly 70 percent of total alfalfa production in some states.  Reports that came out in the early spring stated that experimental Roundup Read is being tested in Eastern Canada.  This came after Forage Genetics International (FGI), a company out of Wisconsin, was given the exclusive rights to commercialize Roundup Ready in Canada.

Roundup Read alfalfa is controversial.  Producers are concerned that it would have a negative effect on the health of their animals.  Another concern is that there is no way to control the pollen flow from the genetically modified crop to an organic non-GMO alfalfa field, or any other type of field, nearby.  This would cause a loss of markets for non-GMO producers and seed growers, specifically overseas.

Last year the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association (CFGA) partnered with the Saskatchewan Forage Council and commissioned an unbiased, fact-based assessment of the potential impact of Roundup Ready alfalfa on Canada’s forage industry.  The report includes a discussion of the basics of alfalfa reproduction and potential for gene flow, cross contamination and the potential impact GM-alfalfa might have on export markets.  The report includes input from stakeholders in the forage industry, those involved in exporting alfalfa products and producers who are interested in an effective weed control system.

“From my perspective, the input gathered and the dialogue created within our industry has been the greatest success of this project. The opportunity to clearly examine the facts and come together for an open and broad-based discussion was essential. By addressing the issue we are positioned to establish the best path forward for all stakeholders,” noted Doug Wray, CFGA Chair and Irricana, Alberta-area cow and forage producer, in a press release from the CFGA regarding the assessment.

Read the full report ‘Assessing the Potential Impact of Roundup Ready Alfalfa on the Canadian Forage Industry

In a report made on June 11, 2013 from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Roundup Ready alfalfa was deemed ‘safe’ for human health and the environment.  FGI and Monsanto Canada Inc. provided extensive data and scientific literature for review by the CFIA and Health Canada (HC).  The product was field tested in Ontario and these trials provided data required to further carry out a safety assessment.

Review the findings of the CFIA and HC Assessments as stated in that report.

The CFIA’s environmental safety assessment concluded that Roundup Ready® alfalfa does not pose any safety risks to the environment. The assessment also concluded that Roundup Ready® alfalfa has no detrimental effect on bees, other insects or other plants.

The livestock feed safety assessment determined that Roundup Ready® alfalfa is nutritionally equivalent to conventional alfalfa and similar to commercial varieties grown in North America. Further, the analysis showed that no new toxins or allergens were present.

HC conducted a similar analysis and determined that food from Roundup Ready® alfalfa poses no risk to human health.

In April of this year a company called Gold Medal Seeds Inc., owned by FGI submitted an application for variety registration to the CFIA.  This registration allows Roundup Ready alfalfa seed to be commercially sold in Canada.

What are Canadian forage producers saying about this?

The assessment from CFGA included input from those potentially affected or involved with the introduction of Roundup Ready in Canada.  They invited these individuals to participate in a forum and to write and submit their opinions.  Input was presented by forage seed producers and industry associations including organic alfalfa producers.  Some were for the Roundup Ready alfalfa and some were very much against it.  They discussed potential impact on the environment, animal and human nutrition, and on the marketplace.  You can view these submissions near the end of the CFGA report.

What is your opinion?