GM Alfalfa Soon to Be Released in Canada

B. McPherson

Currently genetically modified alfalfa is not released in Canada, but is probably will be soon. The US approved it about this time last year with no restrictions. A farmer can plant Roundup Ready alfalfa next to an organic farmer and ignore the inevitable genetic pollution of the organically grown crop.

Monsanto has developed a patented seed that will allow farmers to spray their fields with Roundup or glyphosate to kill weeds. As with other GM seeds, if the modified plants are found growing in a neighbouring field, the farmer with the intrusive plants is in trouble and all kinds of hurt comes down on him from the corporation owning the patents.

A few GM plants in an organic farmer’s field are enough to disqualify him from using the organic label and consequently his crop losses mount as his crop loses value. Because farmers who do not qualify for the organic label, but eshew GM seeds cannot label their product as GMO free, people can only be sure that they are not consuming genetically engineered food by buying organic. Even this strategy is losing power as genetic pollution spreads across the world’s croplands. Now a tiny amount of pollutants are being allowed in the product.

While many city dwellers may be unfamiliar with alfalfa other than alfalfa sprouts in their deli sandwiches. It is a hugely important forage crop for animals, high in protein and nutrients. As a bonus, it is also a nitrogen fixer which means it can take the nitrogen out of the air and stabilize or fix it adding to the soil fertility. This plant goes by the name of Lucerne in many parts of the world. It is related to peas.

Roundup Ready alfalfa may end up being a sour joke on the farmers who choose to plant it. A healthy alfalfa field will eliminate most weeds by choking them out. It takes about three years for a conventionally planted field to come into its own. During that time, judicious hand weeding eliminates the worst pests. Roundup ready seeds are already losing their effectiveness against intrusive weeds. Since the introduction of glyphosate in the 1970s many types of ‘superweeds’ have evolved forcing farmers to buy and spray increasing amounts of poison onto their crops. The seeds cost more than the old-fashioned ones and the escalating spraying adds more to the cost.

Already some of the biotech firms are working on engineering plants that can withstand Agent Orange(2, 4-D). While the public is assured time and again that these substances sprayed onto food crops are harmless that stand has been disputed by many including the Sierra Club. 2, 4-D was a major ingredient in that horror story known as Agent Orange which was declared safe enough to drink until long term health issues surfaced. It has also been blamed for catastrophic birth defects in SE Asia where it was sprayed to defoliate the jungle during the Vietnam Conflict.

The Canadian government is currently making friendly sounds to agri-businesses and encouraging the use of GMOs and terminator seeds. If you do not agree that these are good ideas, take the time to write to your MP and MLA expressing your concerns.

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