Thursday, August 8, 2013

Genetically Modified Alfalfa Primer - Please Distribute

Stop GM Alfalfa bumper stickers available from WWA Activism


Franken-Hay: Stop GM Alfalfa

Monsanto is currently attempting to make its Roundup Ready alfalfa the first genetically modified (GM) perennial planted in Canada.

Wisconsin-based Forage Genetics International plans the wide-scale selling of Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) alfalfa seeds in Ontario and Quebec as early as 2013.

Monsanto's alfalfa strains have been genetically modified to withstand its glyphosate-based chemical herbicide Roundup. Genes not naturally found in alfalfa are implanted by scientists into the alfalfa seeds so the plants will withstand large doses of the herbicide.

GM alfalfa was very controversially approved in the United States in January 2011, and genetically modified alfalfa has been planted there for the past three seasons. It now accounts for 70% of the alfalfa crop in some states. Lawsuits to stop the commercial sale of GM alfalfa in the United States are ongoing.

A Call for an Immediate Moratorium on Genetically Modified Alfalfa in Canada

The introduction of genetically modified alfalfa has the ability to wipe out the entire foundation of organic and non-genetically modified agriculture. Alfalfa is a staple livestock feed. It is a crop often used during the three-year field transition from conventional to organic farming. Alfalfa is also essential in the organic crop rotation as a nitrogen-fixer and natural fertilizer of the soil.

As alfalfa is embedded in the entire organic agriculture system, contamination by GM alfalfa would be devastating.

As a staple livestock feed, alfalfa is made into bales of hay that are fed to animals. What we feed our animals, we end up eating ourselves if we eat meat or animal products. Contamination by GMOs would particularly affect organic/non-GM meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. Because GM alfalfa would have an effect on soil quality, however, vegetables, fruits, and grains could also be affected.

The first genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were released in the mid-1990s. GMOs have spread faster than anyone could have imagined, and due to the lack of labeling and segregation within the agricultural system, GM crops grown widely in Canada, especially soybeans, corn, and canola, have contaminated the non-GM versions. If you are eating a non-organic product that contains a derivative of those three crops (soybeans, corn, or canola), you are almost guaranteed to be eating some genetically modified material.

Already, there can be no guarantee that a food product labeled organic is completely free of genetically modified material. However, because the effort is made to keep organic crops separate from genetically modified crops, organic crops remain the best bet for non-GM food choices.

(Source: Manitoba organic inspector Priscilla Reimer)

Co-existence is Impossible

Currently, the plan touted by GM proponents is a "co-existence policy" where genetically modified alfalfa can be grown, harvested, and used alongside non-genetically modified alfalfa.

What organic and non-GM farmers know is that this co-existence is actually impossible, particularly with a feral, perennial crop like alfalfa that cross-pollinates widely, including via the wind and insects.

PhD work done between 2004 and 2007 in Manitoba on the spread of genetically modified canola found unintentional GMO contamination as well as cross-breeding between GM strains. Escape populations of canola were studied - plants growing outside fields where they had not been planted - and widespread contamination by genetically modified organisms was found among them.

The study found that the transportation and containment systems were most often the cause of the spread of the seeds (spilling from trucks, trains, and elevators), making the standard solution of "buffer fields" between GM and non-GM crops almost useless to stop contamination. Unless the growing, transportation, and containment of genetically modified seeds/crops is kept separate from non-genetically modified versions, contamination is inevitable.

In the case of alfalfa, even those measures could not contain the spread of genetically modified versions.

The same PhD work found something the GMO companies had not intended: some of the GM canola plants studied had cross-pollinated with each other in the wild, forming a hybrid of Monsanto's Roundup Ready variety and Bayer's LibertyLink variety.

Who owns the patent there?

(Source: Alexis Knispel Kanu, PhD)

Major GM and Glyphosate Safety Concerns Uncovered in 2012

An unprecedented animal feeding trial has found that lab rats fed genetically modified corn as well as glyphosate residue - the primary ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup - developed high incidences of tumours, multiple organ damage, and premature death.

The results of the GM feeding trial were published September 19, 2012 in the scientific journal "Food and Chemical Toxicology." The peer-reviewed study was conducted by a team of scientists led by biologist and endocrinologist Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen in France.

The study was attacked vociferously as flawed by other scientists and biotechnology groups. Despite the uproar, the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal, a major journal on toxicology, refused to retract the study.
In addition, the European Food Security Authority has published guidelines for GMO feeding studies that validated the methodology of the Seralini team.

The Seralini animal feeding trial studied the long-term effects of exposure to NK603 GM corn (Monsanto's Roundup Ready variety) and glyphosate - individually and combined - on the health of rats over two years.

The study found that even exposure to levels considered "safe" resulted in severe negative health effects in the animals.

Of the rats fed GM corn or glyphosate residue, 50% of males and 70% of females died prematurely. This was compared to 20%-30% in the control group. Female rats developed fatal mammary tumours and pituitary disorders. Males developed liver damage, kidney and skin tumours and had problems with their digestive systems.

The study found that ingestion of GM corn and glyphosate caused similar damage in the rats whether consumed separately or together. Even the lowest doses of GM corn and glyphosate, touted as "safe" by industry, were associated with severe health problems.

Previous studies have produced similar findings, but this was the first ever feeding trial done over the course of the entire lifespan of a laboratory rat - two years.

No genetically modified animal feeding trials have been done up to this point for longer than 90 days.

This means, genetically modified seeds/foods have been rushed onto the market in Canada and the United States without any longer-term studies on potential effects. The majority of the tumours and devastating health effects that developed with the rats were detected after 18 months, which means that prior GM testing done over 90 days would not have discovered them.

Glyphosate-based Roundup is currently the world's most popular and widely-used herbicide. Its global usage is set to double by 2017, according to Global Industry Analysts of San Jose, California.

The Battle As it Stands

The sale and growth of genetically modified alfalfa were initially stopped by a lawsuit in the United States in 2007, but that lawsuit was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010. A compromise that would have limited the growing of GM alfalfa, potentially protecting organic and non-GM farmers, was scrapped by the U.S. Department of Agriculture when it announced approval of unrestricted commercial cultivation on January 27, 2011.

This decision is highly opposed by organic farmers, who stand to lose the most money (and their entire livelihoods) from contamination by genetically modified alfalfa or even by the belief that their products are contaminated. This would mean the end of European markets, which ban GMOs, for Canadian alfalfa products.
But it is also opposed by all who wish to eat GMO-free food.

Genetically modified alfalfa was approved under Tom Vilsack as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Vilsack is the ex-Governor of Iowa, a corn belt state. Genetically modified corn is big business in Iowa. As might be expected, Vilsack is a major supporter of Monsanto and their genetically modified seed varieties. Vilsack was even named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization in 2001.

Genetically modified alfalfa has now been sold, planted, and grown in the United States for the past three growing seasons. Already, it makes up 70% of the alfalfa crop in some states.

In Canada, a motion on a moratorium on the planting and growing of genetically modified alfalfa was tabled in Canadian Parliament in March 2011 by Liberal members of the House of Commons Agriculture Committee.

That motion was left unaddressed as Stephen Harper dissolved Parliament ahead of the federal election in May 2011.

Now, the widespread selling of GM alfalfa seed has been proposed for Ontario and Quebec.

Wisconsin-based Forage Genetics International plans to sell Monsanto's genetically modified alfalfa seed in Ontario and Quebec as early as this year. This would be the first wide-scale commercial sale and growth of GM alfalfa in Canada and the first ever genetically modified perennial released in Canada.

Ontario and Quebec have been chosen as the introduction points for genetically modified alfalfa because farmers in Western Canada have already rejected GM alfalfa.

National Farmers Union protests are ongoing in Canada.

This is a crucial time for the future of food on this planet and for the future of food quality in Canada.

Two thousand thirteen is a make or break year for the natural, non-genetically modified, and organic agricultural industries in Canada and the United States and for anyone who wants to keep food natural and non-genetically modified.

A Moratorium on GM Alfalfa in Canada   

We, as concerned citizens, are calling on our elected officials to do the responsible thing with untested, unproven GM alfalfa. We are calling for an immediate moratorium on the sale, planting, and growth of genetically modified alfalfa in Canada.

We are also calling for additional two-year laboratory rat feeding trials to be conducted on genetically modified alfalfa and glyphosate by independent scientific bodies unaffiliated with and unfunded by GM corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF, Dow, and DuPont.

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