Thursday, April 9, 2015

Twenty GM Alfalfa "Demonstration Plots" to be Planted in Eastern Canada in 2015, "Co-existence" Plan Moving Full Speed Ahead

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Wisconsin-based Forage Genetics is moving full speed ahead with its "co-existence plan" for genetically modified (GM) alfalfa in Canada, despite the fact that co-existence with a feral, perennial crop like alfalfa is impossible.

Twenty "demonstration plots" of genetically modified alfalfa are scheduled to be planted in Eastern Canada during the 2015 growing season, and 12 of these plots were planted in 2014.

The media is releasing information designed to placate the public and GMO opponents under this false headline:

No Roundup Ready Alfalfa Production for 2015

In fact, Roundup Ready alfalfa will be produced in Canada in 2015, just as it was produced in 2014. GM alfalfa will not be released commercially this year, but Forage Genetics has plans to do so in the near future.

Stop GM Alfalfa in Canada and Worldwide 

Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa has now become the first genetically modified (GM) perennial planted in Canadian history.

Twenty “demonstration plots” of genetically modified alfalfa are to be planted in Eastern Canada in spring 2015, and 12 of these plots were planted in 2014.  

Wisconsin-based Forage Genetics is also moving full speed ahead on a “co-existence plan” for GM alfalfa, which farmers and citizens know is impossible.  

Forage Genetics has plans for the wide-scale selling of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) alfalfa seeds in Ontario and Quebec because GM alfalfa has already been rejected wholeheartedly by Western Canadian farmers and ranchers.

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

GM alfalfa was unconditionally approved amidst much controversy in the United States in 2011, and genetically modified alfalfa has been planted there for the past four seasons. It now accounts for 70% of the alfalfa crop in some states and has contaminated the natural crop. Lawsuits 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/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 crop rotations 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. Alfalfa is also used widely in non-GM agriculture.

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 labelling and segregation within the agricultural system, GM crops grown widely in Canada, especially soybeans, corn, and canola, have contaminated natural 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 labelled 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. This is the plan Forage Genetics is moving ahead on in Canada, despite widespread opposition. 

What organic and non-GM farmers know is that this co-existence is actually impossible, particularly with a feral perennial crop (grows back year-after-year) like alfalfa that cross-pollinates widely, including by wind and insects.

The first official case of alfalfa contamination by a genetically modified variety was reported by a farmer in Washington state in September 2013. The farmer’s natural alfalfa crop was rejected for export because, without his knowledge or intention, it was found to contain genetically modified material from Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GM alfalfa variety.

The Washington farmer complained to the United States Department of Agriculture, which responded with an “it’s not our problem” stance on the issue. The USDA claimed that the unintentional contamination of the natural alfalfa crop, as well as the resulting loss of markets and non-GM food security, were a “commercial issue” that must be dealt with in the marketplace.

Because many countries worldwide have banned genetically modified seeds, crops, and foods, including the European Union, any crop found to contain GM material will be rejected for export. 

In October 2014, for example, China slammed the door to U.S. hay imports after unintentional GM alfalfa contamination was found.

PhD work done in Manitoba on the spread of genetically modified canola between 2004 and 2007 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 particular, it would be impossible to contain a feral perennial plant like alfalfa to stop GM versions from contaminating the natural crop.

The same PhD work found something else 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.

(Source: Alexis KnispelKanu)

Major GM and Glyphosate Safety Concerns Uncovered

An unprecedented animal feeding trial published in 2012 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 (until, that is, the journal hired ex-Monsanto scientist, Richard E. Goodman, on its editorial staff).

The 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 30% and 20% respectively 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.
- Rats fed GM corn or Roundup residues developed two to three times more tumours than the control group.

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.

Despite the fact that lab rats live only two years, no genetically modified animal feeding trials have been done up to this point for longer than 90 days. 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.

- In 2013, the results of a five-month feeding study done on just-weaned pigs were released in the "Organic Systems Journal." The study, conducted by lead researcher Judy Carman of Flinders University in Australia, found that a diet of genetically modified corn and soy produced severe stomach inflammation in the pigs, as well as enlargement of the uteruses in female pigs, indicating both digestive and reproductive damage from GM diets.

Carman said that pigs were used in the feeding study because their digestive systems are similar to those of human beings. 

Carman is calling for further long-term animal feeding studies on GM foods before they continue to be commercially planted and ingested by humans.

- Also in 2013, the results of a study on glyphosate excretion in the urine of Danish dairy cattle were released. The study, led by Dr. Monica Kruger, looked at 240 dairy cattle from eight different dairy farms in Denmark. It found that glyphosate was being excreted in varying amounts by all the cattle. Blood tests showed toxicity, with a particular effect on liver and muscle cells. The conclusion of this study was that glyphosate is toxic to the metabolism of dairy cattle.

- In 2015, Italian scientists found that a diet of GM soybeans caused DNA changes in the milk of mother goats, specifically decreasing immunoglobulin substances which could affect the immune systems of the offspring. Baby goats who fed from the mothers on GM soybean diets were also found to have significantly lower weights.

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 was 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 growth 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 the belief that their products are contaminated. It is also opposed by many non-GM farmers and 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.

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

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

Wisconsin-based Forage Genetics International is now selling the seeds for "demonstration plots" of GM alfalfa being grown in Ontario and Quebec. It is also moving full speed ahead with its "co-existence plan," which would pave the way for the the wide-scale commercial sale and growth of GM alfalfa 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 against GM alfalfa are ongoing in Canada.

On April 9, 2013, protests were held outside MP offices across the country opposing the commercial sale and growth of GM alfalfa in Canada. A photo gallery can be seen here:

Forage Seed Canada, an umbrella group representing provincial forage seed associations, is seeking allies to help block Roundup Ready alfalfa from commercial Canadian production. 

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 asking for its sale and growth to be blocked in Ontario and Quebec, as well as in the rest of Canada. 

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

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