The Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) has added its voice to groups opposed to the release of Roundup Ready alfalfa.
“It’s a superweed,” Paul Gregory, a Fisher Branch farmer and alfalfa seed exporter said during debate on his resolution for KAP to support the Manitoba Forage Seed Association’s efforts to block Roundup Ready alfalfa’s release. “Once Roundup Ready alfalfa is released into the environment it’s here forever – it’s a perennial species and not like canola, soybeans and other (annual crop) species. There are enough Roundup Ready species in rotation.”
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency approved Roundup Ready alfalfa for release in Canada in 2005, but it hasn’t been approved in the European Union (EU) – a market worth about $115 million a year to Canadian forage seed growers, Gregory said.
Since the EU has zero tolerance for Roundup Ready alfalfa, one seed in a shipment to the EU would disrupt exports the same way the traces of genetically modified CDC Triffid flax did in 2009.
“I think we should make this an election issue,” Gregory said. “It’s my livelihood as a seed grower and seed exporter.
“I’m for new technology and innovation, but it’s scary what’s happening out there.”
The Liberals, New Democratic Party and Bloc Quebecois, all support a moratorium on Roundup Ready alfalfa, but the Conservatives do not, he said.
“The power the life-science companies have in our food system is tangible,” said Gregory, who said he recently resigned from the Canadian Seed Trade Association after 20. “When I go to the meetings now they are controlled by Monsanto, plain and simple. That’s reality. I feel as an independent seeds-man I have no power and no voice because of the life-science companies.”
Kurt Shmon, of Imperial Seed, representing the Manitoba Forage Seed Association, urged KAP to support the resolution, saying there is a real threat the GM alfalfa would cross-pollinate conventional plants.
Lots of cattle producers don’t cut their alfalfa until 10 per cent or more has bloomed, he said. That’s mature enough for cross-pollination to occur.
“We know (feral) alfalfa is present in almost every ditch in the province,” said KAP vice-president Rob Brunel.
There isn’t a compelling economic or agronomic argument for Roundup Ready alfalfa, according to Gregory. Most farmers grow alfalfa with a mix of grasses, which would be killed if sprayed with Roundup (glyphosate).
In the United States, where Roundup Ready alfalfa is grown commercially, the seed costs between $6.50 and $6.90 a pound compared to conventional alfalfa at $2.50 to $3.60 a pound, Gregory said.
“There’s a yield drag,” he added. “The varieties themselves aren’t that great.”
Gregory said there are also concerns that if glyphosate is used too much, its effectiveness will be lost, resulting in the need for additional products that are more expensive.
Bowsman-area farmer Dwight Eisner said farmers need to investigate the possible link between liberal use of glyphosate and crop diseases and bee mortality.
Forage Genetics, the company that’s commercializing Roundup Ready alfalfa, hasn’t registered any varieties in Canada yet, Monsanto spokeswoman Trish Jordan said in an interview April 4.
However, changes to the registration system in 2009 could speed the process up.
In the U.S., Monsanto has a plan to reduce the spread of Roundup Ready alfalfa. Farmers that buy Roundup Ready alfalfa seed must agree to the following:
Cut Roundup Ready alfalfa at or before 10 per cent bloom;
Not grow Roundup Ready alfalfa in wildlife feed plots;
Provide their seed supplier/ dealers with the global positioning system (GPS) co-ordinates of one point in each of all their Roundup Ready alfalfa fields;
Direct any product produced from a Roundup Ready alfalfa seed or crop, including hay and hay products, only to those countries where regulatory approvals have been granted;
Do not plant Roundup Ready alfalfa for seed or sprout production;
Have a valid Monsanto Te c h n o l o g y / S t e w a r d s h i p Agreement, signed in 2010 or later and abide by the most recent Technology Use Guide (TUG) and Genuity Roundup Ready alfalfa TUG Addendum. [email protected]
“Ithinkweshouldmakethisan electionissue.It’smylivelihoodasa seedgrowerandseedexporter.”
– Paul Gregory