Forage Genetics International (FGI) has decided to hold off on commercial sales of its herbicide-tolerant genetically modified (GM) alfalfa this spring, but it will conduct on-farm trials in Eastern Canada.
“FGI will not be having any spring of 2014 sales. But what we’re doing this spring is putting in a small number of on-farm evaluation trials just to get some grower experience with it,” said Mike Peterson, the lead global trait spokesman Forage Genetics International based in Wisconsin.
All the trials will be conducted on hay farms in Eastern Canada, where a coexistence plan has already been developed by industry stakeholders, he said.
“There will be no plantings of any kind in 2014 in Western Canada because we’re just now engaging stakeholders and getting a coexistence plan for GE alfalfa in the West,” said Peterson.
The company’s decision to delay the introduction of GM alfalfa into Canada comes despite the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)’s 2013 move to grant registration to several varieties of GM Roundup Ready alfalfa, which meant FGI and its distributors could legally sell the herbicide-tolerant GM alfalfa nationwide.
The National Farmer’s Union said that FGI’s decision to hold off selling its products for another year shows that the concerns of farmers across Canada are serious.
Dave Lewington, an NFU member and grass-fed beef producer from Ontario, said that while he’s pleased that commercial sales will be postponed by the company, the presence of on-farm trials could result in cross-pollination and contamination of non-GMO alfalfa varieties.
“It potentially wouldn’t be as widely released as it would be if they were selling it, but that would still be a major concern if they’re doing that,” said Lewington, who added that he believes the company is delaying commercial sales due to the lack of demand for the product.
From the Grainews website: Roundup Ready alfalfa not on deck for spring
But Peterson said that the trials will follow the agronomic guidelines in place under the coexistence plan and pose no risk to organic growers.
“A Roundup Ready grower could be right next to an organic hay grower and there would be no issues whatsoever. It’s been working fine in the U.S. for the last four years,” said Peterson.
“With hayfields right next to each other, there’s virtually no gene flow between them. There’s tons of research that shows that.”
Sales in Western Canada will be held back until a coexistence plan can be developed that would be suited to the area, which is home to many alfalfa seed growers, he added.
“Our plan is to develop it, but we have to get input from stakeholders on how to develop a system that allows the seed and hay production to coexist,” said Peterson.