Amove by the European Union to allow low levels of genetically modified organisms in animal feed imports is a “step forward” but won’t immediately help Canada’s flaxseed exports into the region, according to the Flax Council of Canada.
A European Union committee voted last month to allow a 0.1 per cent threshold of unauthorized GMOs in animal feed entering the EU. Individual governments now have three months to either approve or reject the decision.
The discovery of trace amounts of GMO “Triffid” flaxseed in Canadian shipments to the EU in 2009 seriously disrupted exports to what had been Canada’s largest customer for flaxseed. Triffid was developed and approved in Canada in the 1990s, but never commercially grown due to concerns over the potential damage to export markets. While protocols are now in place to allow some movement to the EU, and efforts are underway to rid the Canadian crop of Triffid as GMO traces in Canada’s flaxseed supply are still hampering sales to the EU.
The latest move by the EU does “open the door a crack” as far as obtaining some approval for trace amounts of Triffid in flaxseed shipments, said Barry Hall, president of the Flax Council of Canada. However, the current decision only applies to livestock feed and those GMO commodities already on the list being considered for approval in the EU. Triffid flaxseed is in neither of those categories, said Hall.
“Longer term, it’s a step forward,” said Hall.
In the meantime, Canadian industry and government officials are in constant discussions with their European counterparts to work towards improving the flaxseed trade. Hall said flaxseed is now moving to Europe under the proper protocols. However, he added that if flaxseed could see the same 0.1 per cent tolerance for GMOs as is currently being worked on for livestock feed, it would reduce the pressure on exporters considerably.