“If the GMO material exceeds one per cent, it cannot be used for animal feed.”
– JAPANESE FARM MINISTRY OFFICIAL
Japan has found genetically modified flaxseed, which has not been approved by Japan, in imports from Canada, Health Ministry officials said Nov. 16.
In Japan, the bulk of flaxseed is used to produce oil for industrial uses such as the production of paint, with the waste from that process used to produce animal feed and some food for human consumption, a Farm Ministry official said.
“If the GMO material exceeds one per cent, it cannot be used for animal feed,” he said.
Canada is the world’s top producer and exporter of flax, used for its oil for linoleum flooring and seed for baked goods, as well as for animal feed.
European and Japanese consumers are reluctant to eat genetically modified (GM) food for fear of unknown longer-term health effects.
Japan imported 11,713 tonnes of flaxseed in 2008, all of which came from Canada, making it Canada’s third-largest flax market.
The Japanese ministry discovered the GMO material FP967, a variety known as CDC Triffid, when it made spot checks on shipments of flaxseed for food use exported by Regina-based CanMar Grain Products that arrived in Japan in October.
A ministry official said all flaxseed shipments for food use must now be checked to make sure that it has not been contaminated by the GMO material.
The checks will continue until the Canadian government addresses the issue and takes steps to improve the situation, he said. Such inspections usually take about a week to be completed.
Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture said it would also begin checking Canadian flaxseed imported for feed use.
The same GMO material has been found in the European Union from Canadian flax shipments since September, virtually shutting down Canada’s top flax market.
Canada and the EU recently agreed on a system of testing and documentation of GMO materials in Canadian flax shipments but little flax is moving yet to Europe, with time getting short. Canada ships flax to Europe through Thunder Bay on Lake Superior, which usually freezes by midDecember. Canadian flax is shipped to Japan through Vancouver.
Flax industry officials were meeting Nov. 16 with government officials in Ottawa.
Canadian flax prices dropped in September, when Triffid flax was reported in Europe, to $6-$7 per bushel from $10, but they have since risen to between $8 and $9 a bushel, said Gregor Beck, a flax grower from Rouleau, Sask.
Flax trade problems may have soured many farm-e rs on the oilseed and could lead to them switching acres to other crops next year, said Beck, a director of the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission. Farmers are expected to harvest 965,000 tonnes of flax this year, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Triffid is the only GMO flax ever produced. A Canadian university researcher developed it in the 1990s and officials in Canada and the U. S. authorized it for use in feed and food in the late 1990s.
The flax industry later lobbied successfully for the Canadian government to deregister Triffid in 2001 and acquired most of the certified seed, which it destroyed or crushed domestically.