Voluntary Better Than Legislated

Thousand Seed Weight (grams)

Estimated Canola Plant Populations Under Various Seeding Conditions

To maximize yield, ideal plant populations range from seven to 14 plants/ft2. At any set seeding rate (lb./ac.), the typical average for emergence is around 50 per cent depending on field conditions. The plant population will also be

affected by seed size, measured as thousand seed weight (TSW) in grams.

These tables show the impact that TSW and per cent survival can have on canola plant densities, for a variety of seeding rates. The shaded areas in the tables represent plant populations sufficient to ensure optimum yields.

Seed Survival (%) = 40%

2.5

3

3.5

4

4.5

5

5.5

6 3

5.0

4.2

3.6

3.1

2.8

2.5

2.3

2.1

Seed Survival (%) = 60%

Thousand Seed Weight (grams)

2.5

3

3.5

4

4.5

5

5.5

6 3

7.5

6.3

5.4

4.7

4.2

3.8

3.4

3.1

4

6.7

5.6

4.8

4.2

3.7

3.3

3.0

2.8

4

10.0

8.3

7.1

6.3

5.6

5.0

4.5

4.2

Seeding Rates (lb./ac.)

5

8.3

6.9

6.0

5.2

4.6

4.2

3.8

3.5

6

10.0

8.3

7.1

6.3

5.6

5.0

4.5

4.2

Seeding Rates (lb./ac.)

5

12.5

10.4

8.9

7.8

6.9

6.3

5.7

5.2

6

15.0

12.5

10.7

9.4

8.3

7.5

6.8

6.3

7

11.7

9.7

8.3

7.3

6.5

5.8

5.3

4.9

7

17.5

14.6

12.5

10.9

9.7

8.8

8.0

7.3

8

13.3

11.1

9.5

8.3

7.4

6.7

6.1

5.6

8

20.0

16.7

14.3

12.5

11.1

10.0

9.1

8.3

Co-operation, not legislation as proposed in Bill C-474, is the way to ensure new genetically modified (GM) crops don’t disrupt markets while encouraging private firms to continue developing new ones, says JoAnne Buth, president of the Canola Council of Canada (CCC).

C-474, which recently received second reading in the House of Commons, calls for the impact on markets to be assessed before a new GM crop is commercialized. The bill’s author, NDP MP Alex Atamanenko, says the intent is to prevent the introduction of new GM crops from closing markets to Canadian farmers.

Assessing market impact is subjective, according to Buth, and the uncertainty of getting new GM crops approved in Canada will drive investment away.

NO CANOLA

“You wouldn’t have canola in Canada if (Bill) 474 went through,” she told the Canada Grains Council’s 41st annual meeting in Winnipeg April 19. “We have a hard enough time making sure that canola seed developers get enough resources from within their companies because they’re competing with corn and soybeans.

“If we moved away from science based and put a socioeconomic evaluation in there they would walk away from canola. I just think it’s absolutely appalling that this bill went through and has gone as far as it is. I’ve actually never felt so strongly about a piece of legislation coming through like this.”

The CCC has had a voluntary agreement with GM developers on how to bring new GM canolas to market since 1996. It works well, Buth said later in an interview. The policy outlines to developers what they should do before commercializing a GM crop in Canada. “It’s voluntary and they have all agreed and we meet once a year to make sure we’re all on board.”

VOLUNTARY POLICY

Developers must get approvals for new GM canolas in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Japan, China, South Korea and the European Union before releasing new GM canolas.

“It’s the industry’s way of dealing with it,” Buth said. “(Bill C-) 474 is a nightmare, it’s a total nightmare.”

The agreement has worked well for Monsanto Canada, company spokeswoman Trish Jordan said April 21

“Our second-generat ion Roundup Ready canola trait (expected by 2014) will go through this process and we will work with the canola council to make sure the products are approved in the countries where it matters.”

If market assessment works by agreement, why not when legislated?

According to Jordan, under legislation groups such as the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), which she claims opposes all GM crops, would politicize the process.

TOO MANY VOICES

“If you had a system that was legislated and socio-economic factors were taken into account there could be lots of players offering comment and influencing that have absolutely no vested interest in the industry being successful or the particular product being successful,” she said.

“If you let groups like CBAN offer their comment I don’t think it really has any interest whatsoever in protecting farmers’ rights to access to new technology.”

CBAN co-ordinator Lucy Sharrat denied CBAN wants C-474 as a way to block new GM crops.

“Any (market) assessment would be a factual survey of export market acceptance or approvals of whatever GM crop that is in question,” she said. “You can’t change the facts about export market reality. Either your export markets accept or don’t accept the GM crop.”

Sharrat accused Monsanto of being prepared to release GM crops and force export customers to accept them and that’s why, in her view, a voluntary approach is flawed.

TECHNOLOGY TOLERANCES

Monsanto won’t undermine markets, Jordan stressed, but it believes buyers should have access to GM and non-GM crops. That only works if buyers accept the low-level presence of GM in non-GM crops carried in dockage or even dust – a policy the grains council is pursuing.

Monsanto is working to commercialize GM wheat. Roundup Ready (GM) alfalfa, despite opposition from the Manitoba Forage Council, is on the cusp of commercialization in Canada. C-474, if law, would protect farmers’ interests, according to Sharrat.

The loss of Canada’s export flax market to its largest customer, the European Union due to GM contamination, shows how sensitive markets are, she added.

However, the bill’s opponents say the proposed market assessment process wouldn’t have prevented the contamination because it appears to have occurred before Triffid was approved for release.

TOOL

“There are lots of people out there who are anti-GMO and we’ve handed them a tool to use, albeit somewhat out of context, to promote their platform,” Flax Council of Canada chair Terry James told the grains council meeting. “To hear that’s one of the reasons they want to put this bill forward doesn’t make any sense to me,” said James, who is also vice-president of export market ing for Richardson International.

Industry, government and farm organizations can flesh out C-474 so it works for everyone, Sharrat said.

“They can only do that if there is a proper debate,” she said. “Obviously the biotechnology industry is trying to scare us out of having this real discussion about what can concretely be done here.” [email protected]

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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