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article imageStrong opposition to genetically modified alfalfa

By Jan Rose     May 11, 2009 in Environment
Eighty groups have called on the federal government to stop the introduction and field testing of genetically modified alfalfa by Monsanto.
Arnold Taylor of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate warns the contamination of alfalfa would be inevitable and irreversible.
Organic canola ended due to GM contamination and genes from Monsanto’s GM alfalfa would spread out of control because it's pollinated by bees, he says.
The genetically modified alfalfa is engineered to be tolerant to Monsanto's brand name herbicide Roundup. Alfalfa would be the first perennial GM crop on the market.
The only benefit is to Monsanto, says Terry Boehm, Vice President of the National Farmers Union. Farmers see no need for GM alfalfa. Monsanto will sell more Roundup and control yet another crop through its gene patents that have prevented farmers from saving seed.
Both organic and conventional alfalfa is an important crop for all farmers as a soil builder by fixing nitrogen, a clean-up crop to end weed infestations, and as feed for dairy cattle and other animals.
Although GM alfalfa received Canadian government approval in 2005 it can't be commercialized until Monsanto and Forage Genetics International seek and meet registration requirements for the variety. A federal court in the United States revoked approval for GM alfalfa, ruling that a full environmental assessment was needed, citing risks to farmers and the environment.
The 80 groups that signed the "No to GM Alfalfa" letter include sprouting and seed companies, farmer associations, food retailers,farm businesses, and public interest groups. The groups oppose the sale, trade and production of GM alfalfa and are asking the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to reassess its approval of GM alfalfa.
Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, a coalition of 18 groups, says response from diverse groups is huge. She predicts it's only the beginning of strong opposition to GM alfalfa.
There's a lot at stake for consumers and farmers alike, she adds.
The government must not wait until after it's too late and farmers have lost their crops and livelihoods to contamination, Sharratt says. They must recognize the predictable and devastating environmental and economic costs of GM alfalfa. Approval should be revoked now.
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