Traditional alfalfa or popularly known as Queen of the Forages is, and has been, an extremely important and widely grown successful crop in the livestock communities of Renfrew County and across Canada. Farmers in Renfrew County and across Canada over the years have had the privilege of choosing from some 200 varieties of traditional alfalfa seed; some varieties are chosen to better suit the climate of this area. Alfalfa is an ideal crop grown in rotation with corn, soybeans and wheat. Weed control in an alfalfa crop is not an issue but alfalfa as a weed in other crops is a problem and farmers use Roundup to control it. Roundup Ready alfalfa would defeat this purpose.
Together family farmers and consumers should be sharing concerns in respect to the pending approval of Genetically Modified (GM) alfalfa seed and how it could affect the future of family farms and the supply of healthy nutritious local/Canadian food. There is no-one in the agricultural community and/or consumer community asking for this technology. Then why is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), a branch of the federal government, contemplating to introduce GM alfalfa for use in Canada and possibly as early as this spring?
What is GM alfalfa?
A company called Forage Genetics International has applied Monsanto's genetically modified Roundup Ready (herbicide resistant) technology to alfalfa. Canadian regulatory authorities have approved GM alfalfa for eating and growing, but the company needs to complete one more step, called variety registration, before it can sell GM alfalfa seed. It is up to farmers and consumers to ask the Federal Government to stop the introduction of GM alfalfa seed before it is too late.
The GM alfalfa threat
Since alfalfa is a perennial plant that is pollinated by bees, GM alfalfa will inevitably cross-pollinate with non-GM and organic alfalfa, threatening the livelihood of family farmers across Canada. Prairie farmers have already rejected GM alfalfa for these reasons, and now the industry is trying to introduce GM alfalfa in Eastern Canada. If it is introduced, GM alfalfa will ruin export markets for alfalfa products, contaminate family farms, make it more difficult for farmers to control weeds, and threaten the future of organic food and farming in Canada. Beekeepers are also most concerned in respect to the unknown of GM alfalfa. In addition, GM seeds cost twice as much as conventional seeds.
In 2009 Canada lost considerable flax export markets due to Triffid Flax (GM) contamination. Most trading countries have zero tolerance for GM products. In 2006 contamination occurred in the United States during an open field test of a modified gene in a strain of rice. The genetic material from the unapproved rice contaminated more than 30 percent of all rice cropland in the US.
Several organizations including farm organizations and the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) are organizing a Day of Action April 9th. We are asking farmers and consumers to support these groups by either writing, e-mailing or phoning (leave a message) Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MP Cheryl Gallant -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- and Minister of Agriculture & Agri-Food Gerry Ritz -- email@example.com.
Farmers and consumers do not need or want GM alfalfa. Stop the commercial introduction of GM alfalfa.
This is a serious matter. We thank you for your help. Together we can stop this plan.
Renfrew County National Farmers Union