GM alfalfa threatens farmers’ livelihoods
Sackville, NB – Farmers and consumers in the Maritimes and across Canada are concerned about industry plans to prepare for the release of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa.
A company called Forage Genetics International has applied Monsanto’s genetically modified Roundup Ready (herbicide resistant) technology to alfalfa. GM alfalfa was deemed safe for production and consumption in Canada in 2005, but the varieties have to be registered before it is legal to sell them in Canada. With a growing season approaching, the agricultural industry fears final approval of this unwanted technology could be requested any day now.
"As an organic producer in New Brunswick, I am concerned about loss of control over my land, loss of organic certification,” explains Murray Bunnett of Murray Bunnett Family Farms. “GM alfalfa will cross-pollinate with non-GM and organic alfalfa, and this will threaten the very livelihoods of many New Brunswick organic and conventional farms."
Alfalfa is a highly valued crop in both organic and conventional farming systems. Harvested as hay, alfalfa is used as high-protein feed for dairy cows, beef cattle, and other livestock. It is also touted as the most important nitrogen-fixing perennial, contributing to soil fertility and quality, while also naturally suppressing weeds. It is not only important to domestic markets, but is also a significant export crop for Canada, and many of these export markets have non- GM policies.
The greatest concerns about GM alfalfa relate to the fact that it is an insect-pollinated crop, meaning that pollen from GM alfalfa could easily contaminate organic and non-GM alfalfa.
The Canadian Seed Trade Association is attempting to develop a “coexistence” plan for GM alfalfa, but this is widely viewed as an impossible goal. Given that the likelihood of contamination is so high and the economic risk so great for both organic and conventional farmers, the National Farmers Union in New Brunswick and the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN) strongly oppose the approval of GM alfalfa.
About NFU NB
The National Farmers Union in New Brunswick is one of two accredited general farm organizations in the province. The NFU has represented farm families in all agricultural commodities across Canada for over forty years. Member families of the NFU believe the family farm is the most appropriate and efficient means of agricultural production. Its members work together to achieve farm policies which will ensure dignity and security of income for farm families, while enhancing the land for future generations. For more information about the NFU NB, visit www.nfunb.org.
Since 2000, ACORN has been the key organization for information on organic agriculture, eating organics, and connecting all the parts together in order to advance the local organic sector in Atlantic Canada. For more information, please visit www.acornorganic.org.
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What is the NFU?
The National Farmers Union is a direct-membership voluntary organization made up of Canadian farm families who share common goals. It is the only farm organization incorporated through an Act of Parliament.
NFU members believe that the problems facing farmers are common problems, and that farmers producing diverse products must work together to advance effective solutions. The NFU works toward the development of economic and social policies that will maintain the family farm as the primary food-producing unit in Canada.