Saskatoon—The recent discovery in southern Alberta of genetically modified wheat plants with Monsanto’s glyphosate resistance trait has renewed concern about the risk of GMO contamination to Canada’s wheat. Japan and Korea have suspended imports of Canadian wheat pending their own investigation of the situation.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has called for the elimination of open-air testing of genetically modified crops since 2001. The potential impact on farmers’ livelihoods and the Canadian economy that would occur if contamination resulted in permanently closed markets is an unacceptable risk.
“We sincerely hope that the Alberta incident is isolated. How the genetically modified wheat plants ended up in the location where they were found remains a mystery. However, it is clear that the test plot protocol has been inadequate to prevent an escape,” said Terry Boehm, Chair of the NFU Seed Committee. “The only way to prevent these incidents happening in the future is to ban outdoor testing.”
Today, Boehm sent a letter to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) requesting full disclosure of the locations of all current and past open-air test plots of genetically modified wheat so that farmers and others can be on the look-out for escapes, and as citizen monitors, assist in the eradication of contamination risks if additional genetically plants are found.
According to the CFIA, biotech companies have done field trials of genetically modified wheat most years since 1998, including 2 in Ontario in 2011 and 2012, and 52 in Alberta in 2014. Monsanto did outdoor genetically modified herbicide tolerant wheat trials from 1998 through 2004. Syngenta and BASF did field testing in 2005 and 2006. For the past five years, most of the field trials have been done in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. 54 field trials of genetically modified wheat – including 32 by Bayer Crop Science, which has just purchased Monsanto — were carried out in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in 2017.
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For more information:
Terry Boehm, Chair, NFU Seed Committee: 306-255-7638