Canadian farmers and consumers oppose the release of genetically engineered (also called genetically modified,
or GM) alfalfa because it is impossible to keep it from spreading to farms, fields and food sources where it is not wanted. Altered gene sequences are contained in the plant’s pollen, which is carried by bees from flower to flower, over long distances without regard to fences, contracts, handshake agreements, or any other man-made barrier. The seed produced following pollination will germinate and grow into new alfalfa plants that contain the genetically engineered trait (in this case, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide tolerance trait), which by spreading pollen will become more widely distributed and more concentrated, and so on in perpetuity.
Monsanto and its commercial partner, Forage Genetics International (FGI), are well aware of this complex reality, but wish to introduce their GM alfalfa product regardless. The companies hope to placate the public and provide decision-makers with an excuse not to intervene by publishing a so-called “co-existence” plan, developed on their behalf by the Canadian Seed Trade Association. The plan however, ignores basic facts of biology as well as many realities of farming, and shows a complete disregard for the interests of those farmers whose businesses will be harmed by GM contamination.
The Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) is finalizing an industry “coexistence plan” to pave the way for Monsanto and Forage Genetics International (FGI) to introduce genetically engineered alfalfa into Eastern Canada. The CSTA, whose members include Monsanto and FGI, defines a coexistence plan as: ”A framework that guides the implementation of stewardship and best management practices to be employed in order for three production systems (organic, conventional and GM) to successfully coexist.” The goal of coexistence planning, according to the CSTA, is to “provide producers with freedom of choice and opportunity to pursue diverse markets.” However, without GM alfalfa, producers are already free to pursue established and growing markets for certified organic and non-GM products. By allowing GM alfalfa to contaminate the environment, Monsanto and FGI would gain a market for their seed and chemicals.