Co-Existence Strategy Released for GM Alfalfa


Sept 25th, 2013

The Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) has launched its “Coexistence Plan for Alfalfa Hay,” paving the way for Forage Genetics International to sell genetically modified (GM) alfalfa in Canada. Meetings were held to develop the plan in October 2012 and July of this year, during which farmers and consumers protested outside.

The Organic Council of Ontario (OCO) participated in the October “co-existence strategy development” meeting after which we left disappointed that not one single farmer was on hand to make the case for farmers wanting this technology. The CTSA has developed what is considers “best management practices” to “reduce” the chances of cross contamination. OCO has been strongly opposed to their adoption without first completing a promised feral alfalfa study and without proper consultation within the farm community.

“We were concerned during the October meetings and throughout the follow up process which created this strategy that none of our legitimate concerns were being addressed or taken seriously. There is nothing scientific or evidence-based about this approach” says OCO executive Director Jodi Koberinski

“The industry plan is not based on science or reality. The reality is that GM alfalfa will contaminate farmers’ fields and no plan can stop it,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, “The industry has made up a list of impractical measures for farmers to follow and called it a plan.”

Forage Genetics International, the US company which holds marketing and distribution rights of Monsanto’s RRA (Round-up Ready Alfalfa), has said it would wait until a coexistence plan was published before releasing GM alfalfa on the market. The company has also stated its intention to initially only release the seeds in Eastern Canada.

Alfalfa is one of the most widely grown crops in Canada and is indispensable for forage, animal feed and as a green manure cover crop. This valuable crop is of particular importance to organic farmers, who rely on it to fix nitrogen, build soil fertility, reduce erosion, increase aeration and out-compete weeds.  Alfalfa is a perennial crop, pollinated by bees and other insects. If released, RRA would be the first perennial GM crop to be introduced into Canada.

“The bottom line is that contamination will happen and no one’s taking responsibility,” said Sharratt, “With GM alfalfa, contamination will impact more farmers than ever before. Contamination takes choice away from farmers.”

“The industry is calling their report “planning for choice” but they should call it “planning for contamination” because that’s what will happen,” said Taarini Chopra of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network

Despite strong opposition from the general public as well as from the farm community – including Western alfalfa seed companies, farmers from the CFFO, the NFU and the OFA, the Quebec Farmers’ Union and the Quebec Dairy Farmers – RoundUp Ready Alfalfa was registered for sale in April of this year.  This immediately after, on April 9, farmers and consumers in 38 communities across Canada rallied to stop any market release of GM alfalfa.

Most recently, two Ontario farmers have taken the unprecedented step of asking for an environmental assessment of GM alfalfa under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights. Ontario’s Minister of Environment will respond with a decision by September 30.

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network and the National Farmers Union rebutted the CSTA’s “coexistence plan” in a technical paper released in July which criticized the plan as ignoring basic facts of alfalfa biology and many realities of farming.

For more information on GM alfalfa and actions that can be taken, visit the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network website.  

More resources:

CBAN report:The Canadian Seed Trade Association’s so-called “Coexistence Plan” is a gateway to GM alfalfa contamination”

CBAN report:The Inevitability of Contamination from GM Alfalfa Release in Ontario: The case for preventing the introduction of Roundup Ready alfalfa”

Alternative Journal Article: Be warned: If Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa is commercialized, the flow of genes and traits from GM to non-GM alfalfa will be inevitable and irreversible.


Contact Information:

Jodi Koberinksi

Executive Director

Organic Council of Ontario


For more information:

Lucy Sharratt,

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network,

cell  613 241 2267 ext 25;

Taarini Chopra,

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network,

226 606 8240

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