Decision to Deny Ontario Environmental Assessment of GM Alfalfa a Lost Opportunity

Press Release, CBAN, Oct 7, 2013

Ottawa – Ontario’s decision not to regulate an environmental assessment of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa fails both consumers and farmers, the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) said today.

“This assessment would have been an ideal way to hear the concerns of farmers in Ontario and document the contamination threat from GM alfalfa,” said Lucy Sharratt of CBAN based in Ottawa, “Incredibly, there’s still no consultation with farmers or consumers, at any level of government, before GM seeds are approved.”

Two Ontario farmers, on behalf of many, had officially asked for an environmental assessment of genetically engineered GM herbicide tolerant (Roundup Ready) alfalfa. Their request was made under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights.

“We need a consultation on GM alfalfa that involves both farmers and consumers,” said Chris Litster, a producer of grass-fed beef in Simcoe County, Ontario. “If GM alfalfa is put on the market it would seriously hurt many farmers in Ontario, but no one’s listening to us.”

Alfalfa is an important part of pasture and hay for animal feed, particularly for dairy and beef farmers. Alfalfa improves soil fertility and quality, and is often grown to support vegetable and grain production. It is a perennial crop, pollinated by bees and other insects.

“Our customers support Ontario farmers and are really worried about the impacts that GM alfalfa could have on their local food choices,” said Sarah Dobec of The Big Carrot Natural Food Market in Toronto, “We’re determined to work with farmers to protect our food supply from GM contamination.”

Forage Genetics International could release GM herbicide tolerant alfalfa onto the market anytime, and has said it will do so in Eastern Canada first.

“The federal and provincial governments are so obviously failing Canadians on the issue of GM foods and crops,” said Sharratt. “Controversy and conflict over this technology is accelerating asmore unwanted GM foods and crops get closer to the market.”

GM alfalfa would be the first perennial GM crop approved in Canada. A GM apple has been submitted for approval and would be the first GM fruit grown in Canada.

GM Atlantic salmon could soon be the first GM food animal approved in the world.

For more information:

Lucy Sharratt, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 613 241 2267 x 25; Chris Litster, 705 534 7626; Sarah Dobec, The Big Carrot, cell: 416 371 3471.

Click here for the decision summary from the Ministry of the Environment.

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