GM Alfalfa: A Tortoise in the Race


Guelph, ON, April 10th, 2013–  Almost 40 Action Days took place across Canada yesterday withsupporters calling for a moratorium or complete halt on the approval of GM alfalfa. In Ontario action days took place in Guelph, Toronto, London, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, Belleville and more.

Organic farmers specifically recognize the threat of this product, although conventional farmers do not stand far behind them and have not expressed a need for it either.

Alfalfa (commonly harvested as hay) is a high-protein forage fed to animals like dairy cows, beef cattle, sheep, poultry and horses. It’s also used to build nutrients and organic matter in the soil, making it particularly important for organic and ecological farming systems.

If it’s introduced, it is expected that GM alfalfa will contaminate all alfalfa, lead to an increased use of pesticides, specifically glyphosate, and ruin export markets for alfalfa products and seeds.

A recent report by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Rural Affairs has already shown resistance to glyphosate in different parts of Ontario. Typically, forage mixtures are not sprayed at all meaning a GM alfalfa will lead to increased pesticide use overall.

“On average one alfalfa planting lasts 3-4 years and no farmer, whether conventional or organic, has to apply pesticides to forage mixtures,” stated John Brunsveld, who has been farming near Guelph since 1988. “A GM alfalfa just doesn’t make sense from many angles.”

A GM alfalfa will mean that farmers have to buy seeds each year and apply pesticides to a crop that has until now not been sprayed at all.

Another important consideration is export markets. The EU and Japan have banned the import of many GM products.

“The damage is still being felt by the Canadian flax market, both organic and conventional, after contamination from GM flax was found in exports to Europe in 2009, costing  farmers millions of dollars,” said Matthew Holmes, Executive Director of  the Canada Organic Trade Association.

Monsanto’s GM alfalfa could be registered for use in Eastern Canada this month. The patent on genetically modified herbicide tolerant ‘Roundup Ready’ GM alfalfa is held by Monsanto but Forage Genetics International is the company that would sell GM alfalfa seed in Ontario.

GM Roundup Ready alfalfa varieties have been cleared for the last step before they hit the market – the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has the final say and is in the process of making a decision.

As April 9th showed, there are many concerned citizens of all groups across the country not in favour of a GM variety of alfalfa. With farmers not showing a need for it either, GM alfalfa does not seem to be winning this race at all.


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