Canadian farmers take on Monsanto over GM alfalfa

29 Apr

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The Monsanto Corporation wants to introduce it’s genetically modified form of alfalfa into Canada.  These crops are designed to work effectively with Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup.  If Monsanto is successful in cornering the alfalfa market then they can sell a lot of roundup.  Moreover, Monsanto also owns the intellectual property rights to the seeds so farmers are restricted in how they use the seeds.  In many cases they can be held liable for seeds that blow into their fields from their neighbour’s farm.  So if they are successful they stand to make a whole lot of money.  The problem is that as with any monopoly the people who lose in the transaction are their customers.  In this case these customers are Canadian farmers. 

In response to Monsanto’s efforts, a huge group of Canadian farmers has joined forces to collectively oppose the introduction of another one of Monsanto’s GM crops into the country.

Eighty groups including farmer associations and food businesses from across Canada joined the growing call to stop the introduction and field-testing of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa.

The alfalfa in question is genetically modified by Monsanto to be tolerant to the company’s brand name herbicide Roundup. Alfalfa would be the first perennial GM crop on the market.

“The contamination of alfalfa would be inevitable and irreversible. We’ve already seen an end to organic canola due to GM contamination and we can’t afford to lose alfalfa,” said Arnold Taylor of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate. “Because it’s pollinated by bees, genes from Monsanto’s GM alfalfa would spread out of control.”

Alfalfa is an important crop for all farmers, both organic and conventional, as a soil builder by fixing nitrogen, as a clean-up crop to end weed infestations, and as feed for dairy cattle and other animals. “Farmers universally see no reason for GM alfalfa. Monsanto is the only beneficiary. The company would gain by selling more Roundup and by controlling yet another crop through its gene patents, which in all other Roundup Ready crops in Canada, have disallowed farmers from saving seed,” said Terry Boehm, Vice President of the National Farmers Union.

Canadians should watch this story closely if they are concerned about the environment, their food and the fate of the Canadian farm industry.  Much is at stake.

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