1.Canada: Farmers Protest "Industry Spin" Designed to Facilitate Licensing of GM Alfalfa
2.USA: Monsanto Roundup-Ready Alfalfa Should Be Blocked, Court Told
NOTE: Useful resource for those in Canada
1.Farmers Protest "Industry Spin" Designed to Facilitate Licensing of GM Alfalfa in Ontario
National Farerms Union, 25 October 2012
*Policy of coexistence of GM alfalfa is "utterly absurd", say local farmers.
(Kitchener) – Today farmers and consumers are protesting industry plans to prepare for the release of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa in Ontario. The protest, organized by the National Farmers Union (NFU), Grey Local 344, and NFU Region 3 (Ontario), is outside a Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) workshop being held in Kitchener-Waterloo to discuss a framework for 'coexistence' of GM and non-GM alfalfa varieties.
"The CSTA's claim that it can prevent GM alfalfa from contaminating non-GM alfalfa crops is utterly absurd," stated Phil Woodhouse, president of NFU Grey County Local 344.
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. Proponents of coexistence say that GM alfalfa will likely be most used in intensively managed alfalfa fields that are harvested before the crop flowers, in a three to five cuts-per-year system. The early cutting will supposedly eliminate pollen spread. However, blooming can occur when harvests do not go 100% as planned on every field due to inevitable delays from weather, labour, and machinery breakdowns, as well as along field boundaries.
"Tell that to the bees. They do not know the difference, and have not signed any coexistence plan," said Ann Slater, coordinator of the NFU's Region 3 (Ontario). "Bees will spread pollen from GM alfalfa to feral alfalfa plants that are growing outside field boundaries. Containment is impossible and so cross-pollination is inevitable," she stated.
According to Woodhouse, the term "co-existence" is merely industry spin meant to allay farmers' concerns about contamination. "Make no mistake - GM alfalfa will cross-pollinate with non-GM and organic alfalfa and will threaten the very livelihoods of Ontario’s family farmers," he warned.
Alfalfa is an important crop to farmers and consumers. Harvested as hay, alfalfa is used as high-protein feed for dairy cows, beef cattle, lambs, poultry and pigs. It is also used to build nutrients in the soil, making it particularly important for organic farming.
Attempts to commercialize GM alfalfa have been criticized by conventional and organic farmers alike. The Manitoba Forage Association, for example, has taken a strong position against GM alfalfa, which they say would harm Canada's important alfalfa export markets.
"Our experience with GM "Triffid" flax shows how quickly export markets can be shut down due to contamination and how pernicious contamination can be," stated Slater. "In 2009, contamination from GM flax found in Canadian flax exports to Europe cost Canadian farmers millions of dollars and lucrative markets."
GM Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans, canola and corn are widely grown in Canada, but alfalfa is viewed differently because it is a perennial crop that is widely distributed. Agronomists confirm that RR alfalfa seed could appear in unintended places through physical contamination of seed supplies, through cross pollination of seed fields, and as a hard seed which can germinate after several years.
GM alfalfa was approved for human consumption and environmental release in Canada in 2005 but it requires variety registration before the seeds can legally be sold. In the US, plantings of GM alfalfa were allowed in 2011 after years of legal battles.
NATIONAL FARMERS UNION
For more information contact:
Also see www.cban.ca/alfalfa for background on the issue.
2.Monsanto Roundup-Ready Alfalfa Should Be Blocked, Court Told
Karen Gullo and Pamela MacLean
Bloomberg News, October 24 2012
Alfalfa genetically modified to withstand Monsanto Co. (MON)'s herbicide should be taken off the market because regulators didn't properly consider how it affects endangered plants and animals, environmental groups told a federal appeals court.
Advocacy groups are seeking for the second time in six years to overturn the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to deregulate alfalfa engineered to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready weed killer.
Use of the plant encourages farmers to douse fields with Roundup, which increases the likelihood of contamination of other plants and animals within habitat near fields of alfalfa, the fourth-most-planted U.S. crop behind corn, soybeans and wheat, according to lawyers for the Washington-based group Center for Food Safety.
The use of Roundup-ready alfalfa "will result in substantial harm," George Kimbrell, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety, told a three-judge panel today at a U.S. Court of Appeals hearing in San Francisco. "It will cause the loss of millions of dollars in export fees."
Kimbrell's client is asking the court to ban or at least encourage the government to limit the use of Roundup-Ready alfalfa on grounds that unconditional deregulation violates federal laws protecting endangered species and guarding the environment against noxious weeds.
The lawyer said the USDA's action rendered environmental protection law "a nullity" and would make Roundup-Ready alfalfa unregulated.
Government attorneys claim that that the USDA rightly determined that Roundup-Ready alfalfa is no different from other alfalfa and therefore doesn’t pose any danger to other plants. Increased use of weed killer and the effect herbicides have on endangered species is outside the agency’s purview, they said in court filings.
"The plaintiffs are confusing plant pests with things that are not pests," said Dana Kaersvang, a Justice Department attorney.
Richard Bress, a Latham & Watkins LLP attorney representing Monsanto, echoed that argument.
"Under the Plant Protection Act, Roundup-Ready alfalfa is not a pest," he said. "It isn't even close."
Two of the judges on the panel, Mary Schroeder and N. Randy Smith, questioned the lawyers on how much discretion the USDA has to regulate Roundup-Ready.
The third panelist, U.S. Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas, asked Kimbrell: "If it is not a plant pest then the whole case stops here?"
Sales of genetically modified alfalfa were first deregulated in 2005. A federal judge in San Francisco ruled in the case two years later that more environmental review of the plant was needed.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 overturned the planting ban while stopping short of explicitly allowing farmers to begin planting the seed. After new studies, the USDA deregulated the plants without restriction in 2011, drawing another lawsuit from environmental groups and organic farmers.
Alfalfa is worth $9 billion a year, with annual seed sales valued at $63 million, according to the USDA. Dairy cows are the primary consumers of alfalfa hay. Monsanto, based in St. Louis, is the world’s largest seed company.
The case is Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack, 12-15052, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco).