Letter to the Editor re. GM alfalfa

Dear Editor,

Forage Genetics International (FGI) has recently announced that it has sold genetically modified (GM) alfalfa seed to customers in Ontario. This GM alfalfa seed is stacked with two GM traits – glyphosate tolerance (i.e. Roundup Ready) and low-lignin. I am greatly concerned about the commercial release of this particular GM crop in Ontario and in Canada.

Many conventional farmers do not want GM alfalfa seed because we are already struggling with glyphosate-resistant weeds, and there is a strong potential for alfalfa seed with the Roundup Ready trait to accelerate the spread of these weeds across Ontario. While the low lignin trait may interest some farmers, FGI is only going to sell a stacked variety with both traits. Of course, organic farmers do not want it because it is not allowed under organic certification, and if (when) alfalfa seed stocks become contaminated, it could devastate the organic industry in Ontario and across Canada.

I feel like Ontario is being forced to be the guinea pig by a seed company. The association of municipalities in Alberta has recently asked that GM alfalfa not be released in Alberta until it is accepted by export markets. Once GM alfalfa has been planted, there will be no way to stop the GM trait from spreading to organic and conventional farms and crops. There are many domestic and export markets that completely reject alfalfa seeds, hay, or pellets with any GM content. As farmers, we risk losing our export and organic markets, and in Ontario, we will have fields full of glyphosate-resistant weeds and alfalfa that can no longer be burnt down with Roundup when we want to rotate to another crop.

In fact, the only person I see making money from GM alfalfa being sold in Ontario are the seed companies who will charge more for this expensive seed and the chemical companies who will make money from us when we have to buy the chemicals to kill it off in the field. It is time for Agriculture Ministers MacAulay and Leal and Premier Wynne to stand up and put an end to FGI bringing GM alfalfa into Ontario.

Katie Ward
Sheep farmer and National Farmers Union – Ontario Regional Council member