Skip to content

Impact of GM Alfalfa on organic agriculture – Impact de la luzerne GM sur l’agriculture biologique

March 18, 2011

Cliquez ici pour le blogue en version française

Call for your testimonial Blog to be heard!

Genetically modified (GM) alfalfa has been approved for planting in the US and is one step away from being sold as seed in Canada.  The Organic Federation of Canada joins the effort of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) to collect organic farmers’ concerns about the foreseen impact of GM alfalfa on their operations.

The testimonials and comments received will help the sector prepare a strategy when the new House of Commons Agriculture Committee will resume its activities after the election of the next government.

So, please describe what would be the impact of the introduction of GM alfalfa on your farming operations, with your name and region. Thanks in advance for your precious cooperation.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2011 9:49 am

    I believe that genetic modifications that create tolerance to pesticides should not be approved by any government body ever!
    I believe that companies which create genetically modified plants should be held liable for their unintended spread.
    I believe that farmers/operators who chose to purchase and plant genetically modified seeds/plants should be charged with the responsibility to ensure that there is no unintended spread to neighbouring properties (through establishment of buffer zones, windbreaks or any other appropriate measure).
    I believe that governments of the world who approve the use of genetically modified seeds within their countries’ borders should establish funding to collect and preserve heritage seeds so that natural species are protected and available for repopulating the Earth when the genetically modified seeds have finished wreaking their havoc in the future.

    • April 19, 2011 7:37 am

      Please note that organic producers are marginalized and that stakeholdes should simply say that GM alfalfa will kill all EU conventional forage seed trade as the EU does not recognize this event and there is no tolerance for GM alfalfa.

      Paul Gregory

  2. Lorraine Beaudette permalink
    March 22, 2011 3:22 pm

    I tend to agree with much of what Donna has posted. I do question how we can ever expect an open pollinated crop such as Alfalfa to be safe by use of buffer zones. I have yet to meet a lead cutter bee who understands and respects such controls.
    The fundamental question of who is “really” benefitting from a GM Alfalfa needs to be at the top of the discussion board.

  3. March 23, 2011 12:00 pm

    My herbal medicine business relies on providing healthy, GM-free herbs to people in need. Alfalfa makes up a large portion of my tea blends, being that it is practically a whole food in itself, complete with a good balance of mineral and vitamins. It is used for a wide variety of conditions, including arthritis and other inflammatory situations, blood cleansing, muscle toning, recovery from trauma such as surgery and injury, etc. My farm is situated on the edge of a hay farm which is mostly alfalfa, and I will not be able to grow or harvest alfalfa should GM alfalfa take to the wind.
    Who is going to benefit from GM alfalfa anyway? It sure seems to grow just fine as is.

  4. Michelle Strebchuk permalink
    March 24, 2011 1:28 am

    I’m attaching a recent article by Dr. Brenda Frick that was published in the Western Producer in February, as I agree completely with the sentiments expressed.

    Gov’t not hearing organic sector’s demand for choice on GM
    February 10, 2011
    Companies that develop genetically modified crop varieties plan to produce more such varieties in the future.

    Organic farmers wish to avoid GM plants and seeds in their systems.

    They are at opposite ends of the issue. Why can’t they just agree to coexist?

    The debate heated up recently when the U.S. Department of Agriculture authorized unrestricted cultivation of GM alfalfa. In Canada we have clear examples of why this can be devastating for canola and flax growers.

    The migration of GMOs from farms happens all too easily.

    Seed moves from poorly tarped farm trucks, swaths blowing in the wind, canola tumbleweeds and animal movement.

    “Escaped populations of HR canola, canola that is resistant to herbicides such as glyphosate, primarily through genetic engineering, are ubiquitous outside of cultivated fields,” says a study published in the scientific journalWeed Science.

    Trans-genes, which were engineered into the canola, are moving among herbicide resistant canola varieties. They have also moved to non GM canola.

    According to another article inWeed Science,there is “the high probability that pedigreed canola seed lots are cross-contaminated with the various herbicide resistance traits.”

    This movement of seed and genes means that it is difficult to find canola that is guaranteed free of genetic modification.

    If pedigreed seed growers can’t keep their varieties isolated, then there is little likelihood the trans-genes can be kept out of common seed.

    Add to this inter-field pollen transfer and organic production of canola is possible only in extreme isolation.

    We have also learned from the Triffid example in flax that once a GM crop is released, it is difficult to put the genie back in the bottle.

    Is this likely to happen in alfalfa if GM varieties were?

    Of course it is. Alfalfa is an important rotational crop and livestock feed. It is widespread.

    Contamination would move among fields, along roadsides and throughout the system. New areas would be contaminated in years of drought or flooding and when feed must be shipped long distances.

    It is ironic that invasive species such as purple loosestrife and zebra mussels have caused major concern, with governments developing action plans for their elimination, while governments embrace the invasive species of GM crops and allow them unrestricted access to the environment.

    Proponents of genetic modification seem to counter with three main arguments:

    • farmers want GM crops;

    • GM crops are needed to feed the world;

    • markets will come around.

    Aren’t farmers voting for GM crops with their seed dollars, at least in canola?

    Perhaps some are, but it is a choice among severely limited options. Farmers have already lost the European canola market and access to GM free canola seed.

    No-till farmers are the main clients for herbicide resistant canola seed. With it, they are able to replace tillage with herbicide, often glyphosate.

    Several years ago, when the Canadian Wheat Board held information meetings about the proposed release of GM wheat, no-till farmers led the opposition. Their concerns included loss of markets, potential overuse of glyphosate in rotations that could lead to herbicide resistance in weed populations and difficulty in controlling herbicide tolerant volunteer crops.

    Although some farmers may want GM crops, many do not.

    What about the argument that genetic modification is needed to feed the world?

    Forecasters see a future of several more billion people, resulting in a need for increased food production worldwide. GM proponents suggest we must engineer crops for higher yield to meet this demand.

    The alternative interpretation is that political will and financial commitment are what is needed to feed the world, and that soil building techniques, such as those adopted by organic farmers, and measures to keep small farmers on their land are more important to the future of food production and food security.

    Will European markets come to accept GM crops?

    They have not accepted GM crops in the past. Canadian officials tell the Europeans that they must accept GM products to trade with us, which is basically saying, “sorry, but our stuff is contaminated.”

    This is not likely to be an ideal marketing stance, but it opens the door to more GM varieties being released.

    There are always the Americans. As sellers of GM products, they can’t really forbid them.

    And what about choice?

    Many people want to eat food that is not genetically modified.

    Perhaps they believe the studies showing reproductive failures and increased cancer rates in test animals fed GM food. Perhaps they are concerned about the influence of GM crops on bees and soil.

    Perhaps they distrust corporate agendas or believe in the cautionary principle. Perhaps they have food sensitivities.

    But whatever their concern, should they not be allowed to choose?

    It is hard to find GM-free food. Organic production forbids the use of GM varieties, so many people turn to organic to avoid GM food.

    Contamination of seed stocks with the products of genetic modification amounts to preventing organic production of those crops, which concerns organic groups.

    In Canada, there is concern that GM alfalfa will cross the border and make its way into our system, contaminating or becoming commingled in our fields and reaching Canadian meat. There is also concern that our government may follow the American decision and that additional crops will follow.

    The fear that organic groups express about genetic modification is not just alarmist rhetoric. We have seen the loss of organic canola and the financial impact from GM flax. We have seen the loss of the farmers’ right to farm free from contamination and an average consumer’s loss of the right to eat a non GM diet.

    Many organic producers feel the government is not listening to their concerns.

    Perhaps though, we can find the hope that comes from standing together and demanding choice.

    Brenda Frick, Ph. D., P. Ag. is an extension agrologist and researcher in organic agriculture. She welcomes your comments at 306-260-0663 or email

  5. Dwight Brown permalink
    April 7, 2011 9:18 am

    I was diagnosed with terminal incurrable lymphoma and given 20 months to live on February 20, 2006. I didn’t die. Part of my healthy lifestyle is the regular consumption of flax. It has amazing components that fight cancer. I only use organic flax and see the introdution of GMO flax as a disaster for people like me. Not only is the genetically modified portion of the seed toxic, but it will be laced with the breakdown compounds for the Round Up. These have been shown to cause organ damage, something I don’t need.

  6. Shirley permalink
    April 7, 2011 10:58 am

    I agree with everything I’ve read here.

    It is vitally important to return farming to smaller, more diversified and easily managed farms – family first. Mono-based farming is just not viable long-term with climate changes, never mind sustainable land practices. here’s a rural term for the large farms – not farms but land miners, with about as much respect. That’s not to say all farmers are the same. From our farming friends we hear their frustration with lack of choices for seeds and nutrients. Those that are honest are worried and admit it’s lead by profit-based corporations that intimidate and threaten their “customers”.

    About word..never! We are retiring to a small, crop-based hobby farm – organic, of course. The surrounding land is all alfalfa fields. The use of GM would quickly destroy any viability of crop production. So much for a retirement income! And then there are the health effects..disastrous long-term for anyone.

    I sincerely hope that awareness comes before our wonderful natural environments are gone and we are suddenly the number 1 endangered species..perhaps we’re closer than we think – and perhaps we can turn things around, one organic parcel at a time.

    Best of luck with stopping any more GM arrivals.

  7. Miche permalink
    April 10, 2011 4:00 pm

    Lovely paper presented to 2011 Organic Council of Ontario on “GM RISKS: TO ORGANIC FARMERS? OR TO ALL FARMERS?” (by E. Ann Clark). Well researched and very clear as tot the dangers that GM present. Find it at:

  8. Michelle Strebchuk permalink
    April 10, 2011 4:00 pm

    Lovely paper presented to 2011 Organic Council of Ontario on “GM RISKS: TO ORGANIC FARMERS? OR TO ALL FARMERS?” (by E. Ann Clark). Well researched and very clear as tot the dangers that GM present. Find it at:

  9. April 13, 2011 7:12 pm

    I am disabled by Multiple Chemical Sensitivities after being sensitized to GM enzymes at work. GMOs cause unexpected allergies and other health problems. I believe more and more people have developed hay fever and asthma over the years due to GM pollen blowing around. GM enzymes used in bread have probably caused the gluten sensitivity epidemic that is occurring. These health problems will become much worse if GM alfalfa is planted everywhere. It will also greatly increase pesticide use, another health hazard. Some of the supplements I take, to maintain what little health I have left, contain alfalfa. The government has no right to contaminate my medicines and my environment!

  10. July 17, 2011 5:19 pm

    The GE alfalfa issue in Alberta has us changing our minds about locating and starting an organic farm there. While I would love to get involved in Alberta organic movements, I also know how determined the GM industry is to keep their interests ahead of everyone else. After many years of growing I’m just shocked to find myself in a position where I have to weight where I end up. It use to be “just get out there and find a good farm”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: