Organic Trade Association in Canada opposes introduction of genetically engineered alfalfa
June 9, 2009
Sackville, NB (June 9, 2009)—The Organic Trade Association (OTA) in Canada has registered strong opposition to federal permission to allow production of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa in Canada.
"Alfalfa is a perfect crop for Canadian organic agriculture. It improves soil, feeds organic livestock and accounts for significant domestic and export sales," said Matthew Holmes, managing director of OTA in Canada. "OTA joins the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate and more than 80 other organizations endorsing the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network campaign against genetically engineered alfalfa."
Under Canada′s Organic Products Regulations, which come into effect June 30, 2009, organic farmers must include crop rotations to build soil fertility and discourage pests. Organic alfalfa is an important rotation crop grown right across Canada to fix nitrogen in the soil and control erosion. Organic alfalfa also generates strong sales in livestock feed, pet food and salad sprouts. Canada′s growing organic meat industry depends on the availability of organic livestock feed.
Bees and other insects pollinate alfalfa, travel far and create a very real possibility of cross-pollination with conventional alfalfa crops. For organic producers, the introduction of GE alfalfa creates the enormous risk of losing not only a key source of soil nutrients, but also the organic certification and sales of their alfalfa crops.
"The introduction of genetically engineered alfalfa could irreparably harm export markets for both organic and non-organic alfalfa products," said Holmes. Both organic and conventional alfalfa seed and products contaminated by GE alfalfa will be rejected for import by countries that refuse GE crops, food and feed. Currently, Canada is the world′s largest exporter of alfalfa pellets and alfalfa cubes, but much of this market could be compromised if the products contained genetically engineered organisms.
Genetically engineered alfalfa would be the first perennial crop approved in Canada with the trait for glyphosate tolerance. The dynamics of a perennial are different from those of annual crops like corn and present different risks, including possible changes to weed populations and impacts on livestock and wider biodiversity. OTA believes approval of GE alfalfa is premature without conclusive research on potential risks to human health, as well as an analysis of the impact on established markets such as organic.
Founded nearly 25 years ago, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America, with affiliate offices in Canada and the United States. Its 1,600 members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy. www.ota-canada.ca
More information on the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network campaign against genetically engineered alfalfa can be found at www.cban.caFor more information contact
Organic Trade Association in Canada
Phone: 613 482-1717