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Responding to MP letters on GM Alfalfa

June 17, 2013. Please find below information and perspective that could be used in responding to common replies from MPs on GM alfalfa. Thank you for writing a second letter back to your MP, to make your MP accountable to you as a constituent.

Many of you have received out-of-date form letters that do not reflect the update that one GM alfalfa variety has now been registered, a fact that was mentioned in your recent letters sent from here. This also presents a great opportunity to write back to your MP!

Responding to: “Roundup Ready alfalfa was approved by the previous Liberal government”

This present government could have stopped GM alfalfa from being finally registered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and you could still take action to stop it from being put on the market. The CFIA registered one GM Roundup Ready alfalfa variety recently and could register more this summer. The process is entirely secret so we do not know if other varieties are currently being considered. Alfalfa requires registration before new varieties are legal to sell in Canada.

Your action is critical to stop contamination from GM alfalfa. The recent discovery of GM wheat contamination in the US is a serious warning about the reality of contamination as well as its potential cost to farmers and the economy. It is folly to think that we can stop contamination from GM alfalfa, and the costs to farmers and consumers could be huge.

Responding to: “Farmers will cut their alfalfa before it flowers”

Farmers will not always be able to cut down every alfalfa plant before it blooms and unforeseen circumstances, like broken farm equipment or illness, can keep farmers from getting to their fields in time. There are many ways that contamination from GM alfalfa can happen. As well as being a perennial crop pollinated by bees, alfalfa has tiny seeds that can lie dormant in the soil for years before they germinate. How did GM wheat contamination happen in the US this year when it was never even on the market? The US government doesn’t even have an answer to this question yet.

There is a report documenting how contamination will occur, published by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network ( www.cban.ca/alfalfaONreport ). This report is specific to Ontario but many of these same risk factors exist, or are enhanced, in other provinces.

Responding to: “GM crops are approved using the best available science” or “Canada has a stringent science-based system for approving GM crops and foods”

The science behind all GM crop and food approvals remains secret; it is classified as “Confidential Business Information” by our government. The studies are conducted and owned by the same companies that want to sell the GM products. It’s therefore not possible to determine or independently verify the quality of the science behind the decisions to approve GM crops. We do know that most animal feeding trials end at 90-days and that many scientists argue this is not long enough. Our government regulatory agencies do not do their own testing.

In the case of GM alfalfa, the economic and social impacts are critical – it is about the future of family farming and organic farming. But our regulatory system does not take these important non-scientific questions into account. The contamination risk and the potential impacts of this contamination on farmers and our economy is not considered before new GM crops are approved. There is no consultation with farmers or the public before GM crops and foods are introduced.

Responding to: “It is important that producers continue to have choice in selecting the agricultural practices and technologies that offer them the most benefits, both economic and environmental.”

GM contamination actually removes choice for both farmers and consumers. Farmers can take some measures to try to prevent contamination but they cannot control all the necessary factors, particularly with a crop like alfalfa which is pollinated by bees. For example, when GM canola was introduced in Canada, organic grain farmers eventually had to stop growing canola because they could not stop GM contamination. Contamination from GM canola eliminated use of canola in the crop rotation of most of Canada’s organic grain farmers. These same grain farmers also use alfalfa, to build the soil. Alfalfa is also grown by many conventional and organic farmers, such as dairy and livestock farmers, who do not want GM alfalfa in their fields. Organic farming in particular relies on alfalfa. All farmers need to have the choice to grow alfalfa that is not contaminated by patented GM alfalfa owned by the corporation Monsanto. As a consumer, I also want to be able to eat foods without this contamination.