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By Wendy Elliott
A protest rally against the release of genetically modified alfalfa in eastern Canada is planned for April 9 in Wolfville.
The Day of Action to Stop GM Alfalfa will take place at Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison’s constituency office at Railtown.
The public protest will run from noon to 1 p.m. Local resident Holly Stewart is organizing the rally with a variety of local farmers and consumers.
She says protests planned across the country are an effort to stop the approval of genetically modified alfalfa. This kind of hay, Stewart notes, is a high protein source of feed for livestock.
Stewart is asking county residents to come and sign a petition in support of this movement. Similar actions are happening in 12 communities in Ontario and eight or more in other provinces.
Having come across the rallies on social media, she said, she was “disappointed to see nothing happening in the Maritimes, especially here in the Valley.“
She added she has received support from the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. The Day of Action was called by the National Farmers Union in Ontario.
Forage Genetics International has applied Monsanto's GM herbicide tolerant Roundup Ready technology to alfalfa. Canada approved GM alfalfa for health and environmental release in 2005, according to the network, but there is one more step before GM alfalfa can be commercially released in Canada. A variety registration is necessary from the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency.
This step could be completed as early as this spring. As prairie alfalfa seed growers and farmers have already rejected GM alfalfa, the seed industry now says they only want to introduce GM alfalfa into Eastern Canada.
If released, GM alfalfa would be the first GM perennial crop introduced in Canada. “While the conditions for contamination in Eastern Canada differ from those in Western Canada where alfalfa seed is produced, contamination in Ontario is assured, as are the economic costs to farmers,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.
“Our report documents the many means by which farmers can expect to see contamination from GM alfalfa. Contamination is assured, the only question is how long it will take and which will be the first or primary means of gene escape,” said Taarini Chopra, also with the network.