‘Coexistence plan’ for GM alfalfa released

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The Canadian Seed Trade Association has released a “coexistence plan” for GM alfalfa production in Western Canada.

“The plan does not advocate for or against the commercialization of GM alfalfa, or favour any one system,” the association stated in a news release.

It also doesn’t “consider the potential impact of GM alfalfa hay on the production of non-GM alfalfa seed in Western Canada.”

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Rather, it outlines best management practices for limiting the chances of GM contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa production and gene transfer.

The 22-page report has five pages of voluntary management practices that “will potentially allow all alfalfa hay production systems to be successful in Western Canada.” These include:

  • Talking to neighbours to determine the location of nearby fields of conventional or organic alfalfa.
  • Asking neighbours if they plan to sell seed or hay in markets that are “sensitive” to GM alfalfa.
  • Following separation distances recommended by various organizations that range from 50 metres to kilometres depending on, for example, whether the neighbour is organic or growing foundation seed.
  • Knowing the location of nearby pollinator colonies and using “communication tools, such as the BeeConnected app, to communicate with beekeepers in the area and identify the presence of GM hayfields.”
  • Regularly inspecting areas around GM fields for feral alfalfa and mowing or spraying nearby ditches and roadsides before it can bloom.
  • Harvesting GM alfalfa at “no later than 10 per cent bloom.”
  • Thoroughly cleaning harvest equipment and cleaning up seed spills.
  • Using the right herbicides to take out stands of GM alfalfa and controlling volunteers.

Producers who export hay or seed to non-GM markets are urged to talk to neighbours growing GM alfalfa so fields aren’t adjacent. They should also scout for feral alfalfa and mow or spray feral plants before they can bloom, the plan says.

The association held extensive consultations in creating the plan, said Crosby Devitt, executive director of the Canadian Seed Trade Association.

“The process included input from several sectors, including forage specialists, seed producers, and alfalfa producers,” he said in an email. “It included a review of the scientific literature related to alfalfa biology and hay production systems in the context of pollen flow and factors that impact coexistence.”

The plan is available at cdnseed.org.

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