Elisabeth Abergel, PhD
GM Wheat Threatens Canadian Exports Genetically modified wheat varieties are being developed in Canada but have not yet entered commercial productio.
GM Wheat Threatens Canadian Exports
Genetically modified wheat varieties are being developed in Canada but have not yet entered commercial production. Wheat farmers fear that pollen contamination from GM wheat (engineered to tolerate herbicide application) could jeopardize Canada's wheat exports unless the federal government acts more aggressively to protect non-GM wheat. The Keystone Agricultural Producers, a Brandon-based farm lobby group, wants Canadian regulators to adopt stringent guidelines for the containment of GM wheat. Since most buyers of Canadian wheat have a zero tolerance policy concerning GM wheat, Canadian shipments run the risk of being rejected, closing off lucrative markets for Canadian farmers. The Canadian Wheat Board also expressed nervousness about the potential of genetically modified wheat to put the whole industry at risk.
The Western Producer, May 10, 2001; < cbc.radio-canada/htmen/0_1.htm >, May 25, 2001
Wheat Trials in the Prairies
Monsanto is organizing 152 trials in 33 sites of its Roundup Ready (RUR) wheat this year. In fact, RUR wheat trials have been ongoing for the last four years according to a Monsanto spokesperson. All field trials are government approved and follow guidelines established by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Heritage seed curator Sharon Rempel is extremely concerned about the possible effects of growing heirloom wheat varieties in close proximity to genetically modified wheat--so much so that she has asked the CFIA for information about the location of these test sites. Both the CFIA and Monsanto have refused to publicize their trials for fear of reprisals by anti-GMO activists. But according to Rempel, this secrecy threatens farmers growing heritage as well as organic wheat varieties because they may be growing their crops next to one of Monsanto's test sites. In addition, the 30 metre buffer zones used to prevent pollen flow from GM wheat during trials does little to reassure Rempel and others who believe that pollinating insects are capable of exceeding that distance.
The Western Producer, May 24, 2001
For more information contact Sharon Rempel at:
#1406, 5328 Calgary Trail
Edmonton, AB, T6H 4J8
Ph: (780) 461-9958; fax: (780) 469-6314
Soybean Yield Drag
A recent peer-reviewed study published by University of Nebraska researchers showed that the process of inserting genes into the plant combined with the genetic differences between genetically modified and conventional varieties were sufficient to reduce yields of Roundup Ready soybeans by five to 10 per cent. This means that regardless of Roundup application, there is yield suppression in genetically modified soybeans when compared to non-modified varieties. This study raises important questions about the process of genetic engineering and its effect on overall plant activity as well as on the necessity and profitability of genetically modified varieties created to tolerate herbicides. In addition, this work demonstrates that, contrary to current regulatory principles, the process of genetic engineering does matter and that it cannot be considered the same or equivalent to traditional breeding techniques for creating or evaluating new plant varieties.
< http://screc.unl.edu/Research/Glyphosate/glyphosateyield.html >
British Government Halts Field Trials
On May 21, 2001, the British government responded to pressure from protesters and cancelled trials of genetically modified maize near the Henry Doubleday Research Association Ryton Organic Garden, near Coventry. Environmentalists were concerned about pollen spread by wind, birds or insects from neighbouring fields and the risks of contaminating organic research plots. Campaigners welcomed the decision. In a related development, local councillors are demanding that greater power be given to local people to decide whether GM trials should be allowed near their homes, fields and gardens--an important move that Canadians should contemplate in order to safeguard our food supply.
London, AP via NewsEdge Corporation, May 22, 2001; GEN5-27, May 27, 2001
Chip Sundstrom, executive director of the Parsons Seed Certification Center at the University of California at Davis, has been studying pollen spread. He sampled cotton seed fields at a distance of 80 feet up to nearly a mile from random pollen-producing fields in the area. He found evidence of outcrossing up to a mile from other cotton fields. Cotton fields are known to receive a lot of insecticides. Sundstrom was surprised at the extent of outcrossing that occurred in fields that were rid of bees or insects of any kind. Obviously studies such as these confirm our lack of understanding about pollen movement, they also cast doubts on the distances imposed as buffer zones during the field trials of GM crops to prevent outcrossing.
Farm Journal Magazine, May/June 2001, "Pollen in the Air" by Greg D. Horstmeier, posted on May 5, 2001 at < email@example.com >