Background ( GE Free CV.)
About 15 yrs ago. Monsanto introduced GE Wheat and was asking CFIA to accept it in Canada. Thanks to the Canadian Wheat Board, NFU, Canadian activists, and 1 million Japanese consumers ,Canada refused to contaminate our high quality wheat. There has not been any GE wheat in Canada for the last 15 yrs.
Now that the Canadian Wheat Board is kicked out by Harper , there is no guardian for our wheat. Each wheat farmer can grow & sell whatever he wants. Sooner or later , something like this ‘incident ‘ is bound to happen.
Although this incident was discovered in 2017,CFIA said the grains were confirmed to be GMO in February 2018, but it took several more months to determine the exact strain and to do extensive testing to see if any of it had made its way into the food market. (Global news June 15th,2018)
The general public was oblivious of this potential disruption to our wheat industry. as there was no media coverage until June 15th when our Japanese customer took a public stance on this incident.
“We are suspending the tender and sale of Canadian wheat until we confirm that the Canadian wheat that Japan buys contains no GMO,” an official with the Japanese farm ministry said on June 15th 2018.
Japanese buyers pay a premium for high-quality, high-protein wheat. Alberta exported $203 million worth of wheat to Japan in 2017. Cam Dahl, President of Cereals Canada said he is concerned that South Korea and China may be next to suspend Canadian wheat imports. In 2016, Japan and South Korea temporarily suspended U.S. wheat imports after a similar GMO wheat finding.
“We’re relieved that this was an isolated contamination case but we’re concerned that the government couldn’t determine how it happened. Without knowing the cause, contamination could happen again,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.
Media Release: National Farmers Union.
GM wheat contamination incident a reminder of need for better regulation
(June 15, 2018, SASKATOON, SK): On June 14, 2018, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) released information about an incident in Alberta where a small patch of unapproved genetically modified wheat was discovered. The wheat plants have a glyphosate resistant herbicide tolerance trait that was developed and tested by Monsanto in open-air field plots fifteen to twenty years ago. The nearest test plot site is over 300 kilometers from where the contamination incident was discovered. The exact identity of the wheat is unknown.
When field trials were approved the CFIA did not require full genetic characterization of the experimental lines containing the genetic modification. The CFIA does not know, and is unwilling to speculate on how the experimental seed ended up growing on an access road to an oil rig in southern Alberta 14 years after Monsanto withdrew its application for approval of genetically modified wheat.
“We are relieved that this GMO wheat incident was discovered and action was taken quickly to prevent contamination of Canada’s commercial wheat stocks and seed supplies,” said Terry Boehm, chair of the National Farmers Union Seed Committee. “This is a close call, which we hope will not result in lost markets or lower prices for wheat.”
This incident is a reminder of the serious risk to market access and potential devastation of farmers’ incomes that have been put in motion by the CFIA when it allowed field-testing of genetically engineered crops. Back in 2004, the National Farmers Union called for an end to secret, open-air field tests of genetically engineered crops in Canada. Since 2000, the NFU has maintained that companies that are promoting genetically engineered crops such as Monsanto (now Bayer) must be held responsible for losses incurred by farmers as a result of contamination incidents.
“The CFIA went ahead with open-air trials, assuring farmers that their protocols for isolating genetically modified plants from the rest of agriculture were adequate. Today we see that an escape has happened, and that the regulatory process in place in the late-1990s and early 2000s did not even require biotech companies to provide the CFIA with full information about the plants they were testing,” continued Boehm.
Wheat is still a multi-billion dollar crop for Canadian farmers, and a staple food for a large part of the world’s population.
Speaking of Monsanto’s application for approval of glyphosate-resistant GMO wheat in 2001, former NFU President, Stewart Wells said, “We can’t afford to have Ottawa gamble with wheat, Canada’s largest export crop and a staple of the food supply worldwide.”
Today, Boehm said “The CFIA did gamble, and continues to gamble by allowing open-air testing of genetically modified wheat. We may have dodged a bullet this time, thanks to observant and responsible workers who spotted the wheat that survived spraying with glyphosate and the civil servants who looked after testing and monitoring to ensure this is an isolated incident. But now would be a good time to stop open-air testing of genetically modified wheat to prevent potentially more serious incidents in the future.”
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For more information:
- Terry Boehm, Chair of NFU Seed Committee: 306-255-7638
- For the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s full report see CFIA Incident Report
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