Genetic improvements in alfalfa have been a topic for the past seven years. Most are fearful that genetically modified (GM) alfalfa will become resistant to herbicides as there is evidence that the implanted gene is being passed on in reproduction and the plant is the first modified perennial.
Agricultural Fieldmen in the Peace Country have discussed the possibility of seed producers using Genetically Modified (GM) Alfalfa. The worry is that the genetic modifications may not be able to be controlled and may cross breed with alfalfa being produced for the fine seed industry. The Canadian Seed Trade Association states that the Alberta side of the Peace Country produces about 27% of forage seeds in Alberta and almost 18% of the forage seed produced in Western Canada. Our neighbors residing in the Peace River Regional District account for almost 14% of forage seed acres with 6% of it being alfalfa and alfalfa mixes.
Currently GM Alfalfa is perceived as a threat to Canada’s exports of fine seeds. The export market makes seed production in the Peace Country a viable and stable commodity for an agriculture setting. When shipments are turned away from countries that don’t accept GM products, the fine seed economy experiences negative effects in perception and economics.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) approved the seed in 2005 and permitted its sale in 2013. As a perennial with various uses, GM Alfalfa’s gene flow routes between populations relate to hay, feral and seed, and can cross in nine ways.
GM Alfalfa is often compared to GM canola. The difference is that canola is an annual, is intensively managed and doesn’t cross contaminate.
The Saddle Hills County Agriculture Service Board (ASB) wishes to maintain all markets for various agriculture products. The ASB is aware that diversity is key in agricultural sustainability. Producing GM Alfalfa does pose a risk to the fine seed industry but … how big is that risk and can it be managed? The Board has discussed Alfalfa production in the County and notes that it doesn’t spread very easily in its current state and that it requires specific bee breeds for pollination. Research is ongoing and updates will be provided.
For now, the ASB asks that producers choose a product other than GM Alfalfa until they know more. Remember the ASB meetings are open to the public and they are typically the third Tuesday of the month and held in the County Complex. Watch the back page of the Signal newspaper, like our Facebook Page and check out our website for dates.
If you have any questions about GM Alfalfa, please contact the Agriculture Services Department.
Posted on 03/27/2017