June 18, 2018
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has announced the discovery of unapproved genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) wheat near a farm in Alberta, but says the contamination is an isolated event.
“We’re relieved this is an isolated contamination case but we’re concerned that the government couldn’t determine how it happened,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN). “Without knowing the cause, contamination could happen again.”
“A less isolated GM wheat contamination incident could be devastating to Canadian farmers and the future of our wheat exports,” said Thibault Rehn of the Quebec network Vigilance OGM, “We can’t afford to be careless with GM crops because it’s difficult or impossible to reverse contamination once it occurs.”
Canada is a major wheat-producing nation, with wheat crops contributing $11 billion annually to the economy.
Genetically modified wheat is not approved by any government and is therefore illegal. No GM wheat has ever been commercially grown or sold in any country in the world. Monsanto last grew test plots of wheat with this GM trait in 2004 in Canada.
In 2004, Monsanto withdrew its request for approval of its GM herbicide-tolerant (glyphosate-tolerant) “Roundup Ready” wheat in Canada and the US due to pressure from farmers and consumers along with international market rejection.
There have been three contamination incidents in the U.S. with Monsanto’s GM wheat – in 2016, 2014 and 2013. In 2013, several countries suspended wheat imports from the U.S. after GM wheat plants were discovered in a farmer’s field. The U.S. government was unable to determine the cause of that contamination.
“Farmers should be consulted before GM crops are tested outside the lab. We need to determine if the economic risk is too high to field-test certain GM crops,” said Sharratt.
The exact locations of experimental GM crop field trials in Canada are not disclosed.
“We need to protect our bread basket from rogue GM traits,” said Sharratt.