Working to Stop Roundup Ready Alfalfa

The SOD’s Organic Agriculture Protection Fund Committee is focussed on Roundup Ready Alfalfa (RRA). RRA was approved by the CFIA for food and feed safety in 2005, but could not legally be sold until a seed variety with the glyphosate resistant trait was registered under the Seeds Act. We recently found out that on April 26, 2013 a variety of RRA was registered, and that the company’s target market will be Ontario.

On July 25, 2013, two farmers formally asked the Ontario government to carry out an environmental assessment of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa before the seed is sold in the province. They launched an application under Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights, the first ever request relating to the issue of GM crops. Under the Environmental Bill of Rights, Ontario residents can request an environmental assessment if they believe a major new commercial activity could negatively impact the environment and economy of Ontario. The application points out that GM contamination would be unavoidable. It also details the environmental and economic costs of herbicide resistant weeds and increased herbicide use that would result from GM Roundup Ready alfalfa. The application was prepared by a large community of individuals and groups, including the OAPF, who share concerns about the risks that GM alfalfa poses.

Applicant Dianne Dowling, a Kingston area organic dairy farmer, says "The federal government has failed us, but the Ontario government can step in to protect Ontario's environment and farmers." Co-applicant Dave Lewington, a grassfed beef producer from the Sudbury area, adds "GM alfalfa would cause big problems for us because environmental contamination would be irreversible. We can't simply choose not to grow this, it will spread to our farm no matter what. Companies won't look out for us, so we're calling on the Ontario government now."

Read the evidence submitted

  • Donate money through the OAPF Paypal Account or send a cheque to the SOD office indicating the donation is for the RRA campaign.

  • Write a letter to your MP using CBAN’s instant letter tool.

  • Talk to your local farm supply dealers to tell them your concerns about RRA and urge them to refuse to sell it if it becomes available.

For more information about the risks of GMO contamination if RRA is grown in Canada, please see the report, The Inevitability of Contamination from GM Alfalfa Release in Ontario.

Additional information about GM alfalfa is available on the CBAN website.

The Organic Agriculture Protection Fund Committee was established by SOD in 2000 to support the class action lawsuit against Monsanto and Bayer to stop the introduction of Roundup Ready (RR) wheat and to get compensation for losses due to contamination by GMO canola. Our efforts were instrumental in getting Monsanto to withdraw its application to get RR wheat approved in 2004. The legal action regarding the canola issues ended in 2007 because the Courts would not certify the class action. The liability issues we raised have still not been resolved in any court. We continue to take action to stop the release of new GM crops, raise funds, build alliances with like-minded people and groups, raise awareness with the public and our government representatives – all with a focus on the long term interests of certified organic farmers and consumers of organic food. We are a member of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) and work closely with the staff and other members of the Network.

Arnold Taylor submits brief in support of Bill C-474

Arnold Taylor, chair of the SOD OAPF, has provided all Members of Parliament with a brief that outlines the need for Bill C-474 in order to protect all farmers, organic and non-organic alike, from the market impacts of genetically engineered crops. He argues that had Bill C-474 been in place prior to the release of GE canola, we might still be able to grow certified organic canola on the Prairies. All flax farmers might have been spared the losses caused by GE Triffid flax contamination. He indicates that market losses that would result from contamination if GE wheat were introduced would be in the billions of dollars. The public is increasingly looking for healthy, sustainable food and that organic agriculture should be protected from GE contamination so that it can contribute to creating a sustainable global society in the future.

Read the full document (pdf 73k). Take action by writing to your MP.

SOD OAPF submits comments to USDA on GE Alfalfa

The USDA released a revised Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as part of the process towards “deregulating” genetically engineered glyphosate tolerant alfalfa - Monsanto's Roundup Ready Alfalfa. SOD OAPF submitted comments to the public consultation process, with the support of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN). We also signed on to the statement submitted by the National Organic Coalition in the US.

SOD OAPF supports Bill 474

The next stage in our work to prevent the release of genetically engineered alfalfa in Canada is to support the passage in Parliament of Bill 474, a Private Members Bill that calls for market impact to be considered in the variety registration process under the Seeds Act. For more information about the Bill and what you can do, check out CBAN's alfalfa campaign page.

U.S. Court Defeats Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Alfalfa, For Now: Monsanto’s Plans in Canada Likely Delayed

July 2, 2009

Saskatoon – A U.S. appeals court has rejected an appeal by Monsanto to overturn a ruling that prohibits plantings of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa in the country until the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) completes an Environmental Impact Statement.

Monsanto and Forage Genetics lost their appeal of the May 2007 decision of District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco who warned that Monsanto’s GM alfalfa would contaminate conventional and organic alfalfa. He ordered the USDA to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement before any GM alfalfa could be legally planted.

“Monsanto’s plans for GM alfalfa are delayed in Canada now because of this ruling,” said Arnold Taylor of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, “But, just like we see with GM wheat, Monsanto will not give up and we need to stop GM alfalfa. GM alfalfa is a major threat to the organic sector.” ... Read the full press release.

80 Groups Endorse the "No to GMO Alfalfa” Campaign

April 28, 2009

Widespread Call Issued to Stop GM Alfalfa in Canada
80 groups to fight the commercialization of genetically modified alfalfa

Ottawa – Today, 80 groups including farmer associations and food businesses from across Canada joined the growing call to stop the introduction and field-testing of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa.

The alfalfa in question is genetically modified by Monsanto to be tolerant to the company’s brand name herbicide Roundup. Alfalfa would be the first perennial GM crop on the market.

“The contamination of alfalfa would be inevitable and irreversible. We’ve already seen an end to organic canola due to GM contamination and we can’t afford to lose alfalfa,” said Arnold Taylor of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate. “Because it’s pollinated by bees, genes from Monsanto’s GM alfalfa would spread out of control.”
read the press release.

Sign on!

If your organization would like to endorse the No to GMO Alfalfa campaign, please download and return the Sign on Letter against GM Alfalfa

Keep informed

If you want to get all the latest information about GM Alfalfa join the Stop GM Alfalfa email listserve.

Roundup Ready Alfalfa and Organic Agriculture

The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD) is opposed to the introduction of genetically modified alfalfa for the following reasons:

Organic standards prohibit the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for use in organic production. A crop with any detectable GMO contamination cannot be certified organic. Our domestic and international buyers require organic products that are GMO free.

Read the full overview.

Seeds, Crops and GMOs:
New Variety Registration Regulations threaten organic farming and farmer independence.

Listen to this special Making the Links Radio program, "Seed Variety Control by Private Interests" on how the Canadian Food Inspection Agency seed regulations will be changed to accommodate the interests of private concerns and the transnational corporations who are pursuing genetically engineered seed production.

Host Don Kossick talks with organic farmer and National Farmers Union leader, Terry Boehm, about what these changes in seed variety registration will mean for farm communities and the organic farm movement in Canada.

The SOD position paper states, "The availability of high quality seed free from contamination by GMO varieties and seed that is certified organic or eligible for use in certified organic seed propagation is  fundamental requirement for organic grain faming in Canada. The proposed Seed Variety regulation threatens quality, access, public accountability, and the buyers right to unbiased information about seed."

Thanks to Don Kossick and Terry Boehm for making this information available to us.

The proposed new regulations have not yet been introduced. You still have time to make your views known by contacting:

Michael Scheffel
National Manager, Seed Section
Plant Production Division
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
59 Camelot Drive
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0Y9
Telephone: 613-221-7541
Fax: 613-228-4552

Individual action not the way to go

April 16, 2008

Today Larry Hoffman and Dale Beaudoin have elected not to proceed with their individual claims against Monsanto and Bayer, after having the courts deny them access to the class action procedure as a means to seek compensation for losses resulting from the contamination of certified organic fields and crops by genetically modified canola.

The question of liability of corporations for genetic contamination remains unresolved.

The court case on behalf of all certified organic farmers in Saskatchewan began in 2002 and was instrumental in bringing public attention to the liability issues surrounding GMO contamination. The organic farmers sought an injunction to prevent the introduction of GMO wheat. Monsanto withdrew its plans to introduce Roundup Ready wheat in 2004. The farmers continued their action to seek redress for losses due to the virtual elimination of organic canola as a crop due to widespread contamination of seed stock, as well as for losses due to unwanted GMO canola plants contaminating organic fields. During the course of their legal action no new GMO crops were introduced into Canadian agriculture.

Class action legislation is an important tool for groups of citizens to gain access to justice. When denied the benefit of class action procedure, individuals are unfairly pitted against large multinational corporations that have enormous resources. However, Hoffman and Beaudoin, along with fellow organic farmers, remain committed to protecting the right to grow GMO free crops, and the right to eat GMO free food.

“I believe our case has raised awareness around the impacts of products released into the environment,” says Larry Hoffman. “We will work to further address those issues in the future.”

“We are closing a chapter, but not the book. We will challenge Monsanto and Bayer for the liberty, freedom and right to grow GMO free crops. We want to be able to save and use our own seed,” stated Dale Beaudoin. “The courts of the land failed to see our side of the story on how we needed canola in our rotation of crops. I was proud along with my co-partner, to represent organic farmers in this legal action. Just as in the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David has his moment of victory. Someday we, the organic farmers, will receive the justice we deserve.”

For more information contact: Arnold Taylor at (306) 252-2783 or (306) 561-7788

Saskatchewan's certified organic farmers are taking Monsanto and Bayer Crop Science to court in a precedent setting class action lawsuit to stop genetically engineered wheat and to get compensation for losing canola as a crop due to genetic contamination.

In December 2002, Monsanto applied simultaneously to the Canadian and American regulatory systems for approval to release Roundup Ready wheat as a commercial crop. In May 2004, after massive opposition from farmers, consumers and international wheat customers, Monsanto issued a press release saying the company would not proceed with commercializing Roundup Ready wheat at this time. On June 21, 2004 we learned that Monsanto has withdrawn its application for Roundup Ready wheat approval in Canada. However, the company indicated that it may introduce a genetically engineered wheat with other traits some time in the future so vigilance is still necessary.

Latest news

Letter from the OAPF Committee

On December 13, 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada announced it would not hear our appeal. As a result, we will not be able to obtain class action status in order to pursue our claim for losses…

Read more… (pdf 28k)

Commentary: the SCC should step up to the environmental plate

By Jeremy de Beer and Heather McLeod-Kilmurra, law professors at the University of Ottawa's faculty of law.

"Taking on the Hoffman case would allow the court to provide much-needed guidance to lower courts, and to regulators, on how to put these environmental principles into action in the context of biotechnology and biodiversity."

Read the Lawyers Weekly, October 5, 2007 article.

Supreme Court application filed August 1, 2007

We have filed papers with the Supreme Court of Canada leave to appeal the May 2, 2007 Saskatchewan Appeal Court decision which denied us class action status. If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal, and it is successful, the case will be certified as a Class Action under Saskatchewan's Class Actions Act, allowing the farmers to go to trial on these issues.

In his Memorandum of Argument (pdf 1.5mb), Council Terry Zakreski states: This case seeks to ask whether biotechnology companies incur responsibility when their patented genetically modified seed, pollen and plants infiltrate farmland, causing harm. While Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser confirmed that these companies have significant exclusive rights to GMO seed and plants—the question remains whether they have any corresponding duties.

The case involves legal questions of significant importance to the public, namely liability and rights associated with the development, marketing, sale and dispersal of GMOs, as well as public access to justice through class certification. The prevalence of open-pollinating GM crops on the landscape is a matter of significant environmental and public interest. These issues transcend provincial or territorial boundaries, as organic farmers in Saskatchewan can no longer grow and sell certified organic canola as a crop.

Academic Commentary on our Case:

"Infringing and trespassing plants. Patented seeds at dispute in Canada's courts"

(pdf 302k) Published in Focaal-European Journal of Anthropology 48 (2006): 83-98, by Birgit Muller, LAIOS-CNRS, Paris The author wishes to thank Berghahn Books and focaal for the exceptional authorisation to put this version of the article online.

Abstract: Patents on objects that have agency such as seeds pose new challenges for governance, raising fundamental questions of control and responsibility. In May 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada found the farmer Percy Schmeiser guilty of infringing the Monsanto patent on genetically modified canola, because he re-seeded part of his canola harvest although he knew or ought to have known that it contained seeds of GM canola plants that had blown into his field. A year later in May 2005, a group of organic farmers tried to get certification as a class against two biotechnology corporations Bayer Crop Science and Monsanto for polluting their fields with GM canola. At stake are the types of ownership that can be claimed over plants -- whether ownership can be claimed over a plant at the same time that liability for their reproduction is denied. The two court cases I discus allow us to more closely see how genetically modified canola plants have become objects of contention among Western Canadian farmers, how they transformed the farmers' daily work, the relationships between neighbors, and how they increased farmers' dependency on agro-biotech corporations.

"Giving Away the Farm? The Rights & Obligations of Biotechnology Multinationals"

by Martin Phillipson first published in 2005 in Vol 16 (2) of the King's College Law Journal, produced in the UK by Hart Publishing Ltd., posted here with permission. (pdf 64k)

Excerpt from Abstract: Two recent Canadian judicial decisions—one in the Supreme Court of Canada and one in the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench—show clear evidence of the lack of (and need for) balance in this context. This comment will focus on these decisions and assert that either judicial creativity or legislative intervention are required if any semblance of balance is to be achieved. It is submitted that analysing Canadian developments will produce insights of general application, as the issues addressed by the Canadian courts are of universal import.

"The Rights and Responsibilities of Ag-biotech Patent Owners"

(2007) 40:1 U.B.C. L. Rev (forthcoming). by Jeremy de Beer.

Excerpt from Abstract: "Property law, specifically intellectual property (IP) law, has had to face questions such as: what rights does a patentee have concerning the second, third and subsequent generations of progeny of transgenic organisms containing a patented biotechnological invention? Among the questions faced in tort law is the inverse: what are the responsibilities of a patentee when such things cause harm to persons, property or economic interests? Both questions are reflective of the social, legal, ethical and commercial controversies that permeate the topic of biotechnology."

Footloose: Civil Responsibility for GMO Gene Wandering in Canada"

by Jane Matthews Glenn published in the Washburn Law Journal (pdf)

Excerpt from introduction: "The most contentious issue facing genetically modified (GM) agriculture today is that of its co-existence with non-GM agriculture, both conventional and organic. Can GM and non-GM agriculture coexist peacefully, and what measures should be taken to ensure this? And if peaceful co-existence proves impossible, and there is admixture of GM and non-GM crops, who should bear the responsibility for loss?"

Appeal Court decision

On May 2, 2007 the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal released its decision dismissing our appeal (pdf 152k) of the lower court ruling denying class certification. We are disappointed with the decision, but are reviewing it to determine whether we will seek leave to appeal it to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Press release (MSWord)

Contact us

Arnold Taylor
Chair of OAPF Committee

Saskatchewan Organic Directorate
Organic Agriculture Protection Fund
Box 32066
RPO Victoria Square,
Regina SK S4N 7L2


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