2-Plants: Canadian farmers have to fight herbicide resistant weed-canola
- To: GENETfirstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: 2-Plants: Canadian farmers have to fight herbicide resistant weed-canola
- From: GENETNL <email@example.com>
- Date: Mon, 21 Aug 2000 09:51:09 +0200
- Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
- Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
- Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sender: email@example.com
genet-news mailing list
----------------------------- GENET-news -----------------------------
TITLE: Canola farmer fights seed invasion
SOURCE: The Globe and Mail, Canada, by Heather Scoffield
DATE: August 14, 2000
-------------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------
Canola farmer fights seed invasion
Lavern Affleck of Saskatchewan says farmers are being unwillingly
swept into a situation where science is working against them.
Ottawa -- Saskatchewan canola farmer Lavern Affleck thought long and
hard before going public with his concerns about genetically modified
seeds. Many people are fearful of the environmental and health
effects of modified seeds, which are altered with genes from other
plants to make them resistant to herbicides, but Mr. Affleck had
found much of the criticism too radical or irrational for his tastes.
However, after he saw herbicide-resistant canola unexpectedly popping
up all over his fields this spring, and learned about other farmers
whose fields were also invaded by modified seeds spreading from
neighbouring farms, he figured the time had come to speak out. "I'm
not anti-technology. But I'm having trouble with this one," Mr.
Affleck said in an interview earlier this summer from his farm near
"We are not environmentalists. We are not against science. We readily
adopt new ideas and implement them on our farm and businesses. We
like to see progress," he said. "However . . . in the case of GMOs
[genetically modified organisms], we feel that we are being
unwillingly swept into a situation where that science is working
More and more farmers have been expressing their concern that
genetically modified canola may be out of control on the Prairies,
said Percy Schmeiser. Mr. Schmeiser is the Saskatchewan farmer who
has been battling biotechnology multinational Monsanto Co. in Federal
Court. St. Louis-based Monsanto has accused Mr. Schmeiser of breaking
patent laws by obtaining Monsanto's genetically modified Roundup
Ready canola seed, breeding it and planting it without paying
Monsanto the required fees.
Monsanto and Mr. Schmeiser finished their court hearings last month
and they're now waiting for a decision, expected in September at the
earliest. In the meantime, publicity surrounding the trial has
prompted dozens of farmers to contact Mr. Schmeiser to discuss their
concerns about out-of-control canola, Mr. Schmeiser said. "I've had
at least 100 farmers across the West telling me about problems
they're having with volunteer canola. It's just unreal the number of
people who have canola in their fields after they have sprayed."
So-called "volunteers" are canola plants that sprout in a farmer's
field even though they weren't planted there by the farmer. Most
volunteer canola spreads by wind or in pollen carried by bees. The
farmers talking to Mr. Schmeiser say they're finding large amounts of
volunteer canola in their grain fields. And because much of that
volunteer canola is genetically modified to withstand Roundup, a
powerful weed killer made by Monsanto, farmers complain they're
having to adopt increasingly complex and expensive systems of
spraying herbicides to keep the volunteer canola at bay and out of
their fields. "They've lost control of it now," Mr. Schmeiser said.
"That is a very serious thing."
Monsanto agrees that its Roundup Ready canola can spread, but insists
that controlling the spread is no different than for any other type
of plant. All it takes is good farm management, said Craig Evans,
general manager of biotechnology for Monsanto Canada Inc. "It's not a
new phenomenon," he said in an interview from Saskatoon. "Can
[genetically modified] canola outcrop? Yes, it can, but no more so
than any other crop."
The federal government body that regulates genetically modified seeds
is not so sure Roundup Ready canola is under control. Asked whether
Roundup Ready canola was out of control, Bart Bilmer, spokesman for
the Office of Biotechnology at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency,
was unclear. "Certainly it's been a question that's been raised," he
said. "That's my answer."
For Mr. Affleck, the prevalence of Roundup Ready canola has meant the
loss of a major weed-control tool. He has never planted Monsanto's
canola because he makes extensive use of the Roundup herbicide to
control weeds in all his crops. He didn't want any plant that was
resistant to Roundup mixed up in his system.
But a strong windstorm blew swaths of Roundup Ready canola on to his
fields, and now, he can't effectively use Roundup any longer to
control weeds in his crops. He's had to add another herbicide to the
roster to get rid of the genetically modified canola growing like
weeds among his wheat. "It may be necessary to use a lot more
potentially more harmful chemicals to kill this monster."
He called Monsanto about the problem, and the company agreed to pay
for the treatment. But he's not so sure Monsanto will be around to
pick up the bill every year. And evidence is growing that Monsanto's
canola is not only resistant to Roundup, but is also becoming
resistant to other herbicides as well -- a suspicion the Canadian
Food Inspection Agency shares. "I will never get rid of that crop.
And I will never be able to grow an organic crop," he said. "And for
the future, I will never be able to effectively use Roundup for my
Monsanto, however, said it has received only 15 complaints about
volunteer canola in five years of selling the genetically modified
seeds on the Prairies, and every case has been well looked after.
Indeed, Mr. Evans said more and more farmers have been embracing
Monsanto's modified canola and the company's market share in Western
Canada has risen steadily. "This has had virtually no effect on my
business," he said.
Manitoba farmer and seed grower Wayne Dobee has no ideological
problem with genetically modified seeds and doesn't have much
sympathy for Mr. Schmeiser and his legal battle with Monsanto. He has
no problem with Monsanto trying to protect its patent. But he does
want to see Monsanto and the other multinational biotechnology
companies take responsibility for volunteer crops and the sprays
needed to keep them under control. "If they're going to produce a
seed that's genetically modified, they should be able to guarantee
some kind of control," he said in an interview from his farm near
Alexander, Man. "They should be responsible for it."
| GENET |
| European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering |
| Hartmut MEYER (Mr) |
| Kleine Wiese 6 |
| D - 38116 Braunschweig |
| Germany |
| phone: +49-531-5168746 |
| fax: +49-531-5168747 |
| email: firstname.lastname@example.org |