Sep 102009

Canada’s GM contaminated flax has now been found in 28 countries






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Triffid flax is GM and came out of the CDC (the Crop Development Centre) at the University of Saskatchewan.

Ten years ago Terry Boehm was a critical player in the Flax Council’s success in preventing the introduction of GM flax into Canada.  Farmers knew they would lose international flax markets if Canadian flax became contaminated with GM seeds.  They had experience with GM canola.

The following is consistent with what I’ve read and heard:

“ … on September 10, 2009 the European Union (EU) Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) reported finding an unapproved genetically modified (GM) flax/linseed variety in cereal and bakery products in Germany. The Canadian flax seed market promptly collapsed. The brand name of this GM flax was Triffid, and it was developed and registered for use in Canada by Alan McHughen.

McHughen’s seed

Alan McHughen, over the strong and vigorous objections of the flax growers in Canada, insisted on bioengineering and then registering the GM Triffid flax with public funds through the University of Saskatchewan Crop Development Center.[5] Triffid was approved by Canadian regulators in 1998 but the Flax Council of Canada convinced the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to remove variety registration for the GM flax in 2001, making it illegal to grow.  

(INSERT:  I don’t understand. See Item #3 – the CFIA still shows Triffid as “authorized”. )

 Flax growers took this action to protect their export markets from the threat of GM contamination.[6] The University of Saskatchewan lost a substantial sum of money from this episode.[7][8][9]  

(INSERT:  it has been reported that the development costs alone ran to over $2 million dollars.)

In September 2009 Resource News International reported:

Cash bids for flaxseed in Western Canada have taken a dramatic turn for the worse with some of the decline being linked to European concerns the crop contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

GM flax FP967 (CDC Triffid) has tolerance to soil residues of sulfonylurea-based herbicides. Canada supplies approximately 70% of the total flax/linseed utilized in the EU annually.[11]

An article by Allan Dawson in the Manitoba Co-operator (“CDC Triffid Flax Scare Threatens Access To No. 1 EU Market”, September 17 2009), states that McHughen deliberately spread his GM Triffid flax seed by giving away packets to farmers to plant, at a time when the flax industry was trying to eradicate the GM threat from its crop:

Alan McHughen, who developed CDC Triffid, gave away small packets of the seed early in the decade — a move criticized by the flax industry at the time.[12]  

(INSERT:  I talked with Percy Schmeiser.  He said that McHughen also gave out packets of 144 seeds each, to rural school students to take home.  But I wonder how vigilant was the collection of the Triffid seed when it was all to have been destroyed ?  The University had sold the seed.)  . . .

Testing did confirm that the contaminant was Triffid. In January 2010, an article for CBC News reported:

Canadian flax seed has been shut out of its largest market after traces of Triffid — a genetically modified form of the crop ordered destroyed 10 years ago — was found in shipments. The European Union, which buys 70 per cent of Canada’s flax, has a zero-tolerance policy regarding genetically modified organisms and has been turning away shipments. … “

Officials say Canada’s entire $320-million industry is threatened.[14]  . . .

So what happened?  . . . OOPS!  Somehow GM flax sneaked its way out.  And OOPS!  The Europeans discovered it in their shipments of flax from Canada in September 2009.  And OOPS!  They turned it back.  And OOPS!  We’re talking about flax, worth $320 million dollars in sales, not to mention the other costs associated with it.

Lame excuses:

–          “ …  managing director (of the CDC) Dorothy Murrell told CBC News.  “We’re puzzled, but regardless of that, we’re taking action and trying to do our part . . “

–        “ …  The modified seed was deregistered and ordered destroyed 10 years ago . . .   Mysteriously, Triffid has reappeared in commercial crops.”

Where is our backbone?  We are talking about our food supply.


–        if Canadian farmers sue over the loss of flax markets (as the American farmers sued over loss of rice markets), the case will be against the University.   WE are the ones who will pay … again, and in several ways.

The University Administration needs to be held accountable.  There is no accountability if very few people know about the situation.

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Science and universities. . . .   The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA – Dept of Agriculture) says this about the University’s Triffid flax:

“This plant was transformed with genes conferring tolerance to soil residues of the herbicides triasulfuron and metsulfuron- methyl . . “.  ( )

Do I read correctly?  Is this about:

–        Problem:  a gradual build-up in chemical contamination of the soil has negative impact on plant growth

–        Response:  genetically-manipulate the food crop so it can grow in spite of the residues of the chemicals in the soil.

?  Do I misunderstand?  Because if I understand correctly, this seems to me to be a colossally stupid response to the problem.  I must be wrong.

But then, in recent news over the melting of the Polar Ice Cap the scientists once again stress the chemicals found in the ice samples.  Expect the University to connect the dots?  Chemical agriculture – – maybe we should be finding different ways of crop production?  Deny there is any relationship between the work at the University on chemical and biotech agriculture and the known problems they are creating?

Truth-seekers?  Propaganda that passes for education?  The “product” they sell to their “consumers” (students)?  The University as a place for helping to find answers to the society’s problems?

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Today (2010), if you read the “Decision Document” for Triffid, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (Agriculture Canada), responsible for licensing says “Unconfined release into the environment and livestock feed use of CDC Triffid is therefore authorized.” )

1996-05.   Last date modified: 2001-07-18”

(Note:  CDC = Crop Development Centre)

I don’t understand:  Triffid GM flax was supposed to have been made illegal in 2001 ??

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GM contamination of Canadian flax exports threatens markets in Europe

Posted by National Farmers Union on Sept/10/09

The European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed has confirmed the contamination of Canadian flax exports with a genetically modified (GM) flax, devastating Canadian flax sales to Europe. The GM flax has been illegal to grow in Canada since 2001 when flax growers forced the government to take the product off the market. A German company confirmed the GM contamination in its cereals and bakery products.

The GM flax, called the “Triffid”, was approved by Canadian regulators in 1998 but the Flax Council of Canada convinced the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to remove variety registration for the GM flax in 2001, making it illegal to grow. Flax growers took this action to protect their export markets from the threat of GM contamination. Approximately 70 per cent of Canada’s flax is exported to Europe.

“This is an absolute nightmare for flax growers and why we worked so hard to have the GM flax removed,” said Terry Boehm, a flax grower and Vice President of the National Farmers Union. “Flax growers forced the GM flax off the market eight years ago to prevent any threat of contamination and protect our export markets. GM flax was never wanted or needed. We knew it would destroy our European markets and now we fear this has happened.”

At the beginning of this month, cash bids for flaxseed in Western Canada fell dramatically based on rumours of GM contamination.

“This contamination is extremely shocking as GM flax has not been grown in Canada since 2001,” said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. “Where did this contamination come from?”

“This is a major international contamination incident that shows how dangerous any GM crop field testing and development is for farmers and consumers,” said Arnold Taylor, an organic flax grower and Chair of the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate.

“Germany never approved GM flax but thanks to Canada we are eating illegal and unlicensed flax in our bread and cereal,” said Stefanie Hundsdorfer from Greenpeace Germany. “This again proves that once released into nature genetically engineered constructs are uncontrollable and cannot be recalled. At least now it’s clear that the industry is unable to control its products.”

The GM flax was developed by controversial scientist and industry proponent Alan McHughen when he worked at the Crop Development Centre of the University of Saskatchewan. In the wake of the 2001 controversy the Centre halted its GM research.

This revelation of GM flax contamination comes right in the middle of another huge scandal over Canada’s approval of Monsanto’s eight-trait GE ‘SmartStax’ corn without any health safety assessment.

“Consumers are reeling from learning that Health Canada did not approve the new ‘SmartStax’ GM corn and now they find out that their flax could be contaminated,” said Sharratt. “GM is out of control, we clearly need a moratorium on all new GM crops and foods until we can examine the entire system that regulates GM in Canada. . . . – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – —

(Link no longer valid

“Since that first discovery (Sept 08, 2009) GM flax continues to be discovered around Europe and is thought to have been imported to over 30 countries around the world. The table at the bottom of the page shows confirmed cases… “

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GM Flax Seed Yanked Off Canadian

Market – Rounded Up, Crushed

By Jason Warick

The StarPhoenix


A genetically modified (GM) flax seed developed at the University of Saskatchewan has been taken off the market because of European fears the variety will contaminate other flax produced in Canada.

The last of the 200,000 bushels of Triffid flax seed worth at least $2.5 million was rounded up from farms across the Prairies and crushed earlier this year and deregistered April 1.

“Yes, it was frustrating. We lost money. We lost a chance to provide a useful product to our customers,” said John Allen, director of market development for Quality Assured Seeds, a farmer-owned company that was licensed by the U of S to sell Triffid.

Triffid, named after the tall, three-legged walking plants in a 1950s science fiction novel and movie, is now illegal to sell or grow in Canada.

Crop varieties are commonly deregistered when they become obsolete or defects are discovered. The Triffid case is unique because it’s the first time a productive, federally approved crop has been removed from the market.

It’s also the first time farmers have led the call to make a crop unavailable to them.

Triffid, modified to be resistant to the herbicide sulfonylurea, was developed by U of S Crop Development Centre senior research scientist Alan McHughen and registered with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in the mid-1990s.

The licence was granted to the Regina company, and Allen said they “anticipated a substantial amount of profit” from the sales. The U of S also stood to profit from the royalties.

But European customers, which buy 60 per cent of Canada’s flax, said they didn’t want to buy any GM flax.

Canadian flax farmers and producer groups, afraid the Europeans would label all Canadian flax as contaminated, pushed for the elimination of Triffid.

“We acted as the catalyst. We got the production shut down,” said Barry Hall, president of the Flax Council of Canada.

“It was one more step to reassure our European customers.”

The Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission also pushed for deregistration. “We’re concerned about losing markets. European customers are not interested in GM flax. We felt we should address the issue,” said commission executive director.

The seed was never grown commercially, but roughly 40 farmers from across the Prairies were multiplying the 200,000 bushels of seed for future marketing and use.

They had to clean out their flax bins and ship the seed to Canamera Foods in Manitoba for crushing.

Once the food inspection agency had written assurances all of Canada’s Triffid seed had been eliminated, the variety was deregistered this spring.

“There was nothing wrong with the variety. It met all the requirements, (but) they all agreed the variety should be deregistered. This is unique,” said Grant Watson, head of the agency’s registration program.

Crop Development Centre director Rick Holm said the university will lose the royalty money, but it also spent significant resources and staff time developing Triffid.

“It’s disappointing, but the Crop Development Centre exists to help farmers,” Holm said. “It would have been irresponsible of us to fight to keep it on the market, and face the possibility of our farmers losing an export opportunity.”

Triffid was the first GM crop variety developed by the centre, which registers about a dozen varieties per year. Holm said the centre will not try to develop any more GM varieties because of concerns in Europe and elsewhere.

More than half of all Canadian flax is produced in Saskatchewan, with the remainder grown in Manitoba and Alberta.

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Canada’s GM contaminated flax has now been found in 28 countries

By Stephanie Dearing.

Oct 5, 2009 by ■ Stephanie Dearing

After some Canadian flax was found to be contaminated with GM flax in September, it has now been determined that the contamination has affected flax shipped to 28 countries. The contamination means the flax cannot be used as human food.

The finding of GM flax in the Canadian crop in September meant the flax market was not offering good prices, after what was poised to be a very good year for flax farmers. Canadian flax was not being accepted by Europe after the finding of GM flax. The September contamination was found in a German food processing plant. How the GM flax ever contaminated any Canadian crops is a mystery, as the flax has been banned in Canada since 2001. After the finding of CDC Triffid flax, also known as FP697, the European Union issued an alert warning of the GM contamination. GM flax is not legal for sale or consumption in the European Union. Europe normally purchases most of Canada’s flax. At the end of September, the Canadian Flax Council issued a notice that said “The GMO flax issue is a serious problem that is causing significant financial hardship to both Canadian producers and industry and European industry and consumers. The European Union must create a technical solution as an initial step to resolve its zero threshold issue. Canadian flax remains safe for food, feed and processing. This is a regulatory issue, not a safety issue.”

In a press release issued today by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), the group says 28 countries have now received Canadian flax contaminated with the Triffid strain.

Canadian farmers say that the situation highlights the need for stricter regulations of GM food products in Canada. Organic farmers are concerned that GM crops will affect sales of organic food products because of the risks of cross-contamination.

There is a test available to detect CDC Triffid, and it was approved by the European Union. However, the Canadian Flax Council is waiting for a Canadian university to develop a Canadian test for the GM strain. There is no word as to what, if anything, Food and Agriculture Canada is doing to deal with the issue. However, the agency considers the modified flax as safe for consumption.

In September a commodity trader had categorized the contamination as “blip,” an issue that was blown out of proportion. Larry Weber, owner of Saskatchewan-based Weber Commodities Ltd. told the Star Phoenix that the finding of GM flax in September would not impact Canada’s flax producers beyond a very short time.

The head of the Canadian Flax Council, Barry Hall cautioned the public that the National Research Council’s Saskatoon laboratory is still working to determine the source of the contamination, but speculated that the flax might have been contaminated with GM canola.

Europe had temporarily halted receipt of Canadian flax after finding the contentious GE contamination. There are now fears that Europe might impose a total ban. The Canadian harvest is still underway.

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“Federal officials are in talks with the EU in hopes of raising its tolerance for genetically modified organisms …”

Read more:

Triffid seed threatens flax industry

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