Support GM Alfalfa? You’ll Have to Let Someone Know

Photo Courtesy of EcoLibrary.org

On Tuesday, April 9th, a widespread day of protest will be held against – of all things troubling our country – GM alfalfa. Activists will be gathering at about 20 locales, including 12 in Ontario, to show their opposition to its pending arrival.

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, a relatively benign group with agricultural ties to the National Farmers Union, is leading the charge. The network is working to make the public believe farmers neither want nor need Roundup Ready alfalfa. Check its website: you’ll find a nine-minute video with farmers who think it’s a scourge.

But is that a broadly held opinion? I’m sure some farmers don’t want it (i.e. some NFU members). But “farmers” are a diverse group. I’m sure some do want GM alfalfa, too.

If that’s true, their voices need to be heard Tuesday on the front lines, challenging the anti-GM protesters. The days of avoidance are over. Yes, farmers are busy farming, and they have spokespeople to answer their critics. And yes, if they speak out, the protest movement could well accuse them of being in agri-business’s pocket. And yes, for years, farmers have widely “voted” their approval of GM crops by using high-tech seed.

But despite all this, consumers want farmers to say what they think. And if farmers (or anyone) let activist groups speak for them in broad generalizations, that’s what the public may believe.

Scaremongers already have consumers looking over their shoulders and second-guessing the safety of our food supply (unless it’s “local” food, of course, which can do no wrong). These days, not many people actually know a farmer to ask them what’s true and what isn’t, or what farmers want or don’t want.

What do you consider true about GM alfalfa? People want to know. The same people whose opinions and demands already shape how you farm. It’s up to farmers to tell their story.

 

Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts directs research communications and teaches at the University of Guelph, and is president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. You can find him on Twitter as @theurbancowboy

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14 Comments

Troy LaForge

As a consultant I am not excited about glyphosate resistant alfalfa. If there were other means such as Liberty I would be in favour of herbicide tolerance in alfalfa. Establishing alfalfa without weed pressure would be a great thing for the yield capability of that stand. However when we want to terminate the stand in a no till situation I like using glyphosate and then being able to direct seed into that stand. No problem with GM alfalfa I just don’t feel glyphosate is the best fit for our systems, especially to maintain a no till system. This would likely require that we start using some tillage which is never a good thing with our erosion prone prairie soils.

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Justmyopinion

In a no till operation you can still kill the Alfalfa effectively with Clopyralid. To make it more economical & effective a cocktail of Clopyralid, metsulfuron, and tribenuron-methyl would still be very effective. Since when does anyone use glyphosate alone to kill alfalfa anyway?

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Troy LaForge

A good operation that works in drier areas is to apply glyphosate 3 to 5 days prior to cutting the hay. This allows time for the glyphosate to get to the roots and get a good kill and then leaves a usually dried out soil with nothing growing and allows recharge of moisture starting half way through the summer. Many times in our area we do not get enough regrowth due to lack of moisture to do a good job of controlling the alfalfa post baling. Utilizing clopyralid in this circumstance would not work well. That’s when somebody uses glyphosate alone to kill alfalfa.

Justmyopinion

I never considered the pre-haying application, thanks. Since nothing else would be registered for a pre-haying scenario, I can appreciate how glyphosate resistant alfalfa in a dry-no till area could be detrimental. Coming from a different climatic area with more consistent precipitation, I have found it is better take off the hay and wait for regrowth then use a combo of glyphosate, tribenuron-methyl & metsulfuron, rather than pre-hay glyphosate.

Jim

I am not opposed to GMO used in alfalfa or any other crop – I am very opposed to the elimination of choices other than GMO crops. When we eliminate choice we eliminate opportunity for profit and opportunity for improvement.

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old-dog

What is next? Why do we need more genetically modifed feed to feed our cattle when there has not been enough testing to really know if they are safe. A lot of farmers are in denial if they believe everything a chemical rep tells them! Since when is a 90 day testing period enough to tell anything?

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gpearse

I’ve been a supporter of GM technology all my life, and had paid TUA’s for my canola for years. But GM alfalfa is different. As an alfalfa seed producer, I need to ensure that my varieties remain true to type, and this includes herbicide tolerance. I could try to tell the leaf cutter bees to only pollinate my blooms, and Monsanto’s and FGI’s protocol is to request cutting at 10 % bloom, but weather happens…Cross pollination will occur, and has been documented in several regions of the US already. And that is why this decision should be based on more than just what a hay producer wants or says he needs. The decision of a few will affect far more.

I also think the potential market size has been overstated. Grass-alfalfa mixtures are very common in dryland application throughout all of the western states and provinces, and there is no value in RR Alfalfa in this mix. I have also never appreciated FGI’s stance on stacking traits. There are some fantastic and novel GM breeding involving improved digestibility, etc they are working on, but will only be available through Roundup Ready technology. Maybe Monsanto is pulling all the strings??

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Levke

We as farmers should consider whom we are producing for, alfalfa seeds are also used for sprouts, eaten mainly by a health conscientious consumer who would not eat GMO. Since we know from canola that there is no coexistence due to cross pollination we should be very careful what we are fighting for. As we are still an export orientated country and the development in Europe regarding GMO should put any further introduction of GMO on hold, until we have some independent research regarding this matter. As the Canadian Government only relies on research from the companies who want to introduce GMO, can they be trusted?. Do you have the fox guarding your henhouse?

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Stephanie Cowles

It looks as though a fairly broad swath of the agriculture community has expressed their opinion on this matter. Presumably at least some of them are “Real” farmers, which makes their viewpoint credible. How interesting….

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Philip Shaw

I disagree with the statement of “And yes, for years, farmers have widely “voted” their approval of GM crops by using high-tech seed.” In Ontario that has not been the case. For instance with corn hybrid selection, companies eliminated the nonGM choices. For instance, I grow 95% GM corn, but was not really given much choice in that, as the hybrids are better yielding, but that has much more to do with ag corporations actively delivering the choices which garner them better profits. They actively restrict any other choices. It’s delusional to think ag biotechnology was about making a better world, it was all about corporate profits and control. In Ontario bin run seed is widely used, to grow soybeans without genetic modification for higher profits. I don’t know much about RR Alfalfa. However, I’ll continue to grow both GM and nonGM crops. I have no delusions on how we got here, corporate greed in spades. Needless to say, you can be anti GMO and pro agriculture. Sometimes I think both sides forget that.

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Oliver

I’m really not sure (as a farmer) why we “need” gm alfalfa? I’ve grown alfalfa for years, and although “weeds” can be an issue for the first year, two or three cuttings a year solve that problem in the second year…

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Dale

Go to “Dr. Don Huber” on You Tube and watch a few of his videos on glyphosate. Especially the 1:32 long presentation at a calcium products soil conference. Glyphosate is going to ruin our agriculture industry.

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