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Hundreds bring protest against genetically modified alfalfa to Monsanto’s door

Food for thought - Leo and Friedrich Laepple jointed their grandmother Linda Laepple, one of the speakers at Tuesday’s noon-hour demonstration by those opposed to genetically-modified alfalfa seeds.  photo by Kris Svela

Hundreds bring protest against genetically modified alfalfa to Monsanto’s door

by Kris Svela and Kelly Waterhouse

GUELPH

Opponents of genetically-modified (GM) alfalfa took their message directly to the Monsanto office here during a noon hour rally on Tuesday.

About 250 farmers and consumers marched across Stone Road from the government’s food research office to Monsanto’s nearby Guelph office, depositing a bale of alfalfa hay.

The group joined protesters in the April 9 Day of Action to Stop GM Alfalfa. The protest was called by the National Farmers Union (NFU), with Waterloo-Wellington  Local 340 president Linda Laepple speaking while protesters chanted and supporters honked car horns while making their way along Stone Road.

The protest was in response to U.S. company Forage Genetics International’s pending release of alfalfa seeds with Monsanto’s GM herbicide tolerant (“Roundup Ready”) technology.

Laepple, an alfalfa farmer from the New Hamburg area, attended the rally with family members, including some of her grandchildren, and on behalf of her NFU local.

“For us alfalfa growers and farmers who are depending on alfalfa, conventional and organic, there is no benefit at the bottom line for Roundup Ready alfalfa,” she told the sympathetic crowd.

“We don’t want it, we don’t need it and you don’t want to eat it.”

Laepple likened the introduction of genetically-modified seed to what happened in the canola industry when similar seeds were made available and grown.

“Contamination from genetically modified alfalfa would shut down our export markets for Canadian alfalfa products the same way the introduction of genetically-modified canola has killed the canola export markets to Europe, where genetically modified alfalfa is not accepted,” Laepple said.

The organic farmer fears the migration of genetically-modified alfalfa to fields where original alfalfa is grown - and the impact it will have.

“If my fields were contaminated my business would be ruined,” she told the Advertiser.

Genetically modified seed is also more expensive than conventional seed. Today Canadian farmers pay between $2 to $3 for a pound of seed. In the U.S farmers pay “three times as much for alfalfa seed just because its DNA has been fiddled around,” she said.

“Contamination from genetically modified alfalfa threatens the future of organic food and farming in Canada,” she added. “Accepting Roundup Ready alfalfa would be a stab in the back of my customers who trust me to provide them with what they are asking for, a clean, wholesome, natural product.”

Jodi Koberinski, executive director of the Organic Council of Ontario, said farmers can’t work their land in “an industrial approach.”

The industry derives some $50 million from genetically-modified products, Koberinski said, but that should not be influence the way farming is done by bringing in products such as genetically-modified alfalfa, which can spread to other fields through bee pollination and destroy conventional fields.

In Fergus there was a small but committed protest outside the office of Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong

 “I’m here on behalf of Slow Food Wellington County,” said Chris Jess, a chef and teacher at Centre Wellington District High School’s (CWDHS) Food School. “Marty [Brooks] and I are here for our daughters.”

Jess told the Advertiser, “The commercial planting which is the widespread distribution of this particular seed is going to change our food system in major ways - permanently.”

He noted that would affect not just vegetables and crops, but the animals that will be eating modified plants.

“Organic dairy, organic feed will not exist,” said Jess.

Brooks, a chef from Toronto who has joined Jess at CWDHS to complete his teacher’s certification, added, “This is about the importance of bio-diversity.”

“It’s about choice,” said Jess. “As a consumer, if I want the choice not to eat genetically-modified food, I don’t have the choice.

“You hire a chef, like us, to give you safe food, good food, and if this seed gets planted, we won’t be able to do that ... No farmer needs it or wants it.”

Jess explained similar protests were taking place outside MP offices across the country, though he acknowledges the decisions have been made.

“The decision is even bigger than the government ... When you get a seed like alfalfa, everything will be cross-contaminated. When this seed is out, it’s out,” Jess said, adding when Monsanto owns the seeds, regardless of where they land, it will have an impact on farmers and landowners on a global scale.

For Jess, the issue is, “They are not being held accountable.”

Chong was not at his office, but Jess and Brooks were greeted by staff.

A delegation from the Guelph rally presented Guelph MP Frank Valeriote with a 1,092-signature petition opposing any federal government deal on the issue.

The Liberal MP is calling on a moratorium to allow for more study.

Trish Jordan, Monsanto’s public and industry affairs director, said the company does not comment on or issue news releases in response to protests regarding its products.

Vol 46 Issue 15

April 12, 2013

ReliableFord

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