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Canada risks losing its flax exports to the EU due to illegal GE contamination
Canada risks losing its flax exports to the EU due to illegal GE contamination
Attack of the Triffid

At least four German companies have taken cereal and bakery products off store shelves after they tested positive for the presence of the flax variety developed at the University of Saskatchewan's Crop Development Centre in the late 1980s.

The GE flax variety was approved by government regulators in Canada in 1998, but was deregistered by 2001 without ever having been commercialised.

According to Eve Mitchell of GM Freeze "This incident highlights how containing GE material is proving impossible and that any notion of GE 'coexistence' is nonsense. GE is a technology that cannot be contained, yet those who produce and sell it still refuse to accept any liability for the damage done by their products.”

Europe is the largest buyer of Canadian flaxseed, taking over 420,000 tonnes, nearly 80 per cent of all exports, in 2008-09, according to the latest Canadian Grain Commission data. 

A news release issued Friday by the Flax Council of Canada said it "considers the possibility of genetically altered flax to be a very serious issue."

Barry Hall, president of the Flax Council of Canada says "This development could not have come at a worse time for the Canadian flaxseed industry." At this time of year sales of Canadian flaxseed to Europe generally begin to be put together. Carryover stocks are high and above-average production is expected from the 2009-10 harvest. With sales to Europe unlikely, at least for the time being, Canada will be faced with the task of finding new buyers for its large flaxseed crop.

According to Terry Boehm, Vice President of the Canadian National Farmers Union who grows flax on a farm about 75 kilometres from Saskatoon “our reputation has been damaged," adding it will take "a very long time" for that reputation to be restored.

This will be bad news for farmers because flax is an important, profitable crop. The problem that has now surfaced with flax, several years after it was taken off the market in Canada, illustrates the dangers of becoming involved with GE crops, Boehm said.


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