Illegal GM Flax Contaminates Canadian Exports

    Contamination of European food threatens Canadian export markets

    OTTAWA, Sept. 10 /CNW/ - 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
    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."

For further information:

For further information: Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian
Biotechnology Action Network, (613) 241-2267 ext. 6; Terry Boehm, National
Farmers Union, cell: (306) 255-7638 or (306) 255-2880; Arnold Taylor,
Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, cell: (306) 241-6126 or (306) 252-2783;
Stefanie Hundsdorfer, Greenpeace Germany, 011 49 40 30618 358 (cell), 01149
171 8780 810

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