Flax prices dive over GMO concerns
2.Flax growers reject GM proposal
NOTE: Looks like this settles the debate over GM flax between Alan McHughen - the developer of a GM glyphosate-resistant flax who wanted GM flax to be used for growing industrial products, and the flax growers of Western Canada who warned that GM flax could wipe out their markets - item 2.
1.Prairie flax bids fall over Europe's GMO concerns
Resource News International, 4 September 2009
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).
There were reports that Viterra has lowered its bids in Manitoba to as low as $6.78 a bushel, which would be down significantly from bids in the province ranging from around the $10/bu. level just a few days ago.
A number of elevator companies across the Canadian Prairies are believed to have halted their flax buying program all together.
"While details on why flax bids have dropped so sharply in Western Canada remain sketchy, there are rumours circulating that a cargo of Canadian flaxseed has been prevented from being unloaded at a port in Europe," said Mike Jubinville, a market analyst with ProFarmer Canada in Winnipeg. "All the signs point to GMO issues."
Barry Hall, president of the Flax Council of Canada, confirmed that European labs have been testing Canadian flaxseed and initial analytical results indicate the presence of NPTH, a genetic marker, in some samples.
While this, in itself, does not prove that the flaxseed is genetically modified, many buyers are indicating this to be the case, Hall said.
Hall stressed there are no GM varieties of flaxseed registered or commercially produced in Canada.
The Winnipeg-based council was working closely with the Canadian Grain Commission and its Grain Research Laboratories to come up with an explanation, he said.
"This development could not have come at a worse time for the Canadian flaxseed industry," both Hall and Jubinville said, noting that at this time of year sales of Canadian flaxseed to Europe generally begin to be put together.
Between 500,000 to 700,000 tonnes of Canadian flaxseed, or roughly two thirds of Canada's production, are shipped to European destinations on a crop-year basis, Jubinville said.
"Flaxseed bids had been starting to weaken prior to this news as the western Canadian crop looked to be larger than first anticipated and as carryover stocks of the commodity begin to move towards burdensome levels," Jubinville said.
Statistics Canada is currently projecting a 2009-10 Canadian flaxseed crop of 915,000 tonnes, which is larger than expected and up from the 2008 level of 861,100 tonnes.
Prior to the grain companies pulling their bids for flaxseed, cash bids for flaxseed delivered to the elevator in Saskatchewan based on Prairie Ag Hotwire data were $9.35-$9.79 a bushel, in Manitoba $9.90-$9.92 and in Alberta around $8.53.
2.Flax growers reject GM proposal
The Western Producer, November 1 2001
Imagine the hullabaloo if the genetically modified canola that has cropped up in conventional fields in recent years was a variety designed to make plastics or pharmaceuticals. That's a scenario one GM expert is trying to prevent. (ref.2007)
University of Saskatchewan professor Alan McHughen wants research into GM crops that produce high-value industrial products shifted from canola to another oilseed.
"I'd like to encourage more people to look at flax as the host for some of these things," said McHughen, who has written a book about the potential and hazards of GM food.
He said flax is a better fit for these kinds of applications because it is already primarily used for industrial purposes rather than human consumption.
"One could envisage all sorts of damage being wrought if by mistake a genetically engineered pharmaceutical-producing canola seed got into the regular oilseed type canola."
But it wouldn't be as big a problem, he added, if flaxseed genetically modified to be made into plastic or drugs was mistakenly introduced into commercial flax lines. Instead of landing on someone's dinner plate, it would end up in a can of paint or a sheet of linoleum.
Chris Hale, president of Flax Growers Western Canada, said that line of thinking shows a "clear misunderstanding" of flax markets.
He said Europe, which is "far and away" the biggest importer of Canadian flax, requires an assurance from the Canadian Grain Commission that no GM flax is grown here.
Hale said flax exported to Europe is used for industrial purposes, but the residue is fed to livestock.
"If you don't think Europeans are super sensitive about what they're feeding their livestock, I guess a little more research needs to be done."
The flax industry has fought the introduction of GM crops. It managed to get CDC Triffid, a chemical-resistant variety developed by McHughen, banned from commercial production. They don't want to see more research on GM flax in the near future.
"We would not support and very likely actively resist or lobby against that sort of work being done in the short term," Hale said.
McHughen said a line of flax that could produce plastics or drugs would be a high-value crop. Manufacturers would pay big money for biodegradable plastic or pharmaceuticals that could be produced without having to harvest plants from South America's Amazon Basin.
One of the reasons he is convinced that flax is a better candidate than canola for this type of research is that pollen drift isn't a problem with flax.
"It doesn't have that outcrossing problem, so you have a much greater degree of confidence that when you grow the specialty crop in a particular area, it's going to stay there."
Perhaps more importantly, introducing a new kind of flax to be used for industrial purposes doesn't take a food crop out of production. The same can't be said for canola, he said.