Ironic.

I just came across this product online.  Triffid™ is an organic fertilizer developed and distributed in New Zealand. I wonder if the developers of this product are aware of the history of the term “Triffid”, especially as it relates to flax.  Why, you ask?

Triffid flax is a genetically modified flax variety developed at the University of Saskatchewan in the late 1980s. The flax variety was designed to be resistant to soil residues of sulfonylurea-based herbicide.  The SU herbicide “Glean” was commonly used on wheat and cereal crops at the time (but has long since been off the market).  The problem with this type of herbicide was that it was incredibly persistent and would remain present in soil long after harvest, particularly in soils with high pH levels.  Its extended half-life essentially inhibited the growth of other crop varieties introduced to the field in the following growing season.  Triffid flax was designed to be resistant to soil residues of this herbicide providing producers with an alternative to continuous cropping (a less than optimal agronomic practice) or to summer fallowing.

By 1996/1997, anti-GM sentiments were taking hold in the EU.  The strong consumer backlash and the uncertainty of the EU market raised concerns for Canada’s flax industry.  By late 1997 and early 1998, Canadian stakeholders – including producers, producer groups and industry representatives – convened to discuss production bans.  It was at this point a decision was made to voluntarily withdraw Triffid from the market. Although Triffid flax was approved for food and feed safety in both Canada and the US, it was de-registered in 2001 and was never commercially grown. However, the flax variety showed up in EU food chain in 2009. This has played havoc with the Canadian flax industry ever since.

Back to the organic Triffid™ product. Poor market research? Bad branding strategy? What do you think?

For more info on Triffid Flax, check out these blog entries:

The Ongoing Triffid Story

“Just the flax, ma’am, just the flax”

4 thoughts on “Ironic.

  1. This reminds me a little of the “Ice Minus” bacterium that Steve Lindow developed and which got so much attention because of the applicator wearing a moon suit whose image went everywhere. He/DNAP could have generated an ice nucleation minus mutant via mutagenesis with no regulatory issues, but he used the more elegant and controlled approach. I’m sure one could have found a flax resistant to that SU the same way, but doing it by GE was again, more controlled.

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