“Market Prospects”: Sefton and Weber on the current flax situation

Dave Sefton (SaskFlax) and Larry Weber (Weber Commodities) on the Triffid Flax situation

Market Prospects – March 20, 2010



Flax Conference Call….

Flax Conference Call – March 18, 2010

“There were a number of questions during the Thursday afternoon conference call sponsored by the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission. A couple dealt with liability issues and who is responsible for the additional costs incurred by producers. Sask Flax Director David Sefton says ”while everyone would like to find somebody or somewhere we could hang it, we have done everything within the regulatory system from Canada’s perspective and persuing that (liability) I think would not be a good use of our time or anybody else’s time.”


Flax on Farmgate CTV this weekend!

Mark your calendars! Market Prospects / Farmgate on CTV on March 20, 2010 (12 p.m. and 6:30 pm) will feature interviews with:

Flax Situation /*with*/ Dave Sefton,SaskFlax Director and Farmer, Broadview SK;

Flax Outlook /*with*/ Larry Weber, President, Weber Commodities , Saskatoon SK



Update on today’s Bill C-474 debate… comments and outcomes….

As of today’s debate, Bill C-474 was not referred to Committee. Instead the Conservatives delayed action. There will be another hour of debate in April or sooner. The Conservative Party spoke against the Bill. The Liberal Party mostly spoke against the Bill but left the door open to a debate in Committee…

Quotes of note:

“We have a dominant position in the world in GMOs and so it is important that we consider our future…” Andre Bellavance, Bloc 

“The content and ramifications of the Bill are complex. The wording is problematic. The Member Atamanenko has stated that the Bill was developed in response to the Flax contamination issue. The EU – 70% of our flax export market – was closed due to contamination…if this Bill had been the law at the time, and the study of impact on the market for flax would the knowledge have stopped GE flax and prevented market disruptions?….The Bill does not describe what “market” or “harm” means, we look forward to more debate in the House and maybe debate in Committee.” Francis Valeriote, Liberal, on Agriculture Committee

“This Bill raises the question of how best to manage the market impacts. But we need a process based on sound science. The Canola Growers Association warned to keep the politics out of the decisions. There are technical flaws in the Bill also.” Pierre Lemieux for the Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz

“We need to be very cautious about including any non-scientific issues like public attitudes – this has to be resolved by industry, not government. GMOs have been around for 50 years and are important.” Larry Miller, Conservative, Agriculture Committee Chair

more GMO linseed/flax in the Czech Republic and Poland

Agritec, Research, Breeding & Services, Ltd also submitted a notification / report in 2007 for transformed flax in the CR.


The U of Wroclaw, Poland also did some work on flax in U owned plots. Notification dated 2004 with release period listed as 2006 to 2010:



GMO linseed developed in the EU

Here is the Summary Notification (#B/SE/04/8254) made by Plant Science Sweden designating the delliberate release of a modified linseed line (modified for oil composition) for planting in regions in Sweden 2005-2009. Consent was given by EC for this event in 2005. As far as I can tell, project went as planned. How come this has never come to light given the recent Triffid issue? Unfortunately, the final report on this is in Swedish.



Triffid and the Canadian Flax Market – Aggressive testing not a silver bullet (Hall)

Canada’s $320-million flax export industry has been shaken by the discovery of a genetically modified seed believed to have been expunged years ago. (CBC)

Canadian flax seed has been shut out of its largest market after traces of Triffid — a genetically modified form of the crop ordered destroyed 10 years ago — was found in shipments.

The European Union, which buys 70 per cent of Canada’s flax, has a zero-tolerance policy regarding genetically modified organisms and has been turning away shipments.

Officials say Canada’s entire $320-million industry is threatened.

But efforts to correct the situation are being thwarted because it’s not clear where the genetically modified flax is coming from. An industry-wide scramble has been on to weed out the offending seed since the problem was discovered in September.

But when only about one in every 10,000 flax seeds are affected, the Canadian Grain Commission, as well as farmers and members of the Flax Council of Canada, admit they have their work cut out for them trying to track down the source of the problem.

Sifting grain, DNA Tests

The modified Triffid flax seed was deregistered and ordered destroyed 10 years ago. (CBC)

At the CGC’s headquarters in Winnipeg, grain inspectors have been sifting through samples of flax, and scientists have been testing for the DNA footprint of the genetically modified strain of flax called Triffid.

Triffid was developed in the 1990s at the University of Saskatchewan and named after the flesh-eating plants featured in John Wyndham’s 1951 novel, The Day of the Triffids.

The modified seed was deregistered and ordered destroyed 10 years ago after concerns arose from farmers that the EU would reject it.

‘It’s a situation no one could have foreseen and it’s taken everyone by surprise.’—Remi Gosselin, Canadian Grain Commission

Mysteriously, Triffid has reappeared in commercial crops.

The flax was genetically engineered to contain genes from a weed added to it, allowing it to grow in soil contaminated by herbicides.

“It’s a situation no one could have foreseen and it’s taken everyone by surprise,” said CGC spokesman Remi Gosselin. “The CGC got written assurances in the late ’90s that Triffid had been cleared from the system.”

Two more of the 10 flax varieties handled by the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre have shown genetic contamination, managing director Dorothy Murrell told CBC News.

“We’re puzzled, but regardless of that, we’re taking action and trying to do our part to remove the problem as much as we can,” she said. “I’m quite confident that we can remove these two varieties at the pedigree-seed level from the market.”

Problem may be bigger than thought

Aggressive testing is underway to detect and round up all of the modified seed. (CBC)

But the Flax Council of Canada, based in Winnipeg, said the country’s genetically modified seed problem might run deeper than the strains the university has identified.

“I’m quite certain as we start to test the certified seed, there will be other varieties that will show contamination,” said Barry Hall, the council’s president. “There’s no question this will change the industry forever.”

The industry is responding by implementing a three-stage testing regime, Hall said.

‘There’s no question this will change the industry forever.’—Barry Hall, Flax Council of Canada

“The farm samples are tested. The rail cars are tested. And then, as the vessel is loaded, samples are drawn and tested by the Canadian Grain Commission,” he said.

But aggressive testing isn’t a silver bullet to round up all the genetically modified flax seed, Hall admits.

“It doesn’t mean the Europeans can’t test further and it will turn up positive there. Canada is doing everything it can to clean this up.”

The worst-case scenario for flax producers is that the industry will shut down for three to five years to purge whatever seed is already growing, Hall said. Eventually, he added, all contaminated seeds will be taken off the market and destroyed.

Farmer’s union predicted problems

But Hall’s assurance hasn’t convinced the National Farmers’ Union.

“Myself and others predicted this would happen and that’s why we worked to get rid of [it] 10 years ago,” said president Terry Boehm. “If you’re going to play around with [genetically modified] crops, once the genie’s out of the bottle, once it’s in the environment, you can’t control it,” Boehm said.

Federal officials are in talks with the EU in hopes of raising its tolerance for genetically modified organisms, but Hall said he believes lobby groups have European politicians wary of change.

via cbc.ca


Just the Flax, ma’am, just the Flax…

All is quiet on the flax front… a little too quiet, perhaps.

What could be next? Seven more notifications on the RASFF Portal (https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/rasff-window/portal/index.cfm?event=searchResultList&orderby=notif_date&orderDir=desc) posted by Germany and Sweden this past Thursday in the product category cereals and bakery products. It makes one wonder where the food inputs (and potentially outputs) are held in the companies that have apparently discovered the FP967 event in their products. Are they kept in storage? Incinerated perhaps?

In other (related?) news… 9.7 million children were reported to have died of malnutrition before their fifth birthday in 2006. (UNICEF – State of the World’s Children 2008 / http://www.unicef.org/health/files/The_State_of_the_Worlds_Children_2008.pdf).

“Poverty is when you hide your face and wish nobody could see you just because you feel less than a human being. Poverty is when you dream of bread and fish you never see in the day light…Poverty is when the hopes of your fathers and grandfathers just vanish within a blink of an eye. I know poverty and I know poverty just like I know my father’s name. Poverty never sleeps. Poverty works all day and night. Poverty never takes a holiday.” (one impoverished African quoted in http://cozay.com/)