New genetically-modified alfalfa strain worries farmers

New Brunswick farmers say a new strain of genetically-modified alfalfa will contaminate their crops.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency is registering new alfalfa strains for commercial use

New Brunswick farmers say a new strain of genetically-modified alfalfa, which could be available as soon as this month, could contaminate their crops.

Murray Bunnett, who has farmed his entire life, said he plans to take his concerns to Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe Conservative MP Robert Goguen next week.

Bunnett made the switch to organic production in the 1990s and relies heavily on alfalfa in his crop rotation to help fertilize the soil.

But if the modified strain spreads to his fields, he said he can't guarantee his crop is organic.

"When a person trespasses on somebody else’s property and it causes damage, the property owner can seek compensation," he said.

"But when the genetically-modified crops trespass on farmers' land, they can't go after the company to get compensation. That's fundamentally wrong."

Taarimi Chopra, a spokesperson with the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, said Bunnett has a valid concern.

"There's really no debate, cross pollination is inevitable, seed escape is inevitable," she said.

Alfalfa is cross pollinated by insects and the modified genes spread from farm to farm.

"We have several examples to show this is already happening," Chopra said.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said on Tuesday that genetically-modified alfalfa strains are in the process of being registered for commercial use, although the CFIA has not registstered any alfalfa varieties for any region of Canada yet.