Did Canadian geese spread GM seed?

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The recent find of genetically modified wheat in a field in Oregon has stirred up another GM wheat controversy, only this time it’s in Canada.

Canadian officials are debating whether Canadian geese helped spread viable seeds of genetically modified wheat in Canada that were being grown on an experiment farm in August 2012.  

Agriculture Canada released documents in late July showing Canada geese as possible culprits in spreading the seeds that had been growing at the Central Experimental Farm. The experimental wheat variety is designed to resist fusarium and contained a collection of genetic material called GLK1. This GM wheat is not the same wheat as the GM wheat found in Oregon this spring, which was a glyphosate-resistant variety being tested by Monsanto.

It had been reported that the geese ate the experimental wheat last summer. Canadian agricultural officials exchanged e-mails last August when the news was released and denied that geese were responsible for spreading any GM wheat seeds.

The Ottawa Citizen recently reported it had obtained internal e-mails showing the rush by federal bureaucrats to find out whether the GM seeds had spread to other farms via the geese.

Since Canada does not grow any approved GM wheat, the news last August was alarming and threatened to jeopardize the country’s wheat trade. In light of what happened this spring with Monsanto’s GM wheat and the subsequent halt of some international purchases of wheat, it appears Canada’s fears are not unfounded.

The e-mails show that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had to quickly determine whether GM wheat seeds “will survive in goose ‘poop’.” The next week, CFIA issued a list of “talking points” to make the problem look minor if the public found out, the Ottawa Citizen reported.

An Agriculture Canada spokesperson confirmed this week that the wheat was an experimental variety designed to resist fungus and said, “the latest research indicates that there is minimal risk of dispersal of viable seeds through Canada geese droppings. Additionally, since the seeds were a spring wheat cultivar, even if the seeds were to survive a goose’s digestive system, they would be killed by winter frost,” it was reported.


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