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Monday, January 11, 2010

Flax Follies

This Triffid flax problem just won't go away. For those that don't know, Triffid flax was a genetically modified variety of flax introduced in the 1990s but never officially released to the public for production. A couple of months ago some alert testers detected some minute traces of the Triffid gene in a Canadian shipment of flax to Europe. That pretty well closed the doors to anymore of our flax being sold to the European market.
The latest solution seems to be testing all flax grown here to see if it contains the Triffid gene. The cost of that test is about $110 and guess who pays for that test? The farmer of course. Apparently we will not be allowed to deliver any flax for sale unless it shows a clean bill of health (below the benchmark figure for triffid content.)
Luckily mine has tested negative although the test did indicate triffid genes at a very low concentration. Where did that come from? I have no idea. This flax was grown from seed I saved last year. That previous crop was grown from seed purchased from a neighbour and his was originally bought as certified seed so one would assume it was gmo free. And what is the problem with gmo flax anyway? Nobody has ever come out and showed conclusive evidence that gm flax is a health hazard at any level.
Flax prices have lost ground since this event . I was selling for over $11 per bushel last winter, now I would be very lucky to see $9 for the same flax. This is not what we needed after the horrendous task of harvesting the crop. Flax is difficult at the best of times but this year (09) it was nearly impossible for me. Actually it was impossible and I was only able to get a small percentage through my combine and had to hire a neighbour to do the rest.
My suspicions are that this triffid nonsense is just an artificial trade barrier in an effort to drop the price of our flax. We are seeing similar shenanigans from the Chinese who suddenly have decided they will not buy any of our canola that contains blackleg. Now blackleg is a fairly common disease of canola that has no effect on the seed or to human health and I would guess that almost every field of canola would have at least a small percentage of blackleg in it.
Now we have the rest of the winter to think about what to grow in the spring. A link to what other farmers are talking about.........


  1. Reading this blog helped me to further understand the impact of this barrier upon the farmer. It does make one wonder if it is an artifical trade barrier and not really a health concern. What a muck.

  2. What in the world is Triffid flax?! What were they trying to get out of it with the modification. Not much flax is used for human comsuption anyway is it? It is always something!

  3. Triffid flax, far as I understand it was a good idea at the time to create a variety of flax that was resistant to one specific herbicide. And quite frankly I see nothing wrong with that as we have been growing GMO canola for years and its been beneficial to us as growers. The problem is the average consumer hears the term "GMO" and instantly condemns any product connected with it without really understanding just what has been modified. In reality, I don't think many growers wanted or needed GMO flax before this fiasco and they certainly wish it had never been created.

  4. Hopefully Bill C-474 will help prevent such fiasco's from happening again:


    Of course laws made in hindsight don't make up for the damages already done.

    Whether or not the general public in Canada agrees or disagrees with the EU for banning GMO, the current reality is that seed contamination is a huge liability issue for farmers, the government and even seed biotech companies.

    It is not well known but there is some precendent for the patent holder of the GM seed being liable for unwanted contamination damages:


    Not sure how much this may help farmers in the end (class-action lawsuits?), but shows the complexity of the issue that should have been foreseen before GMO went onto the market.