Transgenic flax grown for several years in Canada has nevertheless
contaminated probably the country’s entire flax seed stock; that’s why flax
should never be used to produce transgenic industrial and pharmaceutical chemicals
Prof. Joe Cummins
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Transgene contamination of flax seed
seed is used widely in the food industry, including
bread, and as source of omega 3 fatty acids. On 10
September 2009, the European Union (EU) Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF)
reported finding an unapproved genetically modified (GM) flax/linseed variety
in cereal and bakery products in Germany.
The GM flax variety, FP967 (CDC Triffid), is not authorized for food or feed
in the EU; it has tolerance to soil residues of sulfonylurea-based herbicides,
and was developed by the Crop Development Centre at the University
of Saskatchewan in Canada.
Canada supplies approximately 70 percent
of the total flax/linseed in the EU annually. Because GM flax FP967 is not
authorized in the European Union, there is zero tolerance for the variety.
That means any raw
material or flax/linseed derivative analyzed to be positive for FP967 is illegal
and not marketable in the EU. The test for the genetic modification of Triffid
flax was developed by Genetic ID Laboratories in USA and Europe .
The ‘Triffid’ is a highly venomous fictional plant species,
the titular antagonist from John Wyndham's 1951 novel The Day of the Triffids.
The University of Saskatchewan appears to
have used that great novel as a model for its GM creation.
Triffid yanked off seed market in 2001
discovery of Triffid gene contamination in Canadian flax exports is surprising
because Triffid flax seed has not been openly produced in Canada since 2001.
Triffid was deregulated over a decade ago in Canada for environmental release for feed in 1996 and for food in 1998. USA authorized
the release of Triffid for food and feed in 1998, and for commercial growth
in the environment in 1999 . Triffid has been grown in the open fields
in both Canada and US. But by early 2001, under pressure from Canadian flax
growers anxious to protect their markets, Triffid was deregistered and removed
from the market in Canada. By then, around 200 000 bushels of Triffid flax
seed had been grown on farms across the prairies .
Why is Triffid in flax exports?
Triffid has probably contaminated
most North American flax exports including 'organic' flax because the crop
is significantly insect pollinated. Why has the GM contamination escaped careful
scrutiny in Europe during those years of flax export? One explanation may
be partly technical. The herbicides tolerated by Triffid flax are sulphonylurea
derivatives and the genes transforming flax are not the usual genes used to
produce herbicide tolerant crops. The promoter and terminator genes are native
from the plant source of resistant genes Arabidopsis. What I am saying
is that is that Triffid is a University of Saskatchewan product and does not
employ the usual large company genes and that may be a reason they were not
herbicide resistance was selected for development because that herbicide
family is used to control weeds of winter wheat which tolerates the herbicide
but the herbicides persist in the soil preventing crop rotation with broad
leafed crops such as flax [4, 5]. Prior to the approval of Trffid by Canada
in 1995, the creators of Triffid, Professors McHuhen and Holm, chastised
the government regulators for asking scientifically irrelevant question .
The current problem with Triffid suggests that the government regulators may
have been badgered into arriving at a faulty conclusion.
Transgenic flax for industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals
During the past decade, there has been a lot
of pressure to produce pharmaceutical products and industrial plastics precursors
in flax so as to avoid polluting 'major' food and
feed crops. This is being promoted by the usual GM brigade. Such mindless
pollution of flax fails to recognize the crop’s natural dietary and medicinal
properties. The main objection to the use of transgenic flax to produce industrial
chemicals and pharmaceuticals is that even though flax is mainly self pollinated
it is also significantly insect pollinated (to the order of five percent or
more of the pollination [7-9]). Gene flow from flax occurs to wild and weedy
relatives that include several species native to North America as well as
feral agronomic flax .
The detection of transgenic flax Triffid in Canadian
imports for food and feed in Europe is disturbing because the production of
Triffid flax was officially discontinued in 2001. The implication is that
the entire Canadian flax crop may have been contaminated by exposure to the
genetically modified crop during the five years in which 200 000 bushels
of Triffid flax were produced and marketed in North America. The current
problems with Triffid flax demonstrates most emphatically that flax is
not suitable for producing transgenic industrial and pharmaceutical chemicals.
joe cummins Comment left 29th September 2009 08:08:22 A recent article ,CDC Triffid Flax Scare Threatens Access To No. 1 EU Market by Allan Dawson
Manitoba Co-operator, September 17 2009 quotes one of the creators of Trippid. I am concerned with the quote 'McHughen said the EU can’t say for sure it has found CDC Triffid because there are other GM flax genotypes (none grown commercially) and the EU doesn’t have information on them, he said.' I have been unable to locate any field test releases of GM flax other than Triffid in Canada or USA even though such reports are mandatory. McHughen's cryptic comment implies that unreported field tests of GM flax were done in Canada.
Regarding the carry over of Trifid in the field plantings reported currently , it is worth pointing out that flax seeds are frequently saved by farmers and the GM flax genes will achieve equilibrium over time in the population that they pollute. Those genes may even be selected and increased in the flax population by growing the polluted flax in rotation with wheat that has been treated with sulphonylurea herbicides which persist in the soil.
amicus curiae Comment left 15th October 2009 16:04:01 I also am extremely concerned, I almost planted flax seed from store bought stock in Australia, how can anyone know it isn,t contaminated?
Until now I never knew, read or saw any suggestion that Flax had been Gm contaminated.
Joe Cummins Comment left 15th October 2009 16:04:09 Replying to RAUL DELGADO HERNANDEZ:According to the Flax Council of Canada Mexico is a strong importer of Canadian flax for use in a variety of manufactured and homemade foods such as tortilla shells, breads and cereals. Mexico does not grow flax commercially and food manufacturers typically import flax and flax products from Canada. In Mexico Canadian flax is fed to chickens to produce omega 3 fatty acid containing eggs.In Spanish, flax is linaza
RAUL DELGADO HERNANDEZ Comment left 4th October 2009 11:11:14 I would like to know the translation of the transgenic flax.
and if it is imported by mexico
David Russell Comment left 26th September 2009 21:09:22 Here we go again!
As a Canadian i am embarassed by this. As someone who tries to maintain a healthy diet (I haven't used canola oil for at least 10yrs) I now will have to stop consuming flax, including flax bread and dietary suplements that include flax oil.
I live in a rural community (village pop.
joe cummins Comment left 15th October 2009 16:04:14 In reply to RAUL DELGADO HERNANDEZ: According to the Canadian Flax Council Mexico is a strong importer of Canadian flax for use in a variety of manufactured and homemade foods such as tortilla shells, breads and cereals. Mexico does not grow flax commercially and food manufacturers typically import flax and flax products from Canada. In Mexico flax may be called Linaza.
meredith lloyd-evans Comment left 6th February 2010 17:05:43 wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't some dirty tricks by an anti-Gm non-Governmental Organisation, adding a secret store of Triffid flax-seed to a non-GM shipment...... I might change my mind if someone independent goes and collects flax seed from Canada's prairies and shows it's Triffid-positive.
Marie Comment left 16th February 2010 13:01:48 What are the side effects of ingesting contaminated flax seed. I have been ingesting flax for at least 4 years every day.Since sept 09 i have been having health issues. have had all test possible with no results of why. could this be due to infected flax seed?
The ACTivist magazine Comment left 17th April 2010 17:05:24 According to the Canadian government:
"FP967 or CDC Triffid, was developed in the 1990s by the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan."
As is mentioned here, The "triffid" is a highly venomous fictional plant species, the titular antagonist from John Wyndham's 1951 novel The Day of the Triffids.
In this novel, the main character Bill Masen declares that Triffids are not natural:
"My own belief, for what that is worth, is that they were the outcome of a series of ingenious biological meddlings--and very likely accidental, at that. Had they been evolved anywhere but in the region they were, we should doubtless have had a well-documented ancestry for them."
Why would researchers and developers of transgenic germplasm choose to name their "creation" after something from a science fiction novel that warns of "biological meddlings"? Does anyone out there find this extremely odd? It doesn't seem like a very good way to get one's product to market.