By Jonathan Benson
Illegal genetically-modified (GM) wheat is not the only surprise transgenic crop being discovered unexpectedly on the commercial market. As it turns out, a long-abandoned variety of GM flax known as FP967 has reportedly been identified in at least 30 countries worldwide over the past few years, a discovery that has greatly stifled the Canadian flax market, which supplies most of the world’s flax.
The GM Contamination Register explains that the earliest discoveries of unapproved FP967 turned up in Germany back in late 2009. Since that time, the same illegal GM flax has turned up in Austria, Romania, Sweden, Cyprus, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovenia, France, Greece, and Switzerland, not to mention dozens of other mostly European countries to which the crop was also distributed.
Back in the late 1980s, the publicly-funded Crop Development Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, first developed FP967, which was later renamed Triffid, specifically for the commercial market. The “Frankencrop” was later authorized in the late 1990s for commercial use both in Canada and the U.S., that is until concerns about the safety of the crop by the European export market prevented Triffid from ever actually being produced and sold for commercial production.
Discovery of transient GM flax proves agricultural coexistence is impossible
By 2001, Triffid was officially de-registered, and all known stocks of the seed were believed to have been identified and destroyed. But this was apparently not the case. Triffid is still showing up in flax stocks more a decade later, which calls into question the integrity of the entire global supply of flax. This just goes to show that, once released, even test runs of GM crops can lead to lasting and potentially even permanent damage to the food supply.
“There is no peaceful coexistence [between pharma crops and conventional],” said Ernie Hoffert, manager of Reimers Seed Co., which supplies organic flax seeds to farmers, to The Organic & Non-GMO Report in a 2006 piece on flax. “[Biotech companies] say they are going to save agriculture, but they could cause tremendous problems with local economies and markets.”
Hoffert’s statements were eventually proven true by the revelation of GM flax contamination in Europe roughly three years later. And though both the Canadian government and the biotechnology groups responsible for unleashing Frankenflax on the world tried to pay lip service to the idea of containing this contamination and getting the Canadian flax market back on its feet, it appears as though the damage has already been done, and may be irreversible.
“GE contamination is already costing the taxpayer,” explained Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, in a 2010 press release following the initial discovery. “Contamination is inevitable and these costs will keep recurring.”
Always verify the integrity of your flax with the manufacturer
At this point, the best thing consumers, and especially those in Europe, can do is stick with certified organic and non-GMO varieties of flax seed and oil that have been tested by their manufacturers and verified to be clean. If a company cannot or refuses to provide information about the genetic status of its flax, avoid it and find another brand that has been fully tested for purity and integrity.
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