Flax council reminds to test for Triffid

The Flax Council of Canada is urging growers to ensure that all planting seed has been tested for the presence of Triffid prior to seeding. 

“Continued testing at all levels of the value chain is essential to reduce the frequency and severity of Triffid events found in the Canadian flax crop to the point where the risk to exporters and processors no longer warrants testing at the farm level,” the council said in a release.

It said the best option remains the planting of certified seed that has been tested for Triffid and shown to be negative. However, the Farm Stewardship Program allows producers to use their own farm-saved (non-pedigreed) seed for planting, provided it first undergoes the same  sampling and testing procedures as those used for certified seed.

The council said there is no threshold level of Triffid acceptable for planting seed. Only planting seed that has been tested negative is to be used. 

As of Jan. 1, 2011, approved labs are providing producers with a discount of 50 per cent of the regular cost of testing pedigreed and farm-saved seed, up to a maximum of $100 per sample. The labs are reimbursed by the Flax Council, using funds provided by the federal government.

The council said Canada’s single largest market for flax is the European Union (EU) and to meet its stringent requirements it is critical that only seed tested negative for Triffid is planted.

At the time of delivery, in order for their flax to enter the EU export pipeline, growers will be required to provide two certificates of laboratory analysis from an approved laboratory, one that verifies the planting seed tested negative and another that verifies that the production being delivered tested negative.

Triffid is a genetically-modified (GM) flax variety that bred in Saskatchewan in the 1990s. It was deregistered in 2001 and was never commercialized, as the flax industry feared losing access to Europe if a GM flax were introduced.

But several countries closed their ports to Canadian flax in 2009 after a number of samples tested positive for markers of Triffid, which were soon found to have made their way into some breeder seed.

More information, including a list of labs approved for testing, is available online.

The list of approved labs for Triffid testing for “Farm Saved Planting Seed” is the same as for the Certified Seed Testing Program. Laboratory submission forms for this program are available on the Flax Council website.

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