Prairie flax growers will get a 50 per cent discount on the regular cost of testing their pedigreed and farm-saved seed for Triffid genetics, says the Flax Council of Canada. The council has budgeted $1.5 million to cover half the cost, up to $100, of tests during the 2011-12 crop year to cull the genetically modified (GM) variety from Western Canada’s seed stocks.
The council will reimburse the labs handling the testing for the discounts, in the first stage of what’s expected to be a multiyear program, backed with funding from the federal government’s Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP).
The testing program is meant to help eliminate Triffid from flax in Canada and maintain access to EU markets. Starting in the new crop year on Aug. 1, the program will be extended to cover the testing of all flax production, the council says.
The council has spearheaded a testing regime for farm samples of flax-seed since the discovery of low levels of Triffid in shipments of flax to the European Union (EU) in September 2009. With a testing program in place, shipments of flax have resumed to the EU, which is Canada’s largest export market for flax. Exporters have been able to identify shipments testing positive for Triffid and direct them away from the EU, the council says. The revised sampling protocol put in place last fall has “dramatically” cut positive tests in rail car shipments arriving at ports, the council says.
Under the council’s program, farmers can use their own saved seed for planting flax crops, as long as it undergoes the same testing procedures for Triffid as those already in place for pedigreed seed.
Triffid, a GM flax variety that was bred in Saskatchewan in the 1990s, was deregistered in 2001 and 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.