ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

7 December 2001


Monsanto's program for dealing with the issue is less than farmer-friendly: "They come out and they question your management. Then they question your ability to keep your seed clean. It's a very confrontational approach. Then they say they'd like to assist you."

Some fascinating detail here on farming the Monsanto way:
1. Volunteer GM canola a problem: farmer
2. Zero-till farmers air Roundup Ready concerns


1. Volunteer GM canola a problem: farmer

Thursday December 6, 2001
Ian Bell, Brandon bureau

Robert Stevenson has taken Monsanto to task for herbicide-tolerant canola that has begun cropping up on his farm.

The canola has appeared as a volunteer in his fields for at least three years. This year was the worst.

"In places it was thick enough to produce a crop," said Stevenson, who practices zero tillage at his farm near Kenton, Man.

He said the uninvited crop is destroying marketing options for some of his crops and jeopardizing how he manages his farm.

A lot of the grass seed he produces is sold to Europe, which restricts imports of genetically modified canola seed.

"The Europeans will not accept grass seed that has volunteer canola in it," Stevenson said, during a gathering last week in Brandon organized by the Manitoba Zero Tillage Research Association to discuss Roundup Ready crops.

His thoughts struck at the heart of an issue between farmers and Monsanto, the maker of Roundup Ready canola. Who bears the responsibility when a herbicide-tolerant crop emerges in a field where it was never planted?

Is it the farmer who owns the field? A neighbour who grew a herbicide-tolerant crop in a nearby field? Or is it companies like Monsanto that are bringing those crops to Western Canada?

Stevenson believes the responsibility rests with Monsanto.

"I expect full compensation for what's been happening to me now and in the future."

In an interview, Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan said the company is discussing with Stevenson compensation and management of the herbicide-tolerant volunteers on his land.

While she did not want to discuss the amount of compensation, Jordan said some money has already been paid to Stevenson this year to help control the canola volunteers.

"He feels this will be a process where Monsanto will have to pay him for the rest of his farming career," said Jordan.

"That is where we haven't come to an agreement."

Jordan said when Monsanto is called about unexpected herbicide-tolerant canola volunteers, the company will check to determine if the plants are Roundup Ready types and if so will discuss options for control with the producer.

She said the company had about 20 calls from growers dealing with that issue this year. Less than 2,000 acres were involved.

"Monsanto works with the farmer to address the situation to their satisfaction."

Stevenson disagrees.

"That program is so unrealistic," he said. "The way it works is on a field-by-field basis.

"Who has time to argue on every field, field after field, and that's what they're doing."

Stevenson's crops this year included meadow brome for grass seed. Besides spraying to control the volunteers, he said swathing was done in early September to prevent the volunteers from setting seed.

He considers Monsanto's program for dealing with the issue less than farmer friendly.

"They come out and they question your management. Then they question your ability to keep your seed clean.

" It's a very confrontational approach. Then they say they'd like to assist you."


3. Zero-till farmers air Roundup Ready concerns

By Ian Bell, Brandon bureau [shortened]
Western Producer, Friday Dec 7

In Chris Dzisiak's opinion, one year of gain from growing a herbicide-tolerant canola translates into three years of pain.

Dzisiak, a zero till farmer from Dauphin, Man., planted Roundup Ready canola in 1999.

He wanted a crop where he could use less herbicide while still getting good weed control without the need for tillage.

Dzisiak may have gotten what he wanted in 1999. What he didn't bargain for were some of the problems he has encountered since.

In 2000, volunteer canola appeared in the 156 acre field where Roundup Ready canola had been planted the year before.

The field was planted to wheat in 2000. Dzisiak controlled the volunteers with 2,4-D. But he said his problems with the volunteer canola became more acute this year when he planted the same field to flax.

A preseed burnoff failed to control the herbicide-tolerant plants.

That prompted Dzisiak to apply a Buctril M/Select mix to the flax crop soon after it had emerged. The Buctril M was applied at full rate.

Dzisiak killed the volunteer canola, but his flax crop suffered because of the high rate of herbicide, he told a gathering of minimum and zero till farmers in Brandon last week.

The stunted flax grew slowly over the next two weeks, allowing wild oats and volunteer wheat to flourish. The result, according to Dzisiak, was a yield loss of three bushels an acre in his flax crop.

He estimates he lost $4,500 this year because of the yield loss, the extra herbicide costs to control the volunteer canola, and the excess dockage in his flax due to the wheat volunteers and wild oats.

He expects problems with the herbicide-tolerant canola again next year when he plants peas on the field.

Dzisiak doubts he will ever grow a Roundup Ready crop again because the problems outweighed the benefits.

"I certainly didn't save myself any money and I certainly didn't save myself any time."

A concern about herbicide-tolerant canola volunteers was prevalent throughout the one-day meeting. Roundup Ready canola is a product of Monsanto.

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