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Ex-post assessment of genetically modified, low level presence in Canadian flax

Abstract

Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of flaxseed. In 2009, DNA from deregistered genetically modified (GM) CDC Triffid was detected in a shipment of Canadian flaxseed exported to Europe, causing a large decrease in the amount of flax planted in Canada and a major shift in export markets. The flax industry in Canada undertook major changes to ensure the removal of transgenic flax from the supply chain. To demonstrate compliance, Canada adopted a protocol involving testing grain samples (post-harvest) using an RT-PCR test for the construct found in CDC Triffid. Efforts to remove the presence of GM flax from the value chain included reconstituting major flax varieties from GM-free plants. The reconstituted varieties represented the majority of planting seed in 2014. This study re-evaluates GM flax presence in Canadian grain stocks for an updated dataset (2009–2015) using a previously described simulation model to estimate low-level GM presence. Additionally, losses to the Canadian economy resulting from the reduction in flax production and export opportunities, costs associated with reconstituting major flax varieties, and testing for the presence of GM flax along the flax value chain are estimated.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The CDC at the University of Saskatchewan did submit variety registration documents to the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Food and Fisheries for regulatory approval in the mid 1990s. At the time, EU approval was done through a specific member state. The regulatory review process was underway when Triffid was deregistered, hence ending the variety approval in mid-process.

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Correspondence to Stuart J. Smyth.

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Booker, H.M., Lamb, E.G. & Smyth, S.J. Ex-post assessment of genetically modified, low level presence in Canadian flax. Transgenic Res 26, 399–409 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11248-017-0012-7

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Keywords

  • CDC Triffid
  • Linum usitatissimum
  • Seed purity analysis
  • Seed testing
  • Reconstituted seed
  • Testing costs