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Profile: Lyle Friesen
Positions that Lyle Friesen has held:
- Plant biologist at the University of Manitoba
Lyle Friesen was a participant or observer in the following events:
Percy Schmeiser gives the 27 canola pods that were collected by Monsanto a year before (see August 12, 1998) to his lawyers who then send them to the University of Manitoba to be tested for the presence of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola genes. Lyle Friesen, a plant biologist at the university who conducts the tests, finds that 15 of the samples are too moldy to grow. The seeds in the other 12 samples germinate and are sprayed with Roundup. Survival rates in these samples range from 0 to 67 percent. As Schmeiser’s lawyer will later note in court, the people hired by Monsanto to obtain the samples did not collect them using a methodology that would have ensured that the composition of the samples were representative of the composition of the fields (see August 12, 1998). Therefore, according to Schmeiser’s lawyer, the samples can only indicate “what is in the bags, not what is in the fields.” Also included in the samples sent to Friesen are the seeds (the authenticity of which Schmeiser challenges (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000)) that were returned to Schmeiser by Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (who took over operations of Humboldt Flour Mills in 1998) earlier in the year. Tests performed on these seeds indicate that between 95 and 99 percent contained the patented gene. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 22 ; Crop Choice, 5/24/2002]
A study conducted by three University of Manitoba biologists finds that contamination of Pedigreed canola seed with seeds containing transgenic genes is widespread. In the study, seed was collected from several pedigreed seed lots that were supposed to be free of genetically altered genes that make plants herbicide-resistant. The seeds were used to plant 33 fields, which were then sprayed with Roundup, Liberty, and the Smart-trait herbicide. After the herbicide application, only one field contained no survivors. Of the 27 seedlots, 14 had contamination levels exceeding 0.25 percent and therefore failed the 99.75 percent cultivar purity guideline for certified canola seed. For three of the seedlots, contamination levels were higher than 2.0 percent. “That means one wrong seed in 400, if a farmer is seeding between 100 and 120 seeds per square yard. That means you would have a Roundup-resistant plant every couple of square yards,” explains plant biologist Lyle Friesen. “In a less competitive crop where you can mix products like 2,4-D or MCPA, that becomes a real problem and the volunteers set seed and become a real problem for next year.” Friesen tells the Manitoba Co-operator that, as far as canola is concerned, the “genie may be out of the bottle.” [Manitoba Co-operator, 8/1/2002; Friesen, Nelson, and van Acker, 2003]
An Australian study published in the Journal Science finds that wind or insects can carry canola pollen up to three kilometers (1.87 miles). In Canada, where the contamination of non-transgenic canola with genetically modified (GM) genes has become a serious problem, the present isolation distance of GM canola is a mere 100 meters. “The study underlines a clear risk,” the report says. “Once transgenes are introduced they can’t be completely controlled.”
[National Post, 6/28/2002; Rieger et al., 7/4/2002; Manitoba Co-operator, 7/4/2002]
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