|Chronologically listed items on this page in descending order:
Canada's first GM free zone honoured - 9 Nov 2004
Polaris Institute: Bio Justice Project - Regulation and Public Policy
Media Advisory - GE crops and Minority Government: A chance for a Policy based on Precaution?
Monsanto abandons worldwide GM wheat project - 11th May, 2004
Percy Schmeiser speaks on the Canadian Supreme Court ruling
Farmers' union wants produce labelling - 27th April 2004
AgCan ends testing of GE wheat developed with Monsanto - 9/1/04
Frankenfoods: The damning proof - Daily Mail, 5th September 2003
CWB Asks Monsanto to Put the Brakes on Roundup Ready Wheat - May 2003
Protecting farms from GMOs - Arnold Taylor - The Leader-Post, June 7 2007
Despite the denial of class-action certification by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ("Organic farmers may appeal ruling", Leader-Post, May 4), Saskatchewan organic farmers maintain there remains a compelling legal and moral claim for damages resulting from contamination of food, field and crops, by genetically engineered canola. After the ruling, Monsanto's Trish Jordan was quoted as saying all types of farming can coexist "with reasonable tolerances and thresholds for adventitious presence ...", and that Saskatchewan organic farmers should "focus on something positive for your industry instead of trying to criticize what other farmers want to do".
This condescending and insulting advice ignores the fact organic farmers' livelihoods depend on protecting the integrity of the food they produce in a way that meets the demand of their customers, many of whom believe contamination by transgenic material is potentially harmful. Despite Jordan's assertions that "food and feed products containing ingredients derived from plant biotechnology crops have a solid 10-year history of safe use", consumers have reason to question the safety assessment given GMO (genetically modified organism) crops by government regulators.
A study released at a Paris press conference on March 13 2007 (in the peer-reviewed American journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology), revealed the Monsanto maize MON863 caused serious damage to the livers and kidneys of rats in feeding trials. Prof. Gilles-Eric Seralini, who conducted the study on data initially suppressed by Monsanto, said "this maize cannot now be considered safe to eat. We are now calling urgently for a moratorium on other approved GMs while the efficacy of current health-testing methods is reassessed". The maize was approved by the European Community on Aug. 9, 2005, and while this study deals with maize, not canola, it exposes shortcomings in the approval process for GMO products.
Saskatchewan organic farmers embrace the precautionary principle and will continue our struggle to protect organic farming and organic food from GMO contamination.
Taylor is chairman of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, Organic Agriculture Protection Fund Committee.
Bill to Ban Terminator Introduced in Canada - News Release - ETC Group - May 31, 2007 - www.etcgroup.org
A bill to prohibit field testing and commercialization of Terminator seed technology was introduced in the Canadian Parliament today. Terminator refers to plants that are genetically engineered to render sterile seeds at harvest - a technology that aims to maximize seed industry profits by preventing farmers from re-planting harvested seed.
"Canada needs to pass this bill into law because genetic seed sterilization is dangerous and blatantly anti-farmer - suicide seeds threaten to intensify corporate control over Canadian agriculture and offers no benefits for farmers," said Colleen Ross of the National Farmers Union.
Initially developed by the US Department of Agriculture and multinational seed companies, "suicide seeds" have not been commercialized anywhere in the world due to an avalanche of opposition from farmers, indigenous peoples, civil society and some governments. In 2000, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity recommended a de facto moratorium on field-testing and commercial sale of Terminator seeds; the moratorium was re-affirmed in 2006. India and Brazil have already passed national laws to prohibit the technology.
"Canada has led a behind-the-scenes push to undermine the United Nations moratorium," points out Pat Mooney, Executive Director of the Ottawa-based ETC Group, "so it's time the Canadian Government listened to the people." "Researchers are continuing to develop and win patents on Terminator because seed sterility is simply too lucrative for industry to abandon," said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. "A national law to prohibit the technology is the only way to insure that Terminator is never commercialized in Canada. The Government of Canada must show its commitment to the international community and not bow to industry pressure," said Sharratt.
The full text of the Canadian bill will be available here on June 1: www.banterminator.org/canada
For further information:
Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, tel: +1 613 241 2267 email: email@example.com
Hope Shand, ETC Group, tel: +1 919 960 5223 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Risk assessment of harmful GMOs, chemicals in environment tainted - Paul Hanley - The StarPhoenix (Canada), May 22 2007
The social license to release products like chemicals, pesticides and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment is based on public confidence that these products have been adequately tested to ensure safety. In fact, we have no reason to be assured that the risk assessment process is adequate. Take the recent decision by a California court, in which the judge concluded that the U.S. government had failed to follow its own rules for assessing GMOs, in particular Monsanto's Roundup Ready genetically-modified (GM) alfalfa. The court stated that the U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to discharge its responsibilities by ignoring the fact that there were doubts surrounding the likelihood of contamination of non-modified alfalfa by the modified type. It then made a previously temporary ban on this product in the U.S. permanent.
Failures by regulatory agencies to adequately assess the safety of a product may result from an ideological rather than truly scientific approach to risk assessment. This ideology results in part from the undue influence of industry on government and its regulatory agencies. Another factor is the belief that technical innovation is, fundamentally, a good thing because it drives economic growth and progress. This belief interferes with an unbiased assessment process. GM alfalfa by Monsanto has been approved for use in Canada since Sept. 7, 2004, using similar criteria to those used in the U.S., which are now suspect.
In 2001, the Royal Society of Canada's Expert Panel on Food Biotechnology warned of fundamental flaws in the adequacy of Canada's risk assessment process. The panel urged that the system be changed to strengthen "the scientific basis of the regulatory process by increasing the transparency and validation of the risk assessments upon which regulatory decisions are based. Peer review and independent verification of research findings are principles of the scientific method. The more regulatory agencies limit free access to the data upon which their decisions are based, the more compromised becomes the claim that the regulatory process is 'science based.' Lack of transparency in the current approval process leads to an inability to evaluate the scientific rigour of the assessment process, and thus compromises the confidence that society can place in the regulatory framework." The panel also stressed the need for regulators to remain independent, neutral and unbiased.
Canada is now in the process of merging its regulatory system for products like GMOs and pesticides with that of the U.S. This is a good idea in principle - in fact, there should be a uniform, global regulatory system - but the U.S. system is currently under attack for being under the influence of the companies it is supposed to regulate. It is not just Greenpeace and the like questioning the quality of risk assessment in the U.S. In 2005, the Governmental Accountability Office raised the alarm about corporate sway over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Crackdown urged on modified foods - Group wants labelling to become mandatory - ANDY RIGA - The Gazette, April 26, 2007
Quebec must act quickly to get a handle on genetically modified organisms or risk paying a high price for its inaction in the future, a coalition of anti-GMO consumer, environmental and farmers' groups told a commission studying the future of farming in Quebec yesterday. The groups urged Quebec to implement mandatory labelling, encourage alternatives to GMOs and make it easier to hold GMO makers legally accountable when their products contaminate non-GMO crops. "We know from our experiences with chemicals and tobacco that if we don't take early precautionary measures, we might collectively pay the cost later on," Eric Darier, of Greenpeace and part of the coalition, said after the presentation. "Before we go ahead with new products, there should be a fairly solid consensus that those products are safe." He said the jury is still out on the impact of GMOs - organisms with genetic material that is altered using gene technology - on health and the environment.
An estimated 70 per cent of processed foods on grocery store shelves contain or might contain genetically modified ingredients. During the 2003 provincial election, Jean Charest's Liberals pledged to bring in a labelling system, a plan that was later abandoned. About 40 countries, including the European Union countries, already require mandatory labelling of modified foods, said Charles Tanguay, a spokesperson for the Union des consommateurs, which is part of the coalition. It should not be up to the food industry or governments to decide whether consumers should be told whether GMOs are included in products, Tanguay said, noting surveys show most Canadians in favour of mandatory labelling. "One of the most fundamental rights of consumers is the right to be informed," Tanguay said.
The provincial Commission sur l'avenir de l'agriculture et de l'agroalimentaire quebecois held hearings in Montreal yesterday. It is to present recommendations to the government in January.
Cost to label genetic food is overblown - Just $28 million a year: Quebec study. 87% want to know if food contains GMOs
MICHELLE LALONDE - The Montreal Gazette, March 18 2007
Mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods would cost much less than the food industry has claimed, a new study commissioned by Quebec's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food reveals. The as-yet-unpublished study, obtained by The Gazette, estimates the yearly cost of such a program at $28 million to Quebec's food industry and $1.7 million to the provincial government. Previous studies commissioned by the food industry - and cited by the federal and Quebec governments as reason not to act on the issue - pegged the annual cost of implementing such a system at up to $950 million (both government and industry) for the whole country, and up to $200 million in Quebec alone.
At a news conference planned for this afternoon, environment al groups, organic food advocates and consumer groups are expected to renew calls for mandatory labelling in Quebec and to denounce Jean Charest's Liberals for abandoning a 2003 election pledge to bring in a labelling system. Eric Darier of Greenpeace says the new study, written by Martin Cloutier of the Universite du Quebec a Montreal, shows that the cost of mandatory labelling is reasonable. "Thirty million is a much lower figure than what (the food industry) has been saying," he said. Considering Quebecers spend about $30 billion on food every year, it is a cost that could and should be absorbed by the industry, Darier added.
Many commonly consumed processed foods - an estimated 70 per cent of the processed foods found on grocery store shelves - contain or may contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. GMOs are organisms with genetic material that has been altered using gene technology. While there is uncertainty over whether genetically modified foods pose a long-term danger to human health and environmental threats are debated, polls have consistently shown that a strong majority of Canadians want to know whether there are GMOs in the foods they buy. A 2004 survey by Leger Marketing indicated 83 per cent of Canadians - and 87 per cent of Quebecers - want mandatory labelling of GMO foods.
Canada is a major producer of genetically altered crops, such as corn and soy, along with the U.S., Argentina, China and Brazil. Many countries require mandatory labelling of foods that contain GMOs, including the European Union countries, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand. Labelling requires the implementation of separate production, harvesting, storage, handling and processing systems for genetically modified and completely natural foods, plus a validation system, and separate shelf allocations by retailers. While some assume the costs of such a system would simply be passed to consumers through higher food prices, Darier said this has not proven to be the case in other countries where labelling is mandatory. "The international experience shows there is no impact on consumers, because the entrepreneurs decided to change the way they do things to absorb the supplemental costs," Darier said.
Greenpeace and other anti-GMO groups argue that long-term human health effects of consuming genetically engineered food have not been studied, and cite such potential health risks as resistance to antibiotics and allergic reactions.
Greenpeace petition drive demands GE food labelling - Greenpeace calls for immediate action from BC Premier Campbell on mandatory GE labelling
Press release, MARCH 13 2007 - http://www.springerlink.com/content/1432-0703
VANCOUVER/BRITISH COLUMBIA -- (CCNMatthews - March 13, 2007) - Greenpeace today launched a petition calling on the BC government to legislate mandatory labelling before the next election. The petition drive comes as a study is released in Europe showing that biotech giant Monsanto used incomplete data to obtain approval of its genetically modified corn and that laboratory rats, fed with a genetically engineered (GE) maize produced by Monsanto, have shown kidney and liver toxicity, according to a new study.(1)
The study, published today in the journal "Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology", analysed results of safety tests submitted by Monsanto to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) when the company was seeking authorisation to market its GE Maize variety MON863 in Canada. The data shows that MON863 has significant health risks associated with it; nonetheless, the CFIA approved the maize for unconfined release into the environment and for consumption by both humans and animals in 2003. The incriminating evidence was obtained by Greenpeace following a court case(2), and passed on for evaluation by a team of experts headed by Professor Gilles Eric Seralini, a governmental expert in genetic engineering technology from the University of Caen.(3)
"Consumers are already skeptical when it comes to GMOs and this latest news about Monsanto will only confirm those concerns. GMOs are inherently risky, and we should not be releasing these untested products into the environment or into our food chain," said Josh Brandon, GE campaigner for Greenpeace. "If GE products continue to appear in our food, however, consumers need labels on these products so that they can make informed choices when it comes to what they buy."
The release of this latest data shows the urgent need for mandatory labelling of GE products in BC. The results also confirm the warnings raised by the Royal Society of Canada's expert panel on biotechnology.(4) In 2001, the panel of scientific experts found that the lack of independent verification of company produced data could lead to the approval of improperly tested and potentially unsafe products.
"As many as 70% of the processed foods on store shelves in BC could contain GE ingredients, and there is absolutely no way for consumers to know this important fact," said Eleanor Boyle of GE Free BC. "Consumers have a right to know what is in the food they eat, so that they can make the decision whether or not to consume this untested and risky technology. BC has the opportunity to lead the way on this issue in Canada and Premier Campbell should listen to British Columbians who want mandatory labelling of GMOs and take action before the next provincial election."
A recent Greenpeace poll, found that 79 per cent of BC residents support legislation requiring all GE food to be labelled, and indicated that the issue could be significant in the next provincial election.(5)
For more information contact:
Josh Brandon, Greenpeace Canada, GE campaigner, cell: 604-721-7493
Eleanor Boyle, GE Free BC, cell: 604-230-2561
Andrew Male, Greenpeace Canada, Communications, cell: 416-880-2757
1 The article is published online (www.springerlink.com/content/1432-0703) by the American journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology; it will be printed in May. A Greenpeace briefing on the study is available on request.
2 For details, please refer to the Greenpeace paper: The MON863case-a chronicle of systematic deception
3 The analysis team was headed by Professor Seralini from University of Caen and included experts from the French independent scientific organisation CRIIGEN.
4 RSC, Royal Society of Canada (Expert Panel on the Future of Food Technology) 2001. Elements of Precaution: Recommendations for the Regulation of Food Biotechnology in Canada. Ottawa: Royal Society of Canada.
5 The Stratcom poll of 601 BC eligible voters was conducted between November 23 and November 30, 2006. It has a margin of error +/- 4.0%. A copy of the report is available on request.
Australian State Ag minister slams Fed GM call - Friday, October 13, 2006 - The West Australian
The Federal Government’s call for all States to lift their moratorium on the growing of commercial GM crops has been labelled premature by the State Government, with Agriculture Minister Kim Chance defending the maintenance of the WA State moratorium. Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran called for the States to lift their moratoriums as part of a response to the drought that now encompasses most of the agricultueral regions of Australia. He said if Victoria and NSW moved to allow GM crops, the move could persuade other States to drop their opposition. The recommendation was one of the 35 adopted by the Government out of a total of 55 contained in a report on agriculture and food in Australia for the next generation. The review was prepared by a team led by NFF president Peter Corish. Mr McGauran argued overseas experience showed GM crops could offer cost efficiencies for producers as well as environmental benefits, and he described Tasmania and WA as the two States that had an outright ideological objection to GMO, while other State governments were softening their positions.
Mr Chance this week responded by saying there was mounting evidence from Canada, the world’s largest GM canola producer, of substantial payments to grain farmers to compensate for rising input costs and lower commodity prices. He said he had been surprised to hear Mr McGauran’s claim that overseas experience showed GM crops offered cost efficiencies. “The evidence from Canada suggests otherwise,” Mr Chance said. “Mr McGauran obviously has not read about the Canadian experience, and I would like to know which countries he believes are enjoying financial and environmental benefits for GM crops, particularly GM canola.” The Minister said that in 1998 the difference between Australian and Canadian canola prices was about $70 a tonne in favour of Canada. “However, by May 2006, Australian prices had exceeded Canadian prices by some $50 a tonne,” he said, quoting a Department of Agriculture and Food WA report. “I do not want to see a situation where our State and Federal governments have to spend millions of dollars to help our farmers because they cannot sell their GM crops. “I wonder if Mr McGauran has discussed the possibility of future farm subsidies with the Federal Treasurer.”
West Australian Newspapers Pty Ltd 2006
Genetically modified wheat still shunned - Billings Gazette, 10 September 2006
FARGO, N.D. - An eminent agricultural economist has looked at it again: The world still is against genetically modified wheat. Robert Wisner of Iowa State University in Ames, offering an annual update of his 2003 study "Market Risks of Genetically Modified Wheat," said introducing genetically modified wheat won't turn around the trend of declining wheat acres in the United States, as some proponents suggest. Wisner, updating the study on behalf of the Western Organization and its seven state groups - including the Dakota Resource Council - found that introducing genetically modified wheat still would risk the loss of a quarter of U.S. hard red spring and wheat durum export markets and would cut prices about one-third, as earlier reports have concluded. "Nothing new," said Todd Leake of Emerado, N.D., a commercial farmer and chairman of the DRC's Food Safety Task Force, which deals with genetically modified wheat issues.
The issue was heavily in the news until 2004, when Monsanto announced it would shelve its Roundup Ready plans until markets and farmers would accept it. Syngenta and others are continuing to develop genetically modified wheat that would protect a crop from Fusarium head blight, or scab. Wisner concluded that the market makes no distinction between genetically modified crops for scab resistance vs. herbicide resistance. Leake, who grew 1,200 acres of wheat in 2006, called scab "yesterday's problem," noting the success of North Dakota State University's Alsen wheat variety with its "excellent Fusarium resistance." He said success of conventional techniques is something proponents of genetic modification "publicly ignore." "Fusarium head blight is not an important enough issue anymore to warrant the market risks of a GMO wheat introduction," he said, noting it would drop U.S. wheat prices to about $2 a bushel, which is the rough price for Canadian feed wheat.
WTO and ag issues
Leake said the fact that World Trade Organization talks are faltering on ag issues is an indication that the European Union is less likely to drop its restrictions on GMO crops. Leake said the report's message is made even stronger by a separate event. Japan suspended imports of U.S. rice and the European Union imposed mandatory testing of all imported rice after the Bayer Corp. announced that traces of Liberty Link rice, a genetically modified rice, had been detected in commercial supplies. "This is a warning," Leke said. "If we had contamination of a GMO in wheat, from everything they've said, they wouldn't import the wheat. Even if Japanese or European food agencies would relinquish a bit, that doesn't mean the milling industry is going to buy it. The paradigm hasn't changed." Leake said the study runs counter to claims that if wheat can be genetically modified for weed protection, disease protection or for other consumer traits, the crop will be more able to compete against soybeans and corn for acres. Wisner concludes that wheat acreage is declining because of more favorable U.S. farm support policies and because of expanding demand for ethanol and biodiesel.
Why genetic engineering is dangerous - by Pat Howard and Arne Hansen - Common Ground (Canada), August 2006
"The Canadian GM risk assessment process is so simplistic that not a single submission has ever been rejected in Canada. Everything submitted, almost wholly by industry, has been accepted," according to Ann Clark PhD, one of this country's leading experts on the dangers of genetically modified organisms. "The Canadian GM regulatory process is a ruse, claiming to safeguard human and environmental health, but actually intended to facilitate commercialization of GM crops," according to Dr. Clark.
In a 2005 brief to Parliament regarding its controversial Bill C-27, Clark warned that if the federal government passes the pending Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act, it will have voted to, "Facilitate international trade primarily by streamlining inspections, replacing Canadian assessment with those by foreign powers, and harmonizing regulations with the US and other countries, all of which challenge, rather than safeguard, the health and safety of Canadians."
Clark is an outspoken critic of Canada's regulatory policies and the processes related to field trials and commercial production of genetically modified crops, whether modified to produce pesticides in every cell of the plant, to resist spraying by soil-sterilizing herbicides, or to produce proteins for medicinal or industrial uses. She provided expert advice to the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on Food Biotechnology in 2001. The panel, the most influential and respected group of scientists in the country, concluded that the "regulatory process was severely flawed," despite the government's claim that ours is the best regulatory system in the world.
Beth Burrows, president and director of the Edmonds Institute, a public interest organization working on ecology, technology and social justice, tells us that "Genetic engineering increasingly means agribusiness and pharmaceuticals, two industries already important as sources of funding for science, higher education and those who run for office. Talking biosafety can mean putting one's job and financial security at risk." "Even diplomats charged by their governments to discuss biosafety balk at doing so, perhaps because they are also charged to protect their countries' industrial interests. The discussions that took place during the biosafety protocol negotiations begun in 1995 under the aegis of the UN Convention on Biodiversity were almost surreal in their avoidance of the topic [of bio-safety]," she stated recently. Burrows ought to know. She has spent more than a decade attending UN biodiversity meetings and continues to provide vital background information on biosafety issues to Third World delegates negotiating these international agreements. Beth Burrows is founder of the non-profit public interest think tank, the Edmonds Institute, a "group of smart, passionate people working flat-out for environmental and social justice."
These critical remarks should be read in light of growing evidence of extremely serious impacts on health, environment and the livelihoods of Third World farmers. A European regulatory requirement for genetic safety testing, which is not required in Canada or the US, has revealed genetic instability in many GM crop varieties. Scientists are finding harmful impacts on soil micro-organisms, beneficial insects and laboratory animals exposed to genetically modified crops and GE food. Farmers in India are committing suicide by the hundreds in Andra Pradesh and other states because of GM crop failures. (www.navdanya.org/articles/seeds_suicide.htm) People and animals have become ill and even died after consumption or exposure to products containing genetically modified organisms. Unlike traditional plant breeding, in genetic engineering of crops, unrelated organisms, such as bacteria, are snipped apart and sections of their genes inserted into plants with unpredictable results. http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5705
Ann Clark and Beth Burrows are outspoken citizens of Canada and the US respectively who are not afraid to speak truth to power. Join them for a public forum: Watchdogs or Lapdogs? Is the Regulation of Genetic Engineering Adequate? SFU [Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada] Harbour Centre, Fletcher Challenge Theatre, September 5, 7:30 - 9:30pm. The event is sponsored by the SFU faculty of applied sciences, the schools of communication and kinesiology, the Institute for the Humanities at SFU and by Common Ground.
Pat Howard is a professor of communications at SFU. email@example.com/
Arne Hansen is a Vancouver writer and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org/.
The Non-GMO Project Signs On Its First 50 Member Stores in the U.S. - BERKELEY, July 25, 2006
The Non-GMO Project, a collaboration of North American grocery stores and co-ops urging natural food and supplement companies to go Non-GMO, is now at 50 members nationwide, and counting. From San Diego, California to White River Junction, Vermont, natural food retailers have begun to join this effort to assure "a Non-GMO food supply, our customer's confidence in the foods and supplements we offer, and the general health & well-being of ourselves, our customers and the world in general."
The Certificate of Membership that each store receives upon joining the Project also describes the project as: "A Groundbreaking Effort To Identify GMOs In The Food Supply and To Influence Natural Food & Supplement Companies To Go Non-GMO. The First Comprehensive Non-GMO Compliance Review System started By Independent Natural Foods & Supplements Retailers and their Customers. The most rigorous standard for Non-GMO verification, developed with the technical assistance of Global ID Consulting."
The Non-GMO Project was founded by two natural grocery stores, The Natural Grocery Company in Berkeley, California, and The Big Carrot Natural Food Market in Toronto, Canada. To create a systematic and scientific program for Non-GMO certification, they have retained Global ID Consulting / Genetic ID North America, the world's leader in GMO control and identification. The Project's mission is two-fold; first, it seeks to enlist as many member grocery stores as possible across the United States and Canada. Second, The Non-GMO Project will contact all natural foods & supplements manufacturers, and formally request their participation.
See the list of The Non-GMO Project Member Stores at: http://www.nongmoproject.org/stores.html
To join The Non-GMO Project as a member store, or for more information about the project, please visit their website: http://www.nongmoproject.org
U.S. Contact: Corey Nicholl, The Non-GMO Project, (510) 526-2456 ext.154, or email@example.com
Canada Contact: Julie Daniluk, The Non-GMO Project, (416) 466-2129 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Labelling sought for genetically modified food - Carly Weeks, CanWest News Service - Leader-Post, May 02, 2006
OTTAWA -- Canadians may be at risk of developing new allergies and other side-effects from unlabelled genetically modified food and the federal government must make labelling mandatory to protect citizens, say international consumer groups in Ottawa for meetings with the United Nations' food standards committee. "Labelling is absolutely needed to be able to trace both known and unexpected human health problems," said Michael Hansen, senior research associate at the New York-based Consumers Union. "It's a basic consumer right-to-know issue." There's currently no way for Canadians to be sure if any product they buy has been genetically modified. It's a serious issue because there have been no long-term studies or research to track health-related problems created by genetically modified food, Hansen said. "The main concern we have with these products isn't that people are going to eat them and fall over dead tomorrow. It's going to be the longer-term effects," he said.
Consumer groups from Canada and nine other countries are in Ottawa to attend meetings of the UN's committee on food labelling this week and demand that Canada and other countries that have traditionally opposed genetically modified labelling support an international standard for such food. Genetic modification involves transferring selected gene material from one organism to another, including between non-related species. Some common genetically modified products include soybeans, corn and canola. Critics of engineered food say not enough is known about the potential side-effects. There is also a concern that when genes are transferred to create new proteins that did not exist, they can create allergic reactions.
Canada has voluntary guidelines for genetically modified food, but since they're not mandatory, it is nearly impossible for consumers to find genetically engineered products that actually have labels, said David Cuming, campaigns manager for Consumers International, an advocacy group based in the United Kingdom. "If you provide legislation that gives companies the opportunity to label if they want, they're not going to do it. That does not protect the consumer's right to choice," he said.
Health Canada has stringent safety requirements and examines all safety aspects of genetically modified food before it's allowed on shelves, said spokeswoman Carole Saindon. "The safety assessments that Health Canada conducts are complete. If there's any question at all about the safety of these products, we go back to the manufacturers and producer and ask for additional data," she said. Health Canada does have the authority to require mandatory labelling on any food product that may be a threat to health or safety, such as the presence of an allergen, Saindon said.
Canada is one of the world's largest exporters of genetically modified food and is one of the only countries in the world that strongly opposes mandatory labelling requirements, Hansen said. "The countries that are blocking this are the basic countries that do most of the growing and exporting because they don't want their people to have the right to choose," he said.
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2006
GM CANOLA FACT SHEET - A PROFIT OR A LOSS? - http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/documents/factsheet.doc
GM canola is the least popular of the GM crops with only 18% global adoption rate and almost all of that is grown in Canada. While both Canadian and Australian canola yields experienced a gradual increase in yields as farm practises improved, statistics show that Canadian yields did not increase as GM canola was introduced. Australian and Canadian canola yields are very similar and there is no evidence of the 10-40% yield claimed.
Over 20% of Canadian farmers grow a non-GM variety called Clearfield and yet that same variety is available, but not popular in Australia. There is also now very clear evidence of a price penalty associated with GM or GM contaminated produce. Attempts to segregate in Canada failed and almost all canola is sold as GM. Canada lost their premium over Australian canola of $US32.68/tonne and are now faced with price penalties up to $US30/tonne and are experiencing large carryover stocks despite their major market being US which is not GM sensitive.
With little benefit, higher costs and lower commodity prices and an inability to segregate, there is a risk, not a benefit associated with GM canola.
DOWNLOAD FACTSHEET AT: http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/documents/factsheet.doc
NGOs hit out at Australia, Canada and New Zealand for opening the door to GM Terminator Technology
From: The UK Campaigning Group on Terminator Technology
An alliance of leading environment and development organisations has condemned Australia, Canada and New Zealand for attempting to open the door to Terminator technology, a form of genetic-modification that would make seeds sterile and threaten the livelihoods of small-scale farmers. The alliance, which is known as the UK Campaigning Group on Terminator technology, has sent letters of protest to the High Commissioners of all three countries to raise concerns over proposals to weaken the global moratorium on Terminator technology, which would effectively give Terminator the green light. The alliance's response follows a meeting of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in Spain from 23 to 27 January, which was attended by representatives from Australia, Canada and New Zealand, among others. The meeting reaffirmed the CBD moratorium on Terminator technology, but recommendations were made for case-by-case risk assessment. This would ignore the serious concerns raised globally by Indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers on the negative potential impacts of Terminator. Instead, these recommendations would mark a move towards assessing applications of Terminator on a country-by-country basis.
The alliance is also concerned about the influence of the US on decisions around Terminator. The US refused to sign the Convention on Biodiversity but works through other countries to influence decision-making at crucial meetings. The alliance fears that the governments of Australia, Canada and New Zealand are working in collusion with the US administration and the biotechnology industry. Elisabet Lopez from the UK Campaigning Group on Terminator Technology, said today: 'We are deeply concerned that the US can still influence the result of CBD meetings despite not being Party to the Treaty. The recommendations coming from last week's meeting open the door for Terminator to be introduced. As signatories to the first Millennium Development Goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, Australia, Canada and New Zealand cannot justify their support for Terminator technology in the face of massive opposition from Southern countries and farmers around the world.'
Terminator technology is a technology designed to make seeds sterile. As a result, it would prevent farmers from saving seeds from their own crops each year. This would threaten global food security and the livelihoods of 1.4 billion small-scale farmers who depend on seeds they save or exchange with neighbours and other communities. This traditional practice of seed saving has the twin benefits that seeds are adapted to local conditions and are free of charge. Terminator is being developed to stop farmers from saving seeds and to ensure that biotech companies can gather royalty payments and technology fees from farmers each year. The US Department of Agriculture is a joint patent holder for one type of Terminator patented in the US, Europe and Canada. The major biotechnology corporations have also obtained patents for their versions of Terminator technology. The issue now moves to the major CBD meeting in Brazil from 20 to 31 March.
Notes to editors
1. The UK Campaigning Group on Terminator Technology includes UK Food Group, Progressio (formerly CIIR), Friends of the Earth, GM Freeze, GeneWatch UK, The Gaia Foundation, Econexus and Munlochy GM Vigil. Link to www.eco-matters.org for free copies of a leaflet on Terminator Technology.
2. The global moratorium is CBD Decision V/5 section III agreed in 2000. This decision states that products incorporating Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) should not be approved for field-testing or commercial use.
3. The fourth meeting of the Working Group on the implementation of Article 8j of the CBD (concerning the preservation and use of Traditional Knowledge for the conservation of biodiversity in indigenous and local communities) was held in Granada on 23-27 January.
4. The official name for Terminator is Varietal Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (V-GURTs). Terminator prevents seeds forming embryos and therefore they fail to germinate. Seeds are soaked in particular chemicals to switch on the Terminator gene before they are sold to farmers.
5. Terminator is a biological way to protect patents on GM crops "The goal of (the Terminator technology) is to increase the value of proprietary seed owned by US seed companies and to open up new markets in Second and Third World countries," Willard Phelps, USDA spokesperson, March 1998.
6. The US Department of Agriculture jointly holds the patent for one version of Terminator technology with the US corporation Delta & Pine Land in the USA (1998) and Europe and Canada (October 2005).
7. On Tuesday 14 February (3:30-4:45pm) Joan Ruddock will chair a parliamentary briefing on Terminator technology in the House of Commons (Committee Room 6). For invitations see contact details below.
8. Cross party Early Day Motion 1300 Terminator technology has to date been signed by 57 MPs from all major parties.
Press enquiries to: Finola Robinson, Progressio's Press Officer, on 0207 354 0883 or via email at: email@example.com
(See also the leaflet on Terminator at - http://www.progressio.org.uk/Templates/AssociatesHome2.asp?NodeID=91487)
The Non-GMO Project Is Officially Launched in Both the United States and Canada
A Collaboration of North American Grocery Stores and Co-ops Urges Food Companies to Join their Historic 3rd-Party Certification Program for Non-GMO, the First of its Kind.
BERKELEY / TORONTO, January 4, 2006
GMO = "Genetically Modified Organism". As the debate rages over the uses of biotechnology, especially the genetic modification of plants and animals for use in commercial food products, a group of natural grocery stores and co-ops in the United States and Canada have taken the issue into their own hands. They have formed The Non-GMO Project, which will provide North American consumers with the ability to purchase Non-GMO products produced in compliance with a membership supported, rigorous Non-GMO Program Standard. "People have a right to know what is in the food and supplement products they are buying," said a project spokesman, "And if most people knew for certain that they were buying a product that contained GMOs, they would seek an alternative."
Due to the absence of food labeling laws for GMOs in both the U.S. and Canada, consumers cannot be certain if a food or supplement product contains genetically modified ingredients. In addition, while the U.S. National Organic Standards and the National Standard of Canada for Organic Agriculture assure that food and supplement ingredients carrying their organic label are not grown from genetically modified seeds, neither program deals with the issues of genetic contamination. GMO contamination of crops is a fast growing concern across the North American continent, and polls repeatedly show that the majority of Americans and Canadians feel that GMOs should be labeled in food.
There has been a growing concern, supported by mounting scientific evidence, that the introduction of GMOs into the food supply could have potentially disastrous effects. "Over the last fifteen years, I and other scientists have put the FDA on notice about the potential dangers of genetically engineered foods. Instead of responsible regulation we have seen bureaucratic bungling and obfuscation that have left public health and the environment at risk." - Dr. Philip Regal, Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota and an internationally recognized plant expert
The Non-GMO Project was founded by two natural grocery stores, The Natural Grocery Company in Berkeley, California, and The Big Carrot Natural Food Market in Toronto, Canada. To create a systematic and scientific program for Non-GMO certification, they have retained Genetic ID North America, the world's leader in GMO control and identification. The Project's mission is two-fold; first, it seeks to enlist as many member grocery stores as possible across the United States and Canada. Second, The Non-GMO Project will contact all natural foods & supplements manufacturers, and formally request their participation.
The Non-GMO Project asks members for a nominal membership fee to help cover costs. It is a not-for-profit initiative, and in the U.S. a direct project of The Coordinating Council, an educational 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that focuses on finding alternative solutions for urgent global issues.
To join The Non-GMO Project as a member store, or for more information about the project, please visit their website: http://www.nongmoproject.org
U.S. Contact: Corey Nicholl, The Non-GMO Project, (510) 526-2456 ext.154, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Canada Contact: Asa Copithorne, The Non-GMO Project, (416) 466-2129 ext.638, or email@example.com
NFU CALLS ON CFIA TO STOP APPROVALS OF GLYPHOSATE-RESISTANT PLANT VARIETIES IN LIGHT OF NEW SCIENTIFIC STUDY
SEPTEMBER 20, 2005
An article by several Saskatchewan crop scientists in the latest issue of a scholarly journal proves there is a clear correlation between the application of glyphosate herbicides and increased incidence of fusarium head blight in wheat. The National Farmers Union (NFU) says this research suggests glyphosate-resistant crops are therefore contributing to the spread of a disease which is costing western Canadian farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost yields and markets. NFU President Stewart Wells issued a letter to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Pesident François Guimont earlier this week calling on the CFIA to "immediately stop approvals of additional glyphosate-resistant cultivars, including glyphosate-resistant alfalfa, and re-evaluate the approval of glyphosate-resistant varieties currently on the market until all the fusarium links are clearly understood."
The article, entitled "Crop Production Factors Associated with Fusarium Head Blight in Spring Wheat in Eastern Saskatchewan" was published in Crop Science, the journal of the Crop Science Society of America, on August 26, 2005. The research was conducted between 1999 and 2002 and involved samples from 659 crops. Information on agronomic practices used in these fields was also factored into the calculations.Wells said the NFU was first alerted to the potential link between glyphosate-resistant crops and the increased incidence of fusarium in 2003 by the scientists at the Agriculture Canada Research Station in Swift Current. Since June, 2003, the NFU has repeatedly asked the CFIA to investigate this correlation, but the CFIA has evaded the issue. "Over the past two years, and as the evidence of a glyphosate herbicide/fusarium link has mounted, the CFIA has adopted a moving target for the burden of proof," stated Wells. "Initially, the CFIA said there was no research on this issue. Then, the CFIA stated it was not aware of any published research. Finally, the CFIA said it was not aware of any peer-reviewed research"
The publication of the research in the most prestigious Crop Science journal in North America meets all these criteria, he stated. "This is another example of the tremendous contribution of Canada's public researchers," concluded Wells. "It is very likely that more research on this subject could save Canadian farmers hundreds of millions of dollars, and on a global scale the benefit would climb into the billions of dollars."
Copies of the letter to CFIA are available upon request.
Contact:Stewart Wells, NFU President (306) 773-6852 or (306) 741-7694
Terry Pugh, NFU Executive-Secretary (306) 652-9465
Organic Agriculture Protection Fund (Canada) - Media Release, August 30, 2005
Organic farmers granted leave to appeal class certification decision
Today the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal released Honourable Mr. Justice Cameron's decision granting the certified organic farmers of Saskatchewan leave to appeal the Court of Queen's Bench decision dated May 11, 2005 denying them class certification under Saskatchewan's Class Actions Act. The farmers are seeking compensation for losses due to contamination of organic fields and crops by Monsanto's and Bayer's genetically engineered canolas. Judge Cameron agreed that the issues raised by the plaintiffs should be dealt with by the Appeal Court. He agreed that the questions of whether Judge Smith erred in her finding of no cause of action - an error which cascades through her decisions on the remaining four tests required to grant class certification ? and whether she applied an overly rigorous standard for class certifications should be examined by the Appeal Court.
Plaintiff Larry Hoffman says he feels encouraged by the decision. "It gives us a chance to argue how the Class Actions Act should be applied. The spirit of the law is to even out the odds between the Davids and the Goliaths in the world. The lower court decision made it too hard on us Davids, and we think that's unfair. A farmer like me can't afford to take on a big company like Monsanto when it threatens my livelihood and way of life. But if we can join together in a class action, our combined strength can make it possible to hold these companies accountable for their actions." "This is great", says plaintiff Dale Beaudoin. "On behalf of 1000 plus organic farmers we can continue to fight for our right to remain stewards for sustainable agriculture. This is no minor issue. It is a matter of independence and survival for all farmers world-wide."
For the decision and other details of the class action suit, please see http://www.saskorganic.com/oapf/
Organic farmers can appeal ruling - August 31, 2005, The Regina Leader-Post
Saskatchewan organic farmers will get another opportunity to try to launch a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto and Bayer CropScience. The farmers' first attempt to have the case against the two companies certified as a class action was rejected in a 179-page ruling by Justice Gene Anne Smith in May 2005. On Tuesday, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal granted them leave to appeal that decision. Two farmers were named as plaintiffs in the suit, which aims to include all Saskatchewan organic farmers certified from 1996. The producers, supported by the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund, are seeking compensation for losses they say are the result of the introduction of genetically modified canola.
In granting the leave to appeal, Justice Stuart Cameron wrote that the proposed appeal raises "some comparatively new and potentially controversial points of law." Smith had ruled that prerequisites needed to certify an action as a class action - according to Section 6 of the Class Actions Act - were not satisfied. Cameron noted the Class Actions Act was enacted fairly recently, and Smith's decision "constitutes the most comprehensive application" of Section 6 of the act undertaken so far in the province. "It stands as the seminal authority in the province on class actions," Cameron wrote. "Without suggesting that Justice Smith's decision is in any respect flawed, I do believe her appreciation and application of the prerequisites of Section 6 raises some issues of sufficient importance generally to warrant consideration by this court." For example, some of the arguments before Cameron centred on the "rigour" Smith applied in considering each of the prerequisites that had to be met to allow the class action, wrote Cameron.
On one hand, it was argued the application for certification as a class action was subjected to more exacting standards than called for by the act. On the other, Smith was said to have approached it rigorously "in the sense of carefully and thoroughly."
Terry Zakreski, the lawyer representing the farmers, said they will now file documents with the Court of Appeal and wait for an appeal date to be set. Zakreski said he feels the decision shows they raised good arguments for the higher court to consider on the basis the lower court may have "set the bar too high" regarding what's needed in order to be certified as a class action. (by Angela Hall)
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Prof. Juergen Junginger, designer, Krefeld,
Prof. Dr. Juergen Rochlitz, chemist, former member of the Bundestag, Burgwald
Wolfram Esche, attorney-at-law, Cologne
Dr. Sigrid Müller, pharmacologist, Bremen
Eva Bulling-Schroeter, former member of the Bundestag, Ingolstadt
Prof. Dr. Anton Schneider, construction biologist, Neubeuern
Dorothee Sölle, theologian, Hamburg (died 2003)
Dr. Janis Schmelzer, historian, Berlin
Dr. Erika Abczynski, pediatrician, Dormagen
Development, yield, grain moisture and nitrogen uptake of Bt corn hybrids and their conventional near-isolines. - October 14, 2005
Field Crops Research 93: 199.211 - B.L. Ma and K.D. Subedi
There are concerns over the economic benefits of corn (Zea mays L.) hybrids with the Bt trait transferred from Bacillus thuringiensis. A field experiment including three to seven pairs of commercial hybrids and their transgenic Bt near-isolines were grown side-by-side for three consecutive years in Ottawa, Canada (458170N, 758450W; 93 m above sea level) to determine (i) which hybrid had the highest yielding potential, (ii) if there was a differential response of Bt and non-Bt hybrids to N application, and (iii) under natural infestation of European corn borer (ECB), whether there was a yield advantage of Bt over non-Bt hybrids to justify their cost.
We found that some of the Bt hybrids took 2-3 additional days to reach silking and maturity, and produced a similar or up to 12% lower grain yields with 3.5% higher grain moisture at maturity, in comparison with their non-Bt counterpart.
Although N application increased grain yield and N uptake in 2 of the 3 years, there was no N-by-hybrid interaction on yield or other agronomic traits. Most Bt hybrids had similar to or lower total N content in grain with higher N in stover than their respective non-Bt near-isolines. Under extreme weather conditions (e.g. cool air temperature at planting and severe drought during the development), some of the hybrids (both Bt and non-Bt) required up to 400 additional crop heat units (CHU) to reach physiological maturity than indicated by the supplying companies. Our data suggest that within the same maturity group, it was the superior hybrids (non-Bt trait) that led to the greatest N accumulation, and the highest grain yield. Under the conditions tested, there was no yield advantage of Bt hybrids in comparison with their conventional counterparts when stalk lodging and breakage of the non-Bt counterpart by ECB was low to moderate. (Download the report as a pdf file here - 244kb)
Quebec talks GM labeling - Barry Wilson - Ottawa Bureau of Western Producer - http://www.truthabouttrade.org/article.asp?id=4165
The Quebec government will use the next year preparing arguments to try to convince other Canadian governments that mandatory labelling for food products containing genetically modified material should be the law in Canada. "The Quebec government considers that it (mandatory labelling) is necessary and the right thing to do," said Quebec agriculture ministry official Claude Gregoire in a July 15 interview from Quebec City. "Quebec would like to see other governments adopt this position as well. It is what the minister said when he met other ministers."
At the Alberta meeting of federal and provincial agriculture ministers July 6-8, Quebec minister Yvon Vallieres made a presentation that proposed ministers develop a process to deal with issues surrounding genetically modified organisms, such as potential uses and benefits, dangers, public unease and demands for labelling. His proposals will be fleshed out in a report expected to be completed within several months. The other ministers, many of whom oppose the idea of mandatory labelling, agreed to add to their final communique a recognition of "the need to continue the discussion on GMOs and have requested a status report on the issues related to this matter for the next annual conference."
In a presentation to the ministers' conference, Vallieres said that while there are benefits to GMOs including reduced pesticide use, industrial products, food quality improvements and increased yields, there are also potential risks and public unease that governments must acknowledge. He said there is an environmental risk of unwanted "gene dispersal" and a health worry about unknown risks after long-term consumption. Mainly, he argued that governments should guarantee consumers the choice of buying GMO products or not through label identification.
While the federal government and much of the industry insists the current voluntary labelling rule is appropriate because GMO identification is a marketing issue rather than a health issue, the Quebec Liberal government and the federal Bloc Quebecois argue it is consumer choice. By a wider margin than elsewhere in Canada, Quebec consumers say they support mandatory labelling.
Monsanto raises concerns about corn - June 22, 2005 - By DENNIS BUECKERT - http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Science/2005/06/22/pf-1099964.html
OTTAWA (CP) - Monsanto research obtained after a court battle in Germany suggests that a genetically altered corn approved in Canada produces adverse effects in rats, scientists who've seen the study say. The corn, known as Mon863, is genetically engineered to produce a compound known as Bt, which is toxic to insects. Several crops containing Bt, including Mon863, are approved in Canada. "I would conclude from these tests that the insecticide appears to have significant effects on health," said Gilles-Eric Seralini, a scientist with the Commission du Genie Biomoleculair, a French government agency, in an interview Wednesday from Geneva. "I believe it is not an isolated case and that the pesticides contained within GMOs (genetically modified organisms) have the same kind of side effects as chemical pesticides."
Greenpeace, which obtained the 1,139-page Monsanto report under a European Union access-to-information law, says it shows that consumers are right to be suspicious of genetically modified foods. The Monsanto research shows that rats fed GM corn had problems in their livers and kidneys, organs that remove toxins from the blood, said Seralini. He said there are perhaps 10 studies around the world that have shown similar effects related to GM crops, but funding for research into the health effects of GMOs is hard to come by. "Governments all over the world in rich countries have invested a lot in biotechnology and they have not invested in tests on health," the scientist said.
Arpad Pusztai, a scientist who had already done a risk assessment of Mon863 for the Germans, said it shouldn't be licensed. "It cannot be presumed that the damages to the rats' inner organs and the animals' blood picture are based on chance. Further investigations are absolutely necessary."
Marc Richard, a spokesman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said the agency is aware of the Monsanto data but it hasn't changed their assessment that Mon863 is safe for animal feed.
Health Canada had no immediate comment. Monsanto's Ottawa office did not return calls.
Polls have shown that consumers are apprehensive about genetically modified foods, but industry and government officials maintain there's no health risk.
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.
Japanese rethinking GM canola - Wednesday June 8, 2005 2005 - By Sean Pratt - Saskatoon newsroom
A country that regularly buys half of Canada's canola seed exports is contemplating whether it will continue to accept shipments containing genetically modified product. Japan is re-evaluating the regulatory approval of GM canola through a new law intended to ensure the smooth implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an international agreement governing the movement of GMOs. "If it is not reapproved, GM canola will not be in the Japanese market," said Chie Yoshitomi, third secretary for the Japanese Embassy in Canada. That would be a huge blow to the canola industry, which regularly ships 1.7 million tonnes of seed to that destination. But according to the embassy's agricultural attache the word out of Tokyo is that since GM canola was approved under the old guidelines it is "unlikely" there will be any problem meeting the new requirements. "This will probably be approved, but it's not for sure," said Yoshitomi.
However, the uncertainty over the new Japanese legislation is creating anxiety in canola circles. "The whole issue of gene technology has become so sensitized that there really is no such thing as a rubber stamp when it comes to the product," said Barb Isman, president of the Canola Council of Canada. "This stuff is studied and tested and mulled over probably more than any technology in the history of food production." The council has kept a close eye on the progress of the legislation since it was enacted in June 2003, but there have been few developments and Japanese officials are reluctant to divulge when public hearings will wrap up. "That was one of the questions we asked and we were told, 'when it ends,' " said Isman.
GM varieties are currently accepted under a temporary transitional measure but a spokesperson for the Japanese ministry of agriculture was recently quoted as saying a new food and feed safety assessment based on the Cartagena protocol will be conducted in the near future. Greenpeace Canada campaigner Eric Darier said that review could spell disaster for prairie canola growers. "It could mean that Canadian farmers would be facing another problem in terms of exporting Canadian commodities abroad." One thing that won't help their cause is the recent discovery of GM canola volunteers growing near a number of Japanese ports. In February the Japanese Institute for Environmental Studies published the findings of its investigation that found herbicide-resistant canola growing around five of the six ports where samples were collected. Japan's ministry of agriculture has stated there is no need to worry about the environmental impact of the escaped GM seeds, but it has recommended the Japan Oilseed Processors Association clean up the unwanted plants.
The canola council has also been working with the Japanese crushing industry because Canada provides about 80 percent of Japan's seed imports. However, Isman pointed out that the extent of contamination amounted to about 700 plants. "I took 700 seeds and that represents a tablespoon. And we ship them between 1.5 and 1.8 million tonnes per year." Darier said the incident is galvanizing opposition to GM canola in a country that consumes domestically grown rapeseed, mustards and other related crops. "This GE contamination in Japan is potentially very, very bad news for Canadian farmers who are growing canola."
Isman said the volunteer problem is easily managed by cutting the plants down, pulling them out or spraying chemical on them. However, she remains a little nervous about the broader reapproval process because of its potentially disastrous ramifications and how long it seems to be dragging out. "If you look at this from a scientific perspective we have nothing but confidence. If you look at this from a political perspective I don't know. I can't gauge that," said Isman.
National food fight launched to stop genetically engineered crops - http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/June2005/02/c6866.html
VANCOUVER, June 2 /CNW Telbec/ - Canadians are joining regions, communities and countries around the world in declaring their communities GE-Free Zones.
Launched today, the GE-Free Canada campaign is a nation-wide, grass-roots effort by farmers, environmentalists, and ordinary Canadians concerned with issues of food safety and food sovereignty. Community by community, citizens are banding together to create a web of zones across Canada that are free of genetically engineered (GE) plants, animals, crops and trees. The campaign's goal is to have 50 communities in Canada declare themselves GE-Free in the next two years. Saskatchewan farmer and world-renowned food sovereignty activist Percy Schmeiser will kick off the campaign at a public event in Vancouver
tonight. "For years I have fought for farmers' rights to decide what we grow and how we grow it. GE-Free Zones extend that principle to the entire community," says Schmeiser. "This movement is about long-term economic sustainability, local control over food production, a healthy environment and democracy as opposed to food profiteering and the destruction of our genetic biodiversity through corporate control of seeds and agriculture."
The GE-Free movement already has incredible momentum in Canada. Salt Spring Island, BC and Powell River, BC have passed municipal resolutions declaring themselves GE-Free Crop Areas. Prince Edward Island is currently holding legislative committee hearings to decide whether to make the province GE-Free. Numerous communities across the prairies have passed municipal resolutions banning GE wheat. "Currently, biotech giants such as Monsanto Canada aren't held accountable when their GE seeds contaminate a farmer's fields. Farmers, on the other hand, are forced to pay up to the corporation or lose their farms," says Tara Scurr of the Council of Canadians. "With the attempted introduction of untested GE crops, terminator and predator seeds, keeping food safe and in the control of local communities is a battle we cannot afford to lose."
Communities in Europe, Asia, and the United States have banded together to fight GE products at local and national levels. Over 100 regions of Europe and 3400 local authorities have told biotech companies that their genetically engineered crops are not welcome. "As community activists working to promote a democratic food system, our chapter feels that this is a real opportunity to engage our community around ethical consuming and to support sustainable local farming practices. It's a question of 'eat local, think global.' Right now food is controlled by large corporations with a global reach and an absence of ethics, not by local farmers and consumers. And that's scary." says Tony Beck of the Council of Canadians Vancouver North Shore Chapter. Canadians want a moratorium on the planting and harvesting of genetically engineered crops, plants, trees, and animals until the public is satisfied that they do not threaten human health or Canada's genetic biodiversity.
The GE-Free Canada campaign will be launched tonight at a public forum in Vancouver at the Maritime Labour Centre. Doors open at 6:30 pm, and admission is free.
For further information: Laura Sewell, Media Officer, (613) 233-2773, cell: (613) 795-8685, firstname.lastname@example.org; Tara Scurr, BC Regional Organizer, (604) 688-8846, cell: (604) 340-2455, email@example.com
United Church calls for moratorium on new genetically modified foods
TORONTO, June 1 /CNW/ - "Our concern with genetically modified foods is not what we know about their safety, but rather what we don't know," says Mark Hathaway, The United Church of Canada's program officer for Biotechnology and Food Security. Hathaway explains that this uncertainty has led the United Church to call on the Canadian government to declare an immediate moratorium on the approval of new genetically modified (GM) food varieties until a more rigorous and independent system of approving, regulating, monitoring, and labelling GM foods has been fully implemented. "We believe that our current regulatory system lacks the necessary transparency, independence and rigour to truly ensure food safety and ecological sustainability," says Hathaway. "We need an independent government agency working at arm's length to test and monitor all GM foods. This agency should publish all test results and make them available for scientific peer review."
In a letter sent this week to the Prime Minister, the United Church outlines the genetically modified food policy recently approved by its General Council Executive. The policy's recommendations are the result of nearly four years of work involving study and consultation with United Church congregations, theologians, ethicists, agronomists, and other scientists. The recommendations cover a broad range of issues, including the mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods; guaranteeing the right of farmers to save, reuse, and exchange seeds; and guaranteeing that Canada's trade and food aid policies do not promote - directly or indirectly - the adoption of GM foods in countries that have not explicitly chosen to do so.
Hathaway explains that the United Church also believes that the Government of Canada should commission thorough, independent, peer-reviewed research into some of the key unanswered safety and ecological concerns around GM foods. As well, he says, some aspects of GM food technology should simply be prohibited because they pose significant health and ecological risks. One example of this would be a ban on using GM food crops to produce chemical and pharmaceutical products, such as drugs and hormones, that could negatively affect human or animal health if consumed unintentionally. The moratorium on new GM food approvals is an important first step in creating a regulatory system that takes precaution seriously, says Hathaway. He adds, "Over four years ago, the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel's report called for a much more rigorous and independent regulatory framework for GM foods. Not only have few of the report's key recommendations ever been implemented, but now, with recent legislative initiatives like Bill C-27, regulations applying to the approval of GM and other novel foods could even be weakened."
The United Church of Canada believes the moratorium should remain in place until a new independent agency and regulatory regime for GM foods has been implemented, and all GM food varieties that are currently approved for consumption have been retested.
For further information: please contact: Mary-Frances Denis, Communications Officer, The United Church of Canada, (416) 231-7680 ext. 2016 (business), (416) 885-7478 (cell), (416) 766-0057 (residence)
"The Future of Food - is GE-free!" Says SPUD - http://www.cnw.ca/fr/releases/archive/June2005/01/c6580.html
VANCOUVER, June 1 /CNW/ - Small Potatoes Urban Delivery (SPUD) has issued a Statement on GE Foods, joining the Council of Canadians in calling for a Canada-wide moratorium on genetically modified organisms and launching an initiative for a GE-Free Vancouver. At the recent DOXA Film Festival, SPUD presented the compelling feature documentary "The Future of Food" to a full house, followed by a forum discussion on the next steps toward creating "zones" free of genetically modified organisms. "The more I learn about genetic engineering, the more concerned I become about the safety of our food supply," said SPUD Founder & CEO David Van Seters. "Currently, the only way to protect the health of you and your family is to buy Certified Organic food."
Many countries around the world have banned or restricted GE crops, and Europe is home to more than 100 GE-free regions and 3,500 GE-free localities. In June 2004, Powell River became the first GE-free crop zone in Canada and Prince Edward Island is holding a referendum in September to make the entire Province a GMO-free zone. Upcoming meetings in Vancouver include the following:
Join the Movement to Make Canada GE-Free
Council of Canadians with Percy Schmeiser, Dr. Shiv Chopra, Aimee Watson & Colin Palmer
Thursday, June 2nd - doors at 6:30pm (admission free) Maritime Labour Centre - 1880 Triumph St, Vancouver
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Make Your Community GE-Free!
Learn how to make a Municipal Resolution with Council of Canadians
Wednesday, June 15th - 7pm - Hosted by SPUD - 1660 East Hastings St, Vancouver
For more information contact: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
SPUD is Canada's leading organic home delivery service, emphasizing support for local, small scale food providers. SPUD delivers the freshest, tastiest, organic produce plus a full range of wholesome groceries to homes and offices throughout the BC Lower Mainland, Whistler region and Southern Vancouver Island.
LINKS: Small Potatoes Urban Delivery www.spud.ca
Council of Canadians www.canadians.org
The Future of Food www.lilyfoods.com
For further information: or media inquiries, contact: Lorinda Earl, Amorphous Media, cell (778) 889-7804, email email@example.com
Japan plans to reassess import of genetically modified canola from Canada - Jason T. Testar, Canadian Press - http://www.canada.com/
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
TOKYO (CP) - Genetically engineered canola believed from Canada has been found growing in the wild in Japan, prompting concerns among farmers and environmentalists in a nation generally wary of such crops. The Japanese government says the import of canola seed from Canada is considered safe. But the agriculture ministry indicated Japan intends to reassess the situation soon. The conclusions could affect one of Canada's main exports to Japan, a key agricultural market. Canadian exporters are responsible for 80 per cent of all the canola Japan imports each year. It's estimated that of the 1.6 million tonnes of seed Canada ships annually to Japan, the same proportion - 80 per cent - is genetically modified. Canola, or rapeseed, is crushed to produce vegetable cooking oil. Japan is one of the world's largest markets for canola but the country produces very little canola itself and relies on imports.
Strict guidelines are in place to prevent genetically engineered seeds from contaminating local plants. When researchers at Japan's National Institute of Environmental Studies discovered genetically engineered canola growing wild, conventional farmers and environmentalists expressed shock. There is no definitive proof of origin but it has not stopped critics from blaming Canada. "We cannot distinguish where the wild GE canola is from because we have no molecular marker with which to distinguish a Canadian strain from that imported from other countries," said Nobuyoshi Nakajima of the environmental studies institute. "However, I expect that the possibility is very high that it is in fact from
Canada." France and Australia also ship canola seed to Japan, but neither commercially exports genetically engineered varieties at present.
Genetically engineered canola strains were created to resist heavy doses of herbicides. Some researchers believe that once spread into the wild, either of the two strains discovered in Japan can transfer herbicide-resistant genes to domestic plants, creating so-called "superweeds" that require increasingly toxic chemicals to control. Such a view is not unanimous. Manabu Yoshikawa, a leading science writer, wrote in the Mainichi newspaper that even if genetically engineered seeds "are spilled and grow wild, such plants will have low fertility; therefore there is no possibility they will spread and disturb the native species." Japan's agriculture and environment ministries do not see any problems right now. "At the moment GE canola imported from Canada is deemed safe," said Hirokatsu Watatani, a spokesman at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. "This assessment is based on both the Food Hygiene Law and the Feed Safety Law." But Watatani noted "these laws were established before implementation of the Cartagena protocol" - an international convention on biological diversity aiming to prevent contamination from genetically modified organisms.
"Genetically modified crops can be sold only by force" - Guelph Mercury, May 30, 2005 - via Agnet
E. Ann Clark, RR 5, Guelph, writes regarding, 'Most farmers embrace biotechnology' (Guelph Mercury, May 18) to say that the letter writer from AgCare expresses the dogmatic view that genetically modified crops benefit Canadian farmers through everything from reduced biocide use to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Not a single Canadian jurisdiction - no provincial or federal agency - has yet published a survey of the performance of genetically modified crops. The United States Department of Agriculture, which does survey American farmers, has been unable to show that genetically modified crops have fulfilled even one of the many promises made to legislators, farmers, and society - higher yield, lower biocide use or saving the environment. At best, when objectively analyzed, genetically modified crops are a wash out. Independent analysts in both the U.S. and Canada have shown that the primary, if not sole beneficiary, of genetically modified crops are the corporations which sell the seed, and the groups they support.
Some 99 per cent of all the genetically modified land on the planet is sown to just four crops -- corn, soy, canola, and cotton, grown in just six
countries -- U.S., Argentina, Canada, Brazil, China, South Africa, and involving just 2 genetically modified traits -- herbicide tolerance or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) which causes every cell in the plant to produce its own pesticide, or both. If genetically modified crops actually offered all the advantages claimed by the letter writer, you'd think leaders of the other 250 countries on the planet would want their farmers to share in the same benefits. But they don't, and have resisted the forcible imposition of genetically modified grain in the world market. Whether globally or domestically, genetically modified crops can be sold only by force, for example, obstructing the Biosafety Protocol and mounting WTO challenges, or subterfuge, refusing mandatory labelling.
India to press for liability regime at Cartagena Protocol - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, Thursday, May 26, 2005
NEW DELHI, MAY 25: - India has called for a defined international liability regime to redress the damages resulting from transboundary movements of living modified organisms (LMOs). This liability regime should be incorporated under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which came into effect from September 11 2003. It has also called for setting up of a global fund on mandatory basis for redressing the damages. India has already submitted its views, in writing, on the proposed global liability regime to the technical group of experts. Indian team led by Desh Deepak Verma, a senior official in the environment ministry, is expected to press upon the need for a liability regime at the second Meeting of Parties (MOP-2) to the Cartagena Protocol scheduled in Montreal from May 30.
Back home, the Union commerce ministry has set up a panel headed by the additional secretary, GK Pillai to assess the impact of Cartagena Protocol on trade. The panel is scheduled to meet on May 30 and will assess global scenario of acceptance or rejection of genetically modified (GM) crops and food and how to deal with a situation of clandestine imports of GM foods which are not yet approved in the country. The Article 27 of the Cartagena Protocol calls for setting up of a global liability and redressal mechanism for damages caused on account of transboundary movement of GMOs otherwise called LMOs. This mechanism is scheduled to be put in place by the end of 2007. India is against limiting liability for damages caused.
Diplomat calls on UN to move agency from Canada - Dennis Bueckert - Canadian Press, Wednesday, May 25, 2005
OTTAWA - A United Nations environmental agency should be moved from Montreal if delegates continue to have problems getting Canadian visas to attend meetings, says a top African diplomat. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, official negotiator for the G-77 group of developing countries and China, made his demand in a letter to Klaus Topfer, executive director of the UN Environment Program. Tewolde appealed for a motion to censure Canada for the difficulty he had in getting a visa and for the continued difficulties he said are being experienced by other delegates to a Montreal conference on biodiversity. About 800 delegates from around the world are expected to attend negotiations next week on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, whose central purpose is to prevent genetic contamination from genetically modified organisms. The visa controversy comes amid a global dispute over genetically engineered foods that pits many poor countries against major crop exporters such as Canada and the U.S.
There have been reports that Canadian GE canola has been found growing around eight Japanese ports despite rules on handling that are supposed to prevent such contamination. One of the biggest concerns about GE crops is that they will mix with indigenous plants, changing the genetic composition of valued species and producing new unwanted varieties, sometimes referred to as superweeds.
Tewolde received a visa to visit Montreal only after protests from many North American groups including the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Council of Canadians. At least four other would-be participants in the meeting are known to have been refused visas and there are likely others, said Eric Darier, a Greenpeace activist in Montreal. He said all the delegates who have encountered visa problems are from poor countries and all are critics of Canada's policies promoting the trade in genetically modified foods and crops. One of the major issues at the Montreal conference will be rules on the labelling of GE products. Many countries are pushing for much tighter regulations, but they are opposed by major exporters, including Canada. Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians, charged that Ottawa is deliberately excluding people who oppose Canada's position. "It just seems to us too much of a coincidence that this happened,'' she said. "It looks clear to me this is a political decision. Dr. Tewolde is a renowned scientist. There'd be no reason to pick him out, there's no terrorist link, nothing like that.''
Others suggest the exclusion of certain delegates could be due to suspicion that people from poor countries may seek to stay in Canada once they arrive. "If Canada cannot relax its hypervigilance to allow these talks to occur, then it's obvious the talks cannot occur in Canada,'' said Sarah Dover of the Sierra Club. Marie-Christine Lilkoff, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs, said she could not comment on any case involving a visa application due to privacy concerns.
In his letter to Topfer, Tewolde proposed that "one refusal or delay by the government of Canada in issuing a visa requested . . . shall become sufficient ground for the closure of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal and its transfer to the territory of another party.''
Darier of Greenpeace said the escape of GE crops in Japan, documented by Japanese environmental groups through laboratory tests, could endanger Canada's access to a major market. "Through Canadian exports of canola we are now contaminating one of our major trading partners.'' He said Australia, which, like Canada, is a major promoter of biotech crops, has imposed a moratorium of GE canola to prevent contamination of GE crops. He added that it is precisely such contamination that the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is intended to prevent. The conference on biosafety officially opens next week, but preliminary discussions have already begun.
Canadian government urged to stop genetically engineered (GE) Canola contamination in Japan
Tokyo/Japan, May 24 /PR Direct/ - Greenpeace and Japanese consumer, environmental and farmer organizations today appealed to the Canadian government to stop contamination of food products and the environment by exporting only non-GE canola in future. The Japan National Institute for Environmental Studies found GE canola growing wild around five ports and investigations by citizens groups found the GE canola growing wild around a further three ports. In all GE canola has been found at eight of the 10 main ports importing Canadian canola, It was growing wild beside rice fields, on riverbanks and on grass verges as a result of seed spillages during transportation, including for example on a transport route thirty kms away from the Kashima port. The organizations delivered a strongly worded letter to the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, addressed to the Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Minister of Agriculture, informing them of the contamination.
Eighty percent of the two million tons of imported canola comes from Canada, of which 80% is estimated to be genetically engineered. GE canola seeds are produced mainly by two chemical companies, Monsanto and Bayer, and are genetically engineered so that they can survive increased doses of the herbicides glyphosate and glufosinate which these companies also sell. Canola seeds are crushed to use as cooking oil and in the production of margarine and mayonnaise, and also for use as animal feed and fertilizer. Consumer groups are already concerned that GE canola oil is being used as cooking oil and for other food production in Japan without any consumer choice because they are not labelled as GE. Now the GE canola has also been found spreading wild in the environment adding new concerns. In Chiba port, citizens reportedly filled a small truck with Roundup-Ready GE canola that was growing wild.
This spillage of GE canola threatens to spread GE genes into the seeds and food crops of related food plants growing in Japan such as cabbage, Chinese cabbage, daikon radish and turnip. It also threatens to create genetically engineered 'super-weeds' which can lead to further use of extra toxic chemicals. Steve Shallhorn a Canadian working with Greenpeace in Japan joined the delegation of NGOs in Tokyo: 'The Canadian Government has a responsibility to the people of Japan, who are a good customer of Canada, to stop exporting this GE canola.' To highlight the concerns of Japanese consumers about eating GE food the representatives also took with them bottles of canola oil products in which this GE canola is being used, unlabelled, as an example of the type of product that Japanese consumers may choose to avoid buying if the GE canola imports and contamination continue.
The NGOs delivered their message the day before the first working group negotiation session on liability for damage caused by genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under the Biosafety Protocol, 25-27 May. Akiko Frid a Japanese representative of Greenpeace will be in Montreal attending the session and also the second full meeting of the Biosafety Protocol starting a few days later on 30th May. Frid said: 'The contamination caused by GE canola imports to Japan is a good example of why strict liability laws are needed for GMOs. The question is; who pays for the damage caused when genetically engineered seeds contaminate our food and environment?'
Greenpeace Canada took this opportunity to invite Environment Minister Stephane Dion, to meet with them at the opening of the Biosafety Protocol meetings on Monday the 30th of May and collect a specimen of Canadian GE canola found growing in Japan.
For more information:
Eric Darier, Greenpeace GE Campaigner: Mobile: 514-605-6497
Steve Shallhorn, ED Greenpeace Japan: Office +81-3-5338-9800 mobile; +81-80-5416-6507
Akiko Frid Campaigner Greenpeace (in Montreal): Mobile: +1-514-206-9152
Andrew Male, Greenpeace Communications: cell: 416-880-2757
Pictures of the NGO delegation at the Canadian Embassy and a copy of their letter are available.
Briefing on GE canola contamination in Japan: www.greenpeace.or.jp
Biosafety Protocol information: http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.asp?mtg=BSWGLR-01
For: Greenpeace Canada Stock Symbol:
Contact: Andrew Male, Communications Coordinator
Primary Phone: 416-880-2757
Secondary Phone: 416-597-8408
Canada Jeopardizes Biotech Liability Talks - Belated Visa for Africa's Top Diplomat leaves UN's Montreal Biosafety negotiations in suspense
Ottawa - Dr. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher of Ethiopia, Africa's chief scientist and negotiator for the Cartagena (biosafety) Protocol, received his Canadian visa late Tuesday evening Ethiopian time. Dr. Tewolde, who is scheduled to be in the crop biotech liability negotiations tomorrow morning, May 25 in Montreal, has his bags packed and is awaiting a revised plane ticket that - even under ideal circumstances - could only get him to Montreal in time for the final day of the controversial set of UN negotiations (May 27). After extended discussions over Canada's Victoria Day holiday on Monday, a visa arrived in Ethiopia from the Canadian High Commission in NairobiTuesday.
Dr. Tewolde's delay at the hands of the Canadian government is particularly troubling because the scientist was a key figure in forcing industrialized countries and biotech corporations to agree to discuss liability and redress issues. The unintended spread of genetically modified DNA from biotech crops has caused unwanted genetic contamination in other countries, and is now a major problem for countries like Canada who are being called on to take responsibility for contamination. Canada is the world's third largest producer of GM crops, after the US and Argentina. Not surprisingly, Canada was among the governments opposed to liability negotiations. The issue became a major stumbling block to achieving the biosafety protocol in 2000. Only when Canada and other major biotech countries agreed to Dr. Tewolde's demand that a special meeting on liability be convened soon after the coming into force of the protocol (in late 2003), did governments in developing countries accept the protocol. That meeting on liability, brokered by the Ethiopian scientist, is the one that he will miss two days of this week.
Dr. Tewolde, the Ethiopian government's chief scientist and its representative to the Montreal-based UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) requested a visa from Canada on May 5th and only received it late Tuesday in Addis Ababa. In response to the delay, the Canadian Government has been flooded with protest phone calls and letters from around the world - a reaction similar to that provoked in February when the government tried to promote Terminator technology (sterile seeds) at meetings in Bangkok.
Dr. Tewolde's case is not unique. Late last year a colleague of his at the Environmental Protection Authority of Ethiopia, Mr. Dereje Agonafir, was refused a Canadian visa to participate in a meeting of a CBD Expert Group relating to the Biodiversity of Water, Marine and Coastal Ecosystems. In a telephone conversation earlier today, Dr. Tewolde suggested that the future of Montreal as host to the Secretariat of the CBD should be tied to the Canadian government's ability to provide other government delegates with visas. Civil society from developing countries have also been denied visas for this week's meetings, including Professor Kavulakunpla Ramanna Chowdry and Kaka Ramakrishna, two farmers from India.
For more information:
Pat Mooney, ETC Group - Ottawa - Canada phone: 1-613-241-2267 mobile: 1-613-261-0688 firstname.lastname@example.org;
Ban Terminator Campaign - Lucy Sharratt, Ottawa - Canada phone: 1-613-241-2267 mobile: 1-613-222-6214
Canada Denies Visa for Africa's Top Biosafety Negotiator - Montreal's status as UN's biodiversity headquarters is jeopardized
ETC Group - News Release - 18 May 2005 - www.etcgroup.org
Ottawa - In a breathtaking display of political interference, the Canadian government has blocked entry of Africa's chief negotiator for the Cartagena (biosafety) Protocol, who was scheduled to attend UN meetings beginning next week in Montreal. The Protocol is the United Nations treaty that governs the international movement of genetically modified (GM) organisms.
Dr. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, the Ethiopian government's chief scientist and its representative to the Montreal-based UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) had his passport returned without the requested Canadian visa yesterday, and without explanation. The renowned scientist submitted his passport to the Canadian embassy on May 5 and had planned to fly to Oslo, Norway for inter-regional negotiations prior to attending the Montreal meetings that begin Wednesday, May 25. Because his passport was returned only May 17, Dr. Tewolde was forced to miss the Oslo meeting.
Officials at Foreign Affairs and Citizenship and Immigration have been unable to offer an explanation for rejecting the negotiator's visa. Dr. Tewolde has been to Canada often over the past decade, participating in intergovernmental negotiations on biodiversity and biosafety. Since the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, Dr. Tewolde has been one of the most well known leaders among African diplomats addressing environmental issues. However, his positions have not been popular with the Canadian government.
During the negotiations on a UN treaty on crop genetic resources adopted in Rome last year, Dr. Tewolde spoke on behalf of all developing countries in demanding the right of farmers to save and exchange seeds and in opposing "life patenting" (intellectual property over biological products and processes). In the negotiations that led up to the Cartagena Protocol, the Ethiopian clashed with his Canadian counterparts, demanding higher standards to prevent GM contamination. At UN meetings in Montreal and around the world, Dr. Tewolde has spoken passionately against Terminator technology (genetically-modified seed rendered sterile at harvest time, forcing farmers to buy new seeds each growing season). In February, the Canadian government was prepared to dismantle a de facto moratorium on Terminator at a UN biodiversity meeting in Bangkok. Canada was deeply embarrassed (and highly criticized) when its position became known.
The Ethiopian scientist had made it known that he would be coming to Montreal next week to press for the labeling of genetically modified seeds and food products and for companies and governments to accept liability when their seeds lead to GM contamination. Canada has thus far failed to ratify the UN biosafety protocol and is known to be opposed to both compulsory GM labeling and liability. "I had planned to participate in these negotiations and continue with trying to help finalize the unfinished business of protecting biodiversity and human beings," wrote Dr. Tewolde in a letter sent today to colleagues around the world.
Montreal's UN future in doubt
In 1995, the Canadian, Québec, and Montreal governments persuaded the United Nations to locate the Secretariat for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal. One of the critical requirements for hosting a major UN agency is easy access for foreign diplomats to attend intergovernmental discussions.
"In barring Dr. Tewolde from participating in the Montreal meetings, Canada is jeopardizing Montreal's future as a United Nations city," said Eric Darier, a campaigner with Greenpeace in Montreal, "If Ottawa is doing this for its own political purposes, it is making a grave mistake and tarnishing Canada's reputation in the process."
"Dr. Tewolde is one of the most respected scientists in his field," said Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group in Ottawa, "If the Canadian government can't make sure Dr. Tewolde has his visa for the opening of the meetings, Canada does not deserve to host the Convention on Biological Diversity." ETC Group is a Canadian-based international civil society organization with observer status in the United Nations. Mooney talked with Dr. Tewolde by telephone today.
Dr. Tewolde himself is concerned that Canada's actions signal a pattern, "Now that I have been prevented from coming to Montreal, who knows which ones of you will be prevented next time?" he wrote.
Dr. Tewolde is the recipient of a number of awards and honors for his work in defending biodiversity and the environment. In particular, he received the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize).
For further information:
Eric Darier, Campaigner, Greenpeace, Montreal (514) 933-0021 x 15; mobile (514) 605-6497
Pat Mooney, Executive Director, ETC Group (613) 241-2267; mobile (613) 261 0688
Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Ban Terminator Campaign, (613) 241 2267
Africa's Top Biosafety Envoy Shut Out of Canada Talks - Stephen Leahy - http://www.ipsnews.net/new_nota.asp?idnews=28747
BROOKLIN, Canada, May 19 (IPS) - Africa's chief negotiator for the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety has been denied entry into Canada to attend meetings to finalise key provisions regarding the international movement of genetically engineered organisms. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, the Ethiopian government's chief scientist, had his passport returned without the requested Canadian visa Wednesday despite previous visits to Canada. Tewolde is trying to attend talks starting May 30 in the Canadian city of Montreal.
''I have been to Montreal many times,'' Tewolde said in an interview from Addis Ababa. ''I have never heard of something like this happening before.'' While this may be just a case of ''exceptional bureaucratic bungling'', he said, he wonders if it's a not-so-subtle but effective way of preventing him from participating. ''I have always been on the opposite side of the Canadian delegation especially on biosafety,'' he said.
The U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the biosafety protocol in 2000 to address the safe transfer, handling, and use of living genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that could have an adverse effect on biodiversity. A respected scientist and champion of biodiversity, Tewolde received the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the alternative Nobel prize) from the king of Sweden in 2000. He is considered by some to be the father of the Biosafety Protocol. Unlike the U.S. and Canadian governments, he firmly believes in the need for strong international regulations for genetically engineered (GE) seeds and crops.
Tewolde had planned to go to Montreal to ensure that GE seeds and food products would be labeled under the agreement. He also wanted to see companies and governments accept liability when their seeds lead to GE contamination. ''Canada doesn't want to see any serious regulations regarding GMOs,'' Tewolde said. ''They wouldn't want me there because I have been the spokesperson for the African group and other developing countries.''
Canadian-based non-governmental organisations that support Tewolde's position blasted the visa denial. ''We're not just upset, we're pissed off about this,'' said Pat Mooney, executive director of ETC Group. ''I wouldn't have believed it was deliberate but after the CBD meeting in Bangkok I'm not so sure,'' Mooney told IPS. In Bangkok last February, he said, the Canadian government used ''heavy-handed tactics'' to try and lift a de-facto moratorium on the so-called Terminator, a GE technology that makes seeds sterile. Only strong objections from African countries, Austria, Switzerland, Peru, and the Philippines kept the moratorium in place.
The son of a farmer, Tewolde has publicly clashed with Canadian and U.S. representatives at international meetings over issues such as patents on seeds and the risks of GE crops. The visa denial ''is a real embarrassment for Montreal which hopes to be a U.N. city,'' said Mooney. The CBD is based in Montreal and holds many of its meetings there. ''We've pulled as many strings as we can to get Dr. Tewolde a visa,'' said a spokesperson for the CBD Secretariat. ''We don't know why this is happening but we're doing our best to get him here.'' There have not been any other visa issues for the upcoming meeting, she said.
Canadian officials responsible for issuing visas said Tewolde's statements that his visa has been denied ''conflicts with our information'' but refused to comment further. ''It's a matter of protecting the privacy of the individual involved,'' said Cara Prest, spokesperson for Canada's Citizenship and Immigration department. Tougher rules for those requiring visas to enter Canada have been in place since June 2002. When it comes to granting visas, Prest said, ''we're also always researching new developments.''
The visa foul-up has also meant that Tewolde missed an African preparatory meeting for upcoming talks on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, he said. He also will miss inter-regional negotiations on the biosafety protocol in Oslo, Norway because the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi held on to his diplomatic passport. ''Now that I have been prevented from coming to Montreal, who knows which ones of you will be prevented next time?'' Tewolde wrote in an open letter of protest. Now, he said, he is waiting for the Canadian government to respond. (END/2005)
Canadian whistleblowers win review - Court orders integrity office to reconsider report on four fired Health Canada scientists - By Doug Payne - The Scientist, May 4, 2005
Three Health Canada scientists who say they were fired for raising questions about the way that the agency approves veterinary drugs have won another round in their years-long battle in their campaign for reinstatement.
The Federal Court quietly released a decision on April 29 ordering the public service integrity officer to reconsider complaints from Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon, and Gerard Lambert that they, and the late Cris Bassude, had been pressured - and then sacked - for speaking out about the dangers of mad cow disease and about the use of [GENETICALLY ENGINEERED] hormones and antibiotics in the food supply, particularly the use of bovine growth hormones. The court decision relates to a report by the Public Service Integrity Officer dated March 21, 2003, that the allegations submitted by the applicants were unfounded.
The Public Service Integrity Office (PSIO) was created in 2001 to provide "public service employees with an independent and neutral external review of disclosures of wrongdoing in the workplace." Its mandate includes ensuring "that an employee who makes a good-faith disclosure is protected from job reprisal." By investigating the scientists' concerns about one drug, Tylosin, but not their concerns about several others, "the [public service integrity officer] failed to conduct the investigation in accordance with its mandate," the court said. The decision underscores the importance of having "proper internal whistleblowing mechanisms," said David Yazbeck, the lawyer for the fired scientists. "You really need an investigative process," Yazbeck told The Scientist. "And the PSIO did not do a thorough or sufficient job. [The decision] means that the Federal Court is going to intervene, so whistleblowers will have another recourse. This is a victory for the public. The standard the PSIO thought had to be met has to be higher now." The PSIO said it was considering how to proceed and could give no indication of when the review would take place.
Nor does it appear likely that another action by the scientists, a hearing before the Public Service Labor Relations Board, is likely to be heard before the fall, government lawyers said in late March. "They are trying to starve us out," one of the fired scientists, Shiv Chopra, told The Scientist. "But if that's what they think, they are wrong." Chopra, who is now 70, has no income and is trying to sell his house. "What are they going to do? They've fired me once, they can't fire me again." Chopra is using his time to finish a book he's calling Corrupt to the Core - Memoirs of a Whistleblower, which he expects to finish this summer. In it, he will claim that the corporatization of Canada's agriculture and food sectors is pushing the sectors "to the brink of death," he said. "In my opinion, the whole food system in Canada is corrupted, [and] our politicians are not yet listening. There should be a public investigation into Canadian food safety."
Links for this article
D. Payne, "Canada sacks three scientists," The Scientist, July 16, 2004 - http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040716/03/
Federal Court, Chopra vs. Canada: 2005 FC 595, April 29, 2005 - http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/fct/2005/2005fc595.shtml
Public Service Integrity Office - http://www.psio-bifp.gc.ca/index_e.php
D. Payne, "'You're fired,' Canadian-style," The Scientist, 18:12, The Scientist, August 30, 2004 - http://www.the-scientist.com/2004/8/30/12/3
GMO Statutory Liability Regimes: An International Review - December 2004 - (Download here as pdf - 132kb)
Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy - 130 Spadina Av. Suite 305, Toronto, ON M5V 2L4 - email@example.com
Suzuki warns against hastily accepting GMOs - Angela Hall - The Leader-Post (Canada), April 26, 2005 - [via agnet]
High-profile scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki was quoted as telling reporters at the Regina International Airport Monday before delivering a
benefit lecture in Regina, adding, "I'm a geneticist, so I'm very excited by what's going on in terms of genetic engineering. I think we're seeing abilities now that I never dreamed I would live to see in my lifetime. What bothers me is we have governments that are supposed to be looking out for our health, for the safety of our environment, and they're acting like cheerleaders for this technology, which... is in its infancy and we have no idea what the technology is going to do."
Suzuki was further cited as saying he wanted to help raise money for the Saskatchewan organic farmers' bid to launch a class action lawsuit against
Monsanto and Bayer Crop Science, adding, "What organic farmers have said is genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) represent a kind of technology we do not want to incorporate into our food growing and I support that."
The story explains that the farmers, who have formed the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund (OAPF), were in a Saskatoon courtroom last November to try to have their case certified as a class action. The judge has yet to release a decision.
They ultimately want the court to rule on whether the companies are liable for farmers' losses due to GMO contamination of certified organic canola crops and farms.
Suzuki was further cited as saying he thinks the technology is too young to tout "so-called benefits" for agriculture, and it is also an experiment in food safety, adding, "Anyone that says 'Oh, we know that this is perfectly safe,' I say is either unbelievably stupid or deliberately lying. The reality is we don't know. The experiments simply haven't been done and we now have become the guinea pigs."
The story says that Monsanto has called the farmers' lawsuit a platform for advancing the anti-GMO position of various groups in a public arena.
Canada's first GM free zone honoured
Powell River honoured for GE free zone - Isabelle Southcott, Peak Reporter, The Powell River Peak, 9 Nov 2004
Powell River has been presented with the provincial agricultural achievement of the year award for being declared the first genetically engineered (GE) free crop zone in Canada. Julie Bellian, manager of the Open Air Market and organizer of the Powell River Fall Fair, accepted the award on behalf of the community at the BC Association of Agricultural Fairs and Exhibitions annual conference held in Abbotsford last month. "The fall fair made a presentation describing the success of a coalition of local Powell River groups who succeeded in having the regional district [board] officially declare Powell River Regional District as a genetically engineered free crop zone," she said.
Although Bellian accepted the award she said she did so on behalf of the Powell River Coalition for Safe Food which includes the Powell River chapter of the Council of Canadians, the Powell River Farmers' Institute, the Powell River and District Agricultural Association, Small Planet Whole Foods, the Sierra Club, local farmers and other individuals.
Regional district directors declared the Powell River area as a GE free crop zone on June 24. Being a GE free crop zone means the area is free of propagating, cultivating or raising genetically engineered organisms by people, firms or corporations. The month before Powell River was declared a GE free crop zone, Percy Schmeiser visited the area to talk about his fight with Monsanto and how genetically engineered crops are affecting Saskatchewan farmers. He is credited with being instrumental in creating awareness about the issue.
As a result of Powell River's success a national campaign has been launched to raise awareness about GE issues, said Bellian. Powell River will also support other agricultural communities and areas to become GE free, she said, noting that other communities will look to Powell River for advice and information on how to proceed in this area.
New local enterprises including seed companies and perma-culture (sustainable organic gardening and farming) have sprung up and are offering workshops and training opportunities. Future plans for Powell River include a new community garden with a training component as part of the Open Air Market. As well, Powell River's local seed exchange has had an increase in membership this year.
At the fall fair in September, hundreds of people stopped by the Powell River Farmers' Institute booth looking for information on seed saving, said Bellian. "And at least 1,200 pamphlets were given out on GE free information."
Polaris Institute: Bio Justice Project - Regulation and Public Policy
Corporations are working hard to capture government policy and regulation. Government decisions on genetic engineering are being made without democratic process and public input. Many national governments rely on weak regulation of GE to suit corporate interests, while heavily subsidizing the biotech industry. Internationally, trade agreements are being used to undermine any stringent regulations, and force GE products onto market.
Canadian Government regulation of genetically engineered foods and crops is designed to support the biotechnology industry and approve products quickly so that corporations can sell their products. The result is an undemocratic and unsafe regulatory system.
21st October 2004 : Genetically Modified Organisms and Precaution: Is the Canadian Government Implementing the Royal Society of Canada's Recommendations?
A Report on the Canadian Government's Response to the Royal Society of Canada's Expert Panel Report Elements of Precaution: Recommendations for the Regulation of Food Biotechnology in Canada. For full report in pdf format, click here.
http://www.polarisinstitute.org/polaris_project/bio_justice/reg_public_policy/rsc_report.pdf - For English Executive Summary in pdf format, click here. http://www.polarisinstitute.org/polaris_project/bio_justice/reg_public_policy/exec_sum_en.pdf
Booklet: "Regulating Genetic Engineering for Profit: A guide to corporate power and Canada's regulation of genetically engineered foods" in pdf format by Lucy Sharratt. The booklet includes a table of all GE crops approved in Canada and details on where on food shelves they are, or are not.
Factsheet: "Rigorous Regulation?" click here for pdf.
Send this factsheet to your Member of Parliament or take it with you when you meet with them. Print this factsheet to give to your local grocery store manager, take it to community meetings and other gatherings.
Pamphlet: "Rigorous Regulation? How the Canadian Government Approves Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops Without Adequate Testing" click here for pdf format by Lucy Sharratt
Use this one page pamphlet for information pickets outside grocery stores and other actions. "You might have heard our government tell you that GE foods and crops are "rigorously regulated". Loblaws and food companies might have told you to "trust the regulators". Find out how wrong they are".
Government Field Trials - "Save Agriculture Canada From Monsanto" :
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is using their public research centres across the country to test genetically engineered crops, including GE Wheat. As well as the environmental risks of contamination with these open air trials of commercial and experimental GE crops, Access to Information (ATI) documents obtained by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin reveal that many of these tests are taking place with corporate funding. For ATI tables of research trials across the country and supplemental documents please click here.
Media Advisory - GE crops and Minority Government: A chance for a Policy based on Precaution?
OTTAWA, Oct. 22 /CNW Telbec/ - A large coalition of Canada's groups from civil society (1) including environmentalists, consumers and farmers demand that the House of Commons put rapidly in place a policy based on precaution concerning genetically engineered crop. A recent study from the Polaris Institute(2) confirmed that the federal government failed to take appropriate measures following the recommendations of the 2001 report of the Royal Society of Canada (3). The groups will file a petition(4) signed by about 20 000 people demanding a moratorium on GE crop and food.
WHERE: Charles Lynch Room, Center building of the House of Commons
WHEN : Monday 25 October 2004 at 11 am
(1) Réseau québécois contre les OGM (les AmiEs de la terre de Québec, ACEF de Québec, l'Union des consommateurs, l'Union paysanne, Greenpeace, Equiterre, etc.), Council of Canadians, etc.
(2) See: http://www.polarisinstitute.org/
(3) Royal Society of Canada, Elements de précaution (2001), http://www.rsc.ca//index.php?lang_id=1&page_id=119
(4) See text of the petition : http://membres.lycos.fr/rqcogm/ ,
For further information: Eric Darier, Greenpeace, Cell. (514) 605-6497, (514) 933-0021 ext 15
Monsanto abandons worldwide GM wheat project - 11th May, 2004 - The Guardian
Monsanto has abandoned plans to introduce GM wheat on to the world market despite spending seven years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing the crop.
The decision, announced yesterday, is a major fillip for the anti-GM lobby and follows pressure from US and Canadian farmers who feared the introduction of GM wheat would lead to the collapse of their billion-dollar markets in Europe and Japan.
Monsanto, the world's biggest seller of GM seeds, had looked to the development and introduction of GM wheat to fulfil a dream of dominating the world's bread market.......................................................... http://www.guardian.co.uk/gmdebate/Story/0,2763,1214066,00.html
Percy Schmeiser speaks:
'The Supreme Court handed down their decision yesterday and I have mixed emotions to it.....I do not have to pay Monsanto one cent for profits, damages, penalties, court costs or their technology use fee of $15/acre. I feel good about this ruling, as I have said all along that I didn't take advantage or profit from Monsanto's technology in my fields. I am pleased that the Supreme Court felt that way as well. It has been my position that I didn't want their technology in my fields, that I didn't use their technology by spraying, didn't sell their technology as seed to another farmer and didn't earn any profit from it. I felt it hard to accept that I should have to pay them for it.
I believe that Monsanto will have a hard time in pursuing patent infringement against other farmers. They are now going to have to prove that a farmer profited from having RR canola in their field. The Court noted that my profits were the same whether I had conventional canola or RR canola, so I find it hard to see how Monsanto can say in any future case that the farmer made more money because of their product. This decision may have removed the teeth from their patent.
I also believe that Monsanto will face huge liability issues down the road. The Court determined that they have ownership to the plant and that I infringed by having it in my field. With ownership comes responsibility and I assume morelawsuits will be filed against them for the contamination of farmer's fields. I was always concerned about this lack of responsibility that Monsanto took for the unconfined release of RR canola in western Canada. I think the Court's decision will force them to be held accountable for it now.
On the bigger issue of whether or not their patent was valid, the Court ruled that it is, and we have to accept that judgment. For this to be changed our Parliament will have to act. We have a conflict between plants breeder's rights and patent law and the government will have to sort that out. All I did was save my seed from year to year. Now it is clear that a company's patent will take precedence over the rights of farmer's to save and reuse their seed.
Farmer's should be concerned about this judgment as they now may lose their ability to continue with this practice. I believe that this ruling is an injustice and Parliament must act to ensure that farmer's rights are protected. The playing field between farmer's rights and the bio-tech companies rights has been tilted towards the companies with this decision............." http://www.percyschmeiser.com/decisioncomments.htm
FOR THE CANADIAN SUPREME COURT RULING GO TO THE REPORTS PAGE
Farmers' union wants produce labelling - 27th April 2004 - http://montreal.cbc.ca/regional/servlet/View?filename=qc_farmers20040427
QUEBEC CITY - Quebec's largest farmers union wants to see mandatory labelling of genetically modified organisms and is asking farmers to voluntarily label produce because customers want to know what they are buying. The Union des Producteurs Agricoles (UPA) said there is no political will to force farmers to label modified produce. UPA president Laurent Pellerin said the federal government has shown no interest in making produce labelling mandatory, but that could change if enough farmers volunteer. Modified corn, soya, and canola are the major genetically modified crops in Quebec. Pellerin said that customers are shying away from modified goods, so the province's farmers should be careful what they put in their fields. If farmers choose to grow genetically modified organisms, he said the union can't protect them from a consumer backlash.
More on Canadian labelling:
Canadian General Standards Board. Voluntary Labelling and Advertising of Foods That Are and Are Not Products of Genetic Engineering National Standard. CAN/CGSB-32.315-2004, Gatineau, Quebec: April 2004. http://www.pwgsc.gc.ca/cgsb/032_025/standard-e.html
CNEWS CANADA - January 9, 2004
AgCan ends testing of GE wheat developed with Monsanto - OTTAWA (CP) -- Agriculture Canada is abandoning a long-running project involving genetically engineered wheat it developed in partnership with biotech giant Monsanto, amid doubts about how well the product would sell. Regulatory authorities continue to assess the risks and benefits of Roundup Ready wheat, but the AgCan decision suggests that scientific hopes for the first strain of biotech wheat may be dimming. Jim Bole of Agriculture Canada said the department will make no further investment in the crop it has developed with Monsanto since 1997. "There's still some testing going on that does involve our scientists . . . but Ag Canada is not contributing more funds toward it," Bole said in an interview from Winnipeg. "We're no longer developing Roundup Ready wheat with Monsanto." Asked if the department's decision reflects concern about whether Canada's wheat customers would accept the new strain of wheat, Bole replied: "Yes, I think it does."' The AgCan-Monsanto contract is confidential, but Bole said the company invested $1.3 million while the department invested $500,000. The department also gave Monsanto access to state-of-the-art genetic material developed over many years of research. Monsanto spokeswoman Trish Jordan played down the significance of the AgCan decision to end the collaboration, saying its purpose had been achieved and there was no reason to extend it. Jordan said Monsanto still hopes to commercialize Roundup Ready wheat, but will not do anything to jeopardize Canada's wheat markets. "Biotechnology has a lot to offer to wheat production in Western Canada and we're trying to find ways to make this doable and come up with solutions rather than just stopping all work altogether. Certainly as a company we're not going to do anything to jeopardize the ability of Western Canadian farmers to market their grain." Roundup Ready wheat is resistant to Roundup, a popular herbicide. It allows farmers to easily kill weeds without killing their wheat plants. But many countries have been reluctant to embrace genetically engineered foods, and there are concerns that the new wheat plants could turn into superweeds. The Canadian Wheat Board has said most of its customers don't want the new strain and last year it asked Monsanto to withdraw its application for regulatory approval. Bole said the Agriculture Canada scientists had learned a lot from working with Monsanto, and the collaboration seemed promising at the outset in 1997. Currently, however, "Agriculture Canada would probably no longer anticipate a return on their investment." He said the biotech revolution in agriculture has not lived up to expectations. "I'm afraid it was oversold. We expected to be growing crops at this time with many traits that would be of great value to consumers and producers. "But the regulatory area has been much more stringent than anyone anticipated and market acceptance hasn't been as positive as we would have anticipated." http://www.canoe.ca/NationalTicker/CANOE-wire.Genetic-Wheat.html
Frankenfoods: The damning proof - Daily Mail, 5th September 2003
Canada was the cradle of the GM food revolution promising farmers vast crops and untold profits. Seven years on, that dream has become a nightmare from which there is now no escape.
The soft blue fields of flax that bloom only early in the morning, spread out like a lake against the vast prairies of Saskatchewan in Canada. Neighbouring crops of yellow oilseed rape dazzle in the early light and an eagle glides across the pristine sky. Nature could not appear more peacefully at work and few images could be more misleading. These vast plains have been used as nothing short of a giant laboratory by international biotechnology companies. For it is here that the corporate 'scientists' have sown the seeds of their farming revolution in a bid to create a multi-billion-dollar global industry pushing genetically modified (GM) food to the world.
At first, Canada's farmers embraced the new technology. They were told it would bring crops with yields that were bigger and cheaper to produce than ever before. Times were hard, and they were eager for a miracle. But less than a decade later, they are reaping a terrible legacy. Their produce is rejected in the global marketplace, costs are rising, and the livelihood of organic farmers and those who use conventional techniques is threatened by the spectre of GM contamination. GM seed is now spilling across 60 million acres of prime farmland. At the same time, highly toxic chemicals - also sold at a huge profit by the biotech giants - have had to be reintroduced to contain the growth of 'superweeds'. These are the result of wild plants becoming infected with herbicide resistant genes from GM crops.
This week, such a nightmare moved a step closer to Britain following a landmark ruling by Brussels in which the European Commission said governments that tried to ban GM crops would be in breach of EU law. I went to Canada to see what Britain might learn from the farms of Saskatchewan. So far, we have simply refused to accept so-called 'Frankenstein food' amid fears over its environmental impact, and also because it has not been proven safe. As long as the public has not wanted to buy GM food, the supermarkets have not sold it. But Tony Blair's government will now almost certainly use the European ruling to open the floodgates for these 'Frankenstein' crops to be grown commercially on British farms. Mr Blair has made it clear that he backs GM and will welcome the likes of Monsanto and other GM giants. The GM Science Review Panel the body set up by the Prime Minister to tell the public whether or not GM foods are safe is dominated by scientists employed by Monsanto and other companies such as Syngenta, and those who rely on these companies for their research funds. Cultivation of these crops may begin in Britain as early as next year.
Yet the message from Canada is starkly clear. At the outset of my trip, I anticipated beguiling arguments for and against GM crops. But what I found was a battered community of farmers facing the worst crisis since the great depression of the Thirties, and the smoothspeaking apologists for the biotech companies trying to push the Canadian government to a point of no return on the issue with the introduction of GM wheat apparently against all logic, as we shall see.
'We were told it was progress,' Arnold Taylor, a 60-year-old Canadian farmer, told me. 'And now we're trapped in a giant experiment over which we have no control. The British government should look to Canada. Once you open the door to GM, you may never be able to close it.' As Arnold and I headed south along the seemingly endless prairie highway in his pick-up truck, he explained how the Canadian experiment began unravelling. The first GM crops planted by Canadian farmers, in 1996, were oilseed rape a valuable source of income. But instead of providing greater yields at a cheaper price, as promised, many of these crops failed to match conventional rape. At the same time, Canadian farmers were shunned by their wealthiest customers, including Britain, amid intense suspicion over 'Frankenfoods'. The organic and conventional farmers lost out, too. Their rape crops were also boycotted by wealthy international markets amid fears that they might have been contaminated by neighbouring GM crops. In 1997, Canadian farmers exported 500,000 tonnes of rape to EU countries. Last year it plummeted to 5,000 tonnes.
The refusal of the rest of the world (outside of North America) to buy into the GM revolution has also cost Monsanto dear: it suffered more than (GB) £1 billion in losses last year. So now it is more determined than ever not to relinquish its grip on the prairies hence the campaign to introduce GM wheat. Undoubtedly this would prove even more disastrous than oilseed rape. Wheat is one of the most important crops to Canadian farmers 90 per cent of whom are opposed to the introduction of the GM variety. The GM contamination of conventional crops would intensify, and the risk of 'superweeds', resistant to all herbicides, would increase. The wheat market would also be crippled. No one wants GM wheat in Europe or even in Canada, where consumers are now also beginning to question biotech foods.
'They tell us that GM food isn't bad for our health, but the jury may be out on that for years,' says Arnold Taylor. 'And why should we believe them anyway? They told us GM would help farming, and it has brought nothing but trouble.......They told us it wouldn't spread to other crops, that it could be contained, but now it's spreading everywhere.'
Two hours further along the highway. just outside the tiny town of Nikomis, we stop beside a pretty white wooden farmhouse. Organic farmer Pat Neville, 54, greets us and takes us down to see his crops. The flax's blue blossom has alread faded with the morning. But in the middle of the field, flaunting itself brazenly, is a cluster of bright yellow GM rape that has invaded his crop from a nearby field. Mr Neville is the latest Canadian farmer to be contarr.inated by GM seed that has blown across the so-called buffer zones designed to isolate GM from other crops. As we wander round his farm, he points to other 'rogue' plants that have sprouted up in his organic soil, and runs his hands through his hair in despair. He first noticed the rogue oilseed rape three weeks ago.When Monsanto finally agreed to take samples, it confirmed that the plants had indeed come from a GM crop and the company offered to send a team to remove it by hand. But for Mr Neville, the damage is already done and the implications are devastating. As well as the prospect of losing his flax crop, he will not be able to grow any crops that could cross-pollinate with the GM rape for up to seven years. This includes the lucrative pedigree sweet clover which he had hoped to plant next year. Even more worryingly, if the GM seed continues to spread, he risks losing his organic status altogether.
'How do I know when it's going to blow across again?' says Mr Neville. 'And how do I stop it?' 'Every time I use my combine harvester, I'll have to clean it between fields. That takes seven hours, and you can never be sure you've got everything off.'
Despite all the assurances that buffer zones would keep GM crops separate, that cross-pollination between GM and non-GM crops was not a serious risk, and that 'superweeds' were only a theoretical concern, these problems are now a reality in Canada.
'They told us this wouldn't happen,' says Mr Neville. 'But the fact is, GM is out there now and nobody can control it.'
For 100 years, farmers have ploughed this land. The first pioneers, who came here in 1903, marked out their plots with wooden posts and nurtured crops by hand through scorching summers and droughts, followed by freezing winters. Gradually, the modern world caught up with farming. But Canadians are convinced that GM technology is pushing Nature too far, and are fighting to reclaim their land from the 'corporate scientists'. A group of 1,000 organic farmers have launched a legal challenge against Monsanto on two fronts. First, they want compensation for being driven out of the oilseed rape market by GM crops; second, they want to prevent the company launching GM wheat and driving them out of that market, too. The first farmers to put their names to the legal challenge are Larry and Olwen Hoffman, who live in the tiny town of Spalding in Saskatchewan.
'We just allowed the GM technology to move in without questioning it,' says Mr Hoffman, 50. 'There was no debate, nothing. But now we are learning lessons that the rest of the world, especially Britain, should heed......For a start, what happens in a laboratory is not what happens in real fields. This stuff is spreading and no one can stop it. That's what is so scary.'
At least they now have the support of virtually all Canadian farmers and the majority of consumers, too in trying to put a stop to GM wheat. A recent BSE alert here prompted the nation's first large-scale food scare, and people are becoming more aware of what they are eating. If GM wheat goes ahead, Canadian farmers risk losing 80 per cent of their customers. Yet it seems the Canadian government is as intransigent as ours on this matter. So what are the lessons for Britain, as we are pushed inexorably towards GM crops? They could not be clearer. Despite the endless reports and studies by various interested bodies making this claim or that, GM crops simply do not deliver what is promised. At the offices of Canada's National Farmers' Union in Saskatoon, Darrin Quarlman points to a filing cabinet filled with reports. All of them indicate the failure of the GM experiment.
'In a real democracy, the government would say in the interests of the citizens that we don't want this,' says Mr Quarlman. 'The fact is, GM technology has nothing to offer. It's like a doctor saying, "Here's a pill. It won't make you feel any better, and it might be bad for you." Who wants to swallow that? But Monsanto want it, and we don't have a real democracy.'
Only one thing stands between GM crops and the British public and that is the fact that we do not want to eat them. But our own Government, which has so far paid scant regard to consumer concerns, has now been given the perfect excuse by Brussels to literally shove GM food down our throats. During my visit to Canada, former environment minister Michael Meacher was also on a fact-finding mission in Saskatchewan, accompanied by the Soil Association. He was left in little doubt by what he saw. 'The first and most striking issue is contamination,' says Mr Meacher, who was sacked from the cabinet following his outspoken criticism of GM technology. Co-existence with GM crops is impossible, Mr Meacher believes. 'It gets everywhere,' he says. 'That's what Canada shows. And if you can't separate crops out here in the Canadian prairies, what hope do you have in a tiny country like ours? 'Are we seriously proposing to support GM for which there is no market, and which the people do not want at the expense of organic crops, which people do want and for which there is a growing market? Can we really allow these powerful corporate interests to enforce a result not justified by science and not backed by the people?'
Monsanto strenuously denies that GM crops are a failure in Canada, and insists that the number of farmers turning to GM is still rising. It also claims that it would not introduce GM wheat until it has received regulatory approval in North America, Japan and Europe. 'The fact is, all but 11 per cent of oilseed rape grown there is now GM because it works, and because it has been successful,' says Tony Combs, director of corporate affairs for Monsanto UK. 'This year, 89 per cent of the 11.6 million acres of Canadian oilseed rape are GM, and that's because it keeps costs lower and it produces better yields.'
The stakes become higher every day. This is not some new gadgetry. It is our food, and it is at the heart of our survival. Yet somehow it has fallen into the hands of the biotech giants, who appear to have gained an unprecedented stranglehold over the most important commodity in the world. It is nothing short of a global scandal and yet it has taken place under our noses. As the fields recede into the distance and I finish my journey across the prairies I remember the words of my guide Arnold Taylor. 'The land forgives a lot,' he said. 'But this is a step too far. We play with nature at our peril. And Nature always bats last. She'll have the final say.......We think we've got it sorted but we've really no idea what we are doing.'
CWB Asks Monsanto to Put the Brakes on Roundup Ready Wheat by Julianne Johnston AgWeb
The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) has called on Monsanto Canada to withdraw its application for an environmental safety assessment of Roundup Ready? wheat (RRW). Monsanto's RRW application is currently before the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In a May 22, letter to Monsanto Canada's President, Peter Turner, the CWB detailed the "devastating economic impact" the introduction of RRW will have on western Canadian farmers. "Economic harm could include lost access to premium markets, penalties caused by rejected shipments, and increased farm management and grain handling costs," the letter states. The letter is signed by Ken Ritter, chairman, and Adrian Measner, President and CEO.
"Monsanto has said in the past it would not introduce RRW unless it was beneficial to farmers," Ritter said. "Well, there are no benefits. So we're asking Monsanto to put the interests of their customers, western Canadian farmers, ahead of their own commercial interests and put the brakes on RRW, before Prairie farmers suffer serious financial consequences."
http://www.agweb.com/news_show_news_article.asp?file=AgNewsArticle_20035271055_2512&articleID= 98129&news cat=GN
See also for the recent preamble to this:
A powerful coalition of grain producers, millers, marketeers and farm groups are opposing the approval on the imminent commercialisation of GM wheat. http://www.producer.com/articles/20030410/news/20030410news01a.html