ON APRIL 14 Parliament voted in favour of Bill C-474 going to the Agriculture Standing Committee for review.
At GFO, we are quite disappointed with our elected MPs for allowing this bill to pass Second Reading when our country has fought at the World Trade Organization for years to eliminate non-science based measures for evaluating new technologies.
Bill C-474 recommends a change to the Seeds Regulations that would require export market analysis to be done before any new GMO technologies pass through the Canadian regulatory process. In Canada, we have a science-based regulatory process that requires a new GMO trait to go through a rigorous evaluation by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency before it can be grown in Canada. Moving away from this process is dangerous for a number of reasons.
Canada exports over 30 million tonnes of grain every year to more than 70 countries worldwide. If just one of those importing countries were to reject a GM trait for a reason completely unrelated to Canada, like their political climate, this bill would potentially cause the trait to be rejected in Canada under this suggested amendment.
The repercussions of this scenario would be enormous.
The largest direct cost to many farmers would be the loss of export markets. If a new GM trait is in the regulatory process in Canada, the chances are quite high that other countries like the US are evaluating that trait as well. Other countries will use any new technology to their advantage to either capture a niche market or leverage the yield advantage the trait provides to sell below the Canadian price.
Another loss to Canadian farmers would be at home. GM technologies can provide real benefits including lower input costs, improved soil conditions from conservation tillage and enhanced yields from improved pest resistance. For the farmers who choose to grow higher value IP or ecological crops, their niche market option is available as a result of GM technology being so widely used.
A third cost would be to Canadians. The health of our environment and our economy are valued by every Canadian. GM technology reduces tillage that in turn reduces soil erosion and the use of fossil fuels by machinery. GM technology produces more yield per acre, therefore increasing the productivity of Canadian farmland and keeping the cost of food at a level affordable to most Canadian families.
GFO supports the science-based system we have in place in Canada today for evaluating GM technology. We also support letting export market acceptance for new technologies to be decided by each country in an open market environment.
GFO will speak against this bill at the Agriculture Standing Committee later this spring. We will plan meetings with MPs leading up to the discussion in committee and if you would like to assist by arranging a meeting with your MP?please contact GFO for more information. •