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6-Regulation: Canadian biotech industry fights biosafety protocol ratification

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Food industry fights GMO treaty approval
SOURCE: The Western Producer, Canada, by Barry Wilson
DATE:   Oct 31, 2002

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Food industry fights GMO treaty approval 

A food industry coalition of almost unprecedented scope is urging the 
federal government to hold off on ratifying a United Nations protocol on 
biological diversity until its impact on agriculture is better understood.

The protocol, signed by Canada and scores of other countries last year but 
not yet ratified by the federal government, would create new international 
rules governing export of what are called "living modified organisms"  
genetically modified products like canola, soybeans and corn that could 
take root if they made it into nature in importing countries.

Canadian food industry officials say they expect the protocol to become 
international law next spring when 50 countries officially approve it.

They are urging Canada to hold off, fearing that it would add costs for 
Canadian exporters, force them to live by rules competitors do not have, 
and perhaps close some important markets for Canadian grains and oilseeds 
exports. The United States, Australia, Argentina and Brazil are not 
expected to ratify.

"The Canadian agriculture industry continues to express grave concerns 
regarding key outstanding issues in the protocol text, which may result in 
significant negative impacts on our sector of the economy," said the Oct. 
28 letter to environment minister David Anderson and agriculture minister 
Lyle Vanclief.

It is signed by a coalition of 33 groups ranging from the Western Grain 
Elevators Association and food manufacturers to the Canadian Federation of 
Agriculture, Grain Growers of Canada and many commodity groups.

"The Canadian government should not ratify the ... protocol until it can be 
assured that Canada's competitive position as an exporter of agri-food 
products will not be harmed."

Dennis Stephens, a consultant to the Canada Grains Council on the issue, 
said in an Oct. 28 interview the implications could be "horrific" for the 
grains exporting industry.

Food industry leaders said they feared Ottawa is planning to ratify the 
2001 protocol within weeks.

But late Oct. 28, agriculture minister Vanclief denied the timetable. He 
said he sympathizes with the food industry complaints, even though Anderson 
is the lead minister and signed the original deal.

"It is one of the few issues that you can say everyone in agriculture is 
raising exactly the same concerns and wants the same questions answered 
before any decision is made on ratification," Vanclief said in an 
interview. "I join with all of them in wanting to get more clarification. 
We need answers."


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