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6-Regulation: Canadian Food Inspection Agency does not rubberstamp GE wheat

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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  No rubberstamp for GM wheat: CFIA
SOURCE: The Western Producer, Canada, by Barry Wilson
DATE:   Jan 16, 2003

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No rubberstamp for GM wheat: CFIA

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has no track record of rejection but it 
is insisting that approval of Monsanto's genetically modified wheat is not 
a foregone conclusion.

"It is not a done deal," Stephen Yarrow of CFIA's plant biotechnology 
office said in a Jan. 13 interview. "We have a very thorough review process 
to go through."

Former CFIA president Ron Doering made the same point in a letter to 
Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Bob Friesen last June.

"It is not a given that the application will be successful," Doering wrote 
after Friesen asked that the government find a way to keep out Roundup 
Ready wheat until there is better market acceptance.

"No approvals are granted until the CFIA is completely satisfied that a 
plant with a novel trait does not pose a significant safety risk to the 
environment and Canadian biodiversity and to the health of livestock 

Doering said GM wheat will be subject to "extra rigorous scrutiny" because 
of the potential for volunteer spread and crossbreeding.

"An application involving novel herbicide-tolerant wheat will be subject to 
this extra scrutiny, since any potential compromise in a farmers' ability 
to rotate crops and control volunteers in a sustainable manner will be 
seriously considered in the environmental assessment process," Doering 

The exchange of letters between Friesen and the CFIA president was obtained 
under Access to Information rules by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin.

In the interview, Yarrow was asked how many variety submissions CFIA has 

"It is a question that is always coming up and I have to be careful how I 
answer it because of those who have a slant that the agency just 
rubberstamps everything so what's the point," Yarrow said. "There has not 
been a submission that we have refused based on environmental issues."

Monsanto also has made a submission to Health Canada for food safety tests 
of the proposed new variety, he said.

Critics of genetically modified foods immediately said they are not going 
to trust the regulators to keep GM wheat off the market.

The Council of Canadians, in co-operation with the National Farmers Union, 
the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate and the Alberta-based environmental 
research group Parkland Institute, will start a 12-city tour of the 
Prairies this winter to campaign against GM wheat. It starts in Winnipeg 
Feb. 27.

And in Toronto, Greenpeace biotechnology campaigner Holly Penfound demanded 
that agriculture minister Lyle Vanclief intervene to stop the process.

"This application spells danger," she said. "Minister Vanclief must now act 
to protect farmers and all Canadians from the threat of GE wheat."

The CFA, Canadian Wheat Board and other industry groups also have been 
pleading with the government to find some way to keep the product off the 
market, at least for a while.

In his letter to Doering last summer, Friesen proposed a change to Seeds 
Act regulations to allow a "delay in the effective date of an unconfined 
release" if there are fears that markets will be lost because of nervous 

"We believe there is a clear need to ensure that there is sufficient legal 
ability to deal with potential problems associated with release of 
transgenic wheat," wrote Friesen.

Doering said he understood the concern but allowing market acceptance 
issues into a variety approval process would weaken its scientific 
credibility and be seen by critics as the injection of politics.

However, he said "senior level discussions" were under way within the 
government to see if a solution could be found.

Yarrow said these talks continue but have not yet reached a conclusion. He 
also said discussions with industry have been held to develop and promote 
ways growers can manage their farms and crop rotation to minimize risk of 
GM contamination.

"What can the industry do, what can the growers do, the seed suppliers do 
to minimize these inevitable volunteer problems? There are solutions out 
there but how can we do that?"

Yarrow said an industry group is working on education tools and proposals 
that farmers could apply on their farms.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Farmers to declare grain varieties at deli
SOURCE: The Western Producer, Canada, by Adrian Ewins
DATE:   Jan 16, 2003

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Farmers to declare grain varieties at delivery

Beginning as early as next year, farmers will have to formally declare that 
grain they deliver to a country elevator is a registered variety.

But it still hasn't been determined what the consequences will be for 
anyone who lies about what they're delivering.

The Canadian Grain Commission will announce details of the new system Jan. 

The rules are a response to a growing number of incidents of unregistered 
varieties of wheat being delivered to country elevators and misrepresented 
as Canada Western red spring.

Several cases in recent months have raised fears throughout the industry 
about the potentially disastrous impact on Canada's grain quality 
reputation if a cargo contaminated by an unregistered variety found its way 
to an export customer.

Commission spokesperson Paul Graham confirmed this week that the agency 
hopes to have the new system in place by Aug. 1, 2004.

"We think we need to move expeditiously on this," he said in an interview 
Jan. 13.

Given the need for industry consultations and possible amendments to the 
Canada Grain Act, that's as soon as changes can be implemented.

Under the proposed new system the farmer, or whoever is responsible for 
delivering grain to a primary elevator, will have to sign a "variety 
eligibility declaration" confirming that the variety being delivered is 
included on a list of eligible varieties to be published by the commission.

The declaration will not be a sworn affidavit but Graham expressed 
confidence it would carry significant weight in legal proceedings that 
might arise.

Similar declarations will have to be made by primary elevator operators 
shipping grain to a processor or terminal, and by a terminal operator 
loading the grain onto a vessel.

The commission will take a sample of grain being loaded onto export vessels 
and conduct a variety of tests before issuing a final certificate of 

Graham described the new system as a "bridge" to the day when the 
technology exists to conduct variety tests on every load delivered to a 
primary elevator.

The commission will publish a discussion paper on the issue and consult 
with the industry on what penalties should be imposed for violating the 

While there will be penalties of some sort, the question is whether they 
should be imposed by government or whether they should take the form of 
litigation and lawsuits by those who suffer financial loss.

"Should the person who misrepresents grain be sued or should they be 
fined?" said Graham.

It is not illegal to grow unregistered varieties but they must be 
identified at time of delivery and can only be sold at the lowest grade 
possible, which is feed in the case of wheat.

However, the Canada Grain Act provides no other penalty, leaving it up to 
the grain company involved to take the farmer to court to recover damages.

The most recent incident occurred in September, when Saskatchewan Wheat 
Pool discovered that a delivery of wheat it had accepted as CWRS was in 
fact an unregistered American variety.

Richard Wansbutter, the pool's vice-president of commercial relations, 
declined to discuss details of the case, such as how much wheat was 
involved, which variety it was or how much of a financial loss the company 
suffered when the wheat was downgraded to feed.

But he confirmed that the company identified the farmer involved and 
negotiated a financial settlement to mitigate its losses.

Wansbutter said the delivery of unregistered varieties poses a serious 
threat to farmers, grain companies and exporters, and must be dealt with 

"To make that (declaration) a workable system, it has to be enforceable and 
there have to be financial consequences to the producer," he said.

Ogema, Sask., area farmer Lonny McKague said the issue of unregistered 
wheat has been a hot topic in the Weyburn area this fall and winter.

And he said there's a consensus on coffee row that farmers who try to cheat 
the system are hurting their neighbours and should be punished.

"There has to be a deterrent in place so as not to reward these guys for 
doing something I regard as illegal," he said, adding that if he 
misrepresented his purebred cattle in any commercial transaction he'd be in 
big legal trouble.

"You have to be held responsible for what you sell."

McKague said stories have been circulating in the area that unregistered 
wheat was also sold to Weyburn Inland Terminal and the ConAgra terminal at 
Corrine, Sask.

However, officials with those two companies said they have not taken 
delivery of any unregistered wheat.


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