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6-Regulation: Legislative committee on Prince Edwards Island(Canada) discusses GE crop ban



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TITLE:  MLAs seek public input on GMOs in agriculture industry
SOURCE: The Guardian, Canada, by Ron Ryder
DATE:   11 Jan 2005

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MLAs seek public input on GMOs in agriculture industry

Standing committee expects wide-ranging debate on genetically modified
organisms before passing report to legislature this spring.

Island politicians are looking for public input as they decide the future
of genetically modified organisms in the province's critical agriculture
industry.

Members of the legislature's Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry
and Environment met in Charlottetown Monday to set the groundwork for
hearings to examine the issues around GMOs and the possibility of
business opportunities if the Island decides to ban them.

Genetically modified crops have been permitted by Health Canada since
1995, but they have meet with a cool reception from environmentalists and
some consumers with misgivings about the safety of the new products.

Belfast-Pownal Bay MLA Wilbur MacDonald, chair of the Agriculture
committee, said their work is to get the broadest range of input for and
against GMOs before passing a report with recommendations to the
legislature this spring.

MacDonald, who has been for decades a farmer as well as a politician,
said the GMO question isn't one he hears much about in either profession.
But he said he thinks there is a wellspring of opinions and concerns
among the public.

"I think once this discussion gets going we are going to have a lot of
people that want to come forward and have their say," MacDonald said in
an interview. "This is the kind of a discussion that tends to generate a
lot of emotions."

MacDonald said the GMO debate will be wide-ranging. He said there will be
highly technical questions about the science behind these products,
emotional appeals to traditional farming and speculation about whether
P.E.I. could generate new business opportunities by declaring the Island
a GMO-free zone.

MLAs have asked the Department of Agriculture to assign a researcher to
their committee, and are setting up an Internet presence for their
discussions.

Liberal MLA Richard Brown asked the committee to go further and look at
setting intervenor funding so that individuals opposed to GMOs could be
on an equitable footing with the large corporations leading the
technological transformation of farming.

"Naturally many of the groups that will argue for non-GMO won't have the
resources of the companies that are involved in it," he said.

"I want to be sure that they have some way to respond to (agro-chemical
giant) Monsanto's research and its lawyers."

Conservative MLA Fred McCardle said the environmental arguments are not
all strictly against GMOs.

He said plants are being designed to resist common insect pests, reducing
the need for pesticide sprays.

He said if farmers have to increase spraying, Islanders can expect to see
fish kills increase as pesticides run into streams.

He said P.E.I. can save itself a lot of time by looking to the work
Health Canada's scientists have already done on GMO safety and focusing
instead on questions of social and economic impact.

"Let's bring down a few scientists from Health Canada in Ottawa and let
them tell us about the research behind their decision," McCardle said.

The Island's experience has already shown that the GMO debate includes
factors like consumer preference as much as it does research findings.

Some GMO-derived corn and soybean crops have already been grown on Prince
Edward Island, but GMOs have yet to penetrate the important potato industry.

Liberal MLA Ron MacKinley, a potato farmer, said the major processors
don't want modified crops.

"Right now potatoes are already GMO-free," he said. "McCain's won't buy
them and Cavendish (Farms) won't buy them."




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