GENET archive


6-Regulation: Update on GE free zone hearings on Prince Edwards Island (Canada)

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Organic farmer wants P.E.I. to lead with ban on GMOs
SOURCE: The Guardian, Canada
DATE:   14 Sep 2005

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Organic farmer wants P.E.I. to lead with ban on GMOs

Raymond Loo of Springfield can't grow organic corn on his farm because
neighbour has planted genetically modified crops.

A Springfield, P.E.I., farmer has been told he can no longer grow organic
corn because genetically modified crops are being grown on a neighbouring

Raymond Loo is an organic farmer and has never planted genetically
modified crops on his land.

But less than 90 metres away, a farmer has planted corn containing
genetically modified organisms.

That's too much of a risk for those who certify organic produce in Canada.

"We're in a situation, as organic growers, of having to meet the
international organic standard which is zero tolerance for any kind of
GMO in our products," Loo said in an interview with The Guardian.

"They take it as a given that corn will cross-contaminate within 60
metres or the likelihood is high enough that it could happen."

But Loo said he's not only worried about what is in the air above his
farm but what may also be in the ground below his feet.

He said that includes genetically modified soil bacteria.

Organic farmers need to produce an affidavit from the seed company saying
the seed they use has not, in any way, been contaminated by genetically
modified organisms or GMOs.

"Once you release genetically modified bacteria into the soil, there's no
turning back. That's of great concern for the organic industry."

Wilbur MacDonald, chairman of a legislative standing committee examining
the issue of genetically modified crops in P.E.I., said his committee has
been bombarded by people wanting to speak in the subject.

Hundreds of submissions have been made either in person or in writing.
Hearings were held last spring and started again Tuesday. Three full days
of hearing will be held this week with more hearings planned for next month.

MacDonald said he would like to conclude the hearings after that. His
committee is expected to report back to the P.E.I. legislature this fall.

What that committee will recommend after it sifts through the hundreds of
presentations is still not clear.

"We certainly haven't made up our minds," said MacDonald. "Islanders seem
pretty well divided. At this stage in the game it's very hard to know
which way it will go."

Loo knows what he would like the standing committee to recommend. He said
genetically modified crops should be banned in P.E.I.

Loo's group has sponsored an economic study on the benefits for the
Island going genetically modified-free.

That report will be released next month.

"If we became GMO-free we would have a great opportunity to produce seed
and sell it right across North America to other organic farmers and
natural farmers," said Loo. "We can be leaders and not followers in this

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Farmers divided on planting GM crops
SOURCE: The Guardian, Canada
DATE:   15 Sep 2005

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Farmers divided on planting GM crops

P.E.I. Potato Board spokesperson argues during hearings that not using
latest technology will handcuff the industry.

P.E.I. farmers are deeply divided over what role genetics should play in
the future of the Island's agriculture industry.

 Two farm groups want the right to plant genetically modified plants
while a third farm group is calling for an outright ban on the technology.

The P.E.I. Potato Board and the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture both say
Island farmers should have the right to plant genetically-modified (GM)
crops as long as the plants are approved by Health Canada.

But the National Farmers Union warns that such a move could be
detrimental to P.E.I.'s farm community.

"The Federation of Agriculture has taken a stand that it's up to the
individual farmer to make the choice. I think that's rather unfortunate.
It's either black or white. Either you're for it or you're against it,"
said Danny Hendricken of the National Farmers Union.

"GM potatoes may be able to co-exist with other conventional and organic
potatoes but that's only one of very few crops. Most crops, especially
cereals, oil seeds and forage crops, are very prolific pollinators. I
don't think that can happen."

During his presentation to a legislative standing committee examining GM
crops Wednesday, Hendricken said allowing GM products in P.E.I. will
limit farmers choices - not increase them. He said once they're here,
there's no going back.

"There is a strong, overwhelming reluctance to consuming GM foods and we
must accept that for what it is," he said.

"It may already be too late for us to develop GM-free canola. Therein
lies the danger. Even if we abolished GM canola now, it probably wouldn't
be feasible to grow GM-free canola in P.E.I. and we've only been growing
GM canola for a few years."

But Kevin MacIsaac, a spokesman for the P.E.I. Potato Board and a farmer
from Bear River, said it's important local farmers have the choice to be
able to grow GM products.

He does not want to see a provincewide ban.

MacIsaac grew GM Shepody potatoes in 1999.

"If the benefits of genetically modified potatoes were to become more
widely recognized and accepted by consumers, we would like to have the
choice of using this technology in fair competition with farmers in other
Canadian provinces and in areas around the world," MacIsaac said.

"Potato producers feel provincial government policy should empower
farmers and enable them to take advantage of technology advancement that
will be of economic and environmental benefit."

MacIsaac said GM potatoes can benefit the bottom line, environment and
worker safety. He said GM potatoes need fewer trips through the field to
spray, meaning a savings in fuel and chemical costs, less spraying also
means less chance of runoff or chemicals affecting the environment and
less spraying also means less of a risk for the farmers using the chemicals.

"This is another tool in the toolbox increasing pest control options for

At present, no GM potatoes are grown on P.E.I.

In 1996, Sobeys grocery stores in the Maritime provinces introduced 10-
pound bags of GM potatoes, called NatureMark. The genetically altered
potatoes were grown at a farm near O'Leary.

The bags were clearly marked as genetically modified. That means that
scientists had come up with a way to create a built-in insecticide. In
other words, the plants that had these potatoes could kill the dreaded
Colorado potato beetle before it kills the plants.

MacIsaac said even when priced at a premium, the potatoes sold quickly.

"Feedback from consumers was very positive, with many indicating that
they were very pleased to purchase premium quality potatoes and know that
it was 'grown a better way'."

But MacIsaac said a well-publicized anti-GM campaign scared off big
potato buyers like McDonald's and McCains.

Now, P.E.I. farmers must sign a contract every spring saying their seed
is GM-free.

Hearings continue today in Charlottetown on the GM crops issue and the
P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture and Greenpeace are scheduled to appear.

"As producers who face the challenges daily of operating in a free-market
environment, we have difficulty understanding how the government can
contemplate legislation to prevent the use of federally approved
production methods unless they are prepared to guarantee us markets for
produce grown under provincially set production methods," MacIsaac said.

                                  PART III
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TITLE:  GMOs can benefit the farmer, society and the environment
SOURCE: The Guardian, Canada, Guest Opinion by Eddy Dykerman
DATE:   19 Sep 2005

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GMOs can benefit the farmer, society and the environment
Re: 'Farmers divided on planting GM crops' (The Guardian, Sept. 15, 2005).

The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Environment started
hearing from presenters in February of this year on the issue of
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and their production on P.E.I.

We have listened with interest from many environmentalists who warn about
the dangers of GMOs and urge farmers to reject this technology and go
back to a simpler way of farming. While it may be nostalgic to consider
going back to the small mixed farms of days past - this is unrealistic.
Fewer farmers today are feeding a nation that is increasingly urban
oriented. The technological advances that farmers are adopting are making
our food supply safer and more abundant.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace have warned the legislative standing
committee that GMO technology has yet to be proven safe for humans and
the environment and that co-existence between organic, non-GMO and GMO
crops is impossible. The fact of the matter is that despite the advent
and growth of biotech crops in the last 10 years, organic acreage has
also grown by leaps and bounds in Canada. All the facts point to co-
existence working. GMOs undergo rigorous testing before being approved by
the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada. Independent
scientific organizations, like the World Health Organization, have
conducted extensive studies over the last 15 years into GMOs and have
found no negative health impacts while noting that GMOs provide
significant health and environmental benefits.

In terms of the environment, the benefits of GMO technology are clear.
The growing of GMO crops generally result in a reduction of chemical
inputs and allow the adoption of low and zero tillage systems. Most
importantly, GMO technology allows more yield from less and less land.
This allows for increased land-use efficiency and offers added benefits
for biodiversity. The less land that is required to grow our food, the
more that can be retained as forest and wilderness where biodiversity can

Environmentalists continue to invoke the so-called 'precautionary
principle' as an argument for banning GMO technology. Does this mean that
we stop learning and applying new technologies in society? No technology
is infallible; however, we work to manage risks with the tools available
to us at the time. Life is not without risks; if we only moved forward
with 100 per cent certainty our society would be at a standstill.

The real question is whether the risks of pursuing genetic modification
are greater or less than the risks of not pursuing it. To us the choice
is clear - GMOs can be a benefit for farmers, society and the environment.

As stewards of the land, Island farmers have decades of experience
working with our neighbours and living in harmony. With the proper
management practices - buffer zones, segregating harvested crops, co-
ordinating planting dates with neighbours - there is no issue in biotech,
conventional and organic production methods being practised side by side.

Eddy Dykerman is president of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.

                                 PART IV
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TITLE:A GE-free Zone on Prince Edward Island?
SOURCE: Greenpeace Canada
DATE:   Sep 2005

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A GE-free Zone on Prince Edward Island?

Nearly a decade after the introduction of GE farming in Canada, Prince
Edward Island Premier Pat Binns has initiated public hearings to examine
prospects for a GE-free P.E.I.

Greenpeace will present a brief to the Prince Edward Island Standing

Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Environment on Thursday September
15th at 10:00 am (local time) (9:00am Eastern time; 5:00 am in BC) to
encourage PEI to become a GMO-Free province.

You can hear a live audio broadcast at:

And download a copy of the Greenpeace presentation here (PDF)

The importance of these hearings has been recognized across Canada, and
around the world. Since the 9th of February, some 80 organizations from
as far away as Europe and California have appeared before the province's
Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment.

Echoes across Canada

The public hearings in P.E.I. are arousing great interest among people
interested in the environment and food safety. First of all, a GE-free
P.E.I. would be a guaranteed source of GE-free food for Canadian consumers.

Also, other jurisdictions could also follow P.E.I.'s example and proclaim
themselves to be GE-free zones.

Finally, P.E.l.'s initiative is a reminder to other premiers -
espectially Quebec's Jean Charest, who has promised GE labelling - that
the provinces are fully empowered to assume leadership on the GMO issue
on the basis of a precautionary approach. Provinces do not need to wait
for the federal government to act.

Moreover, the debate in P.E.I. brings renewed attention to the unanimous
recommendations of the Quebec National Assembly's Commission on
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Industries (CAPA) regarding the
introduction of mandatory GMO labelling in Quebec and Canada along the
lines of practices in Europe.

GE-free zones: an international movement

The GE-free zone movement is snowballing in Europe, the United States and
Australia. In Europe, already home to more than 100 GE-free regions and
3,500 GE-free localities, the campaign is organizing around the January
2005 Berlin Manifesto for GMO-Free Regions and Biodiversity in Europe2.

In the United States, breakthroughs are being made in several states. In
California, Mendocino County became a GE-free zone after a referendum
initiative in March 2004, and is now a source of inspiration to about a
dozen of the state's 59 counties.

In Australia, several agricultural states, such as West Australia,
Tasmania and Victoria, have banned or are in the process of banning GE
crops. In Canada, the first such initiative was instituted in June 2004
at Powell River, a town in British Colombia. The public hearings in
P.E.I. are a good opportunity for Canada to play catch up on this
developing international movement.

Economic arguments

The proclamation of GE-free zones by local and regional governments is
not just a reaction to the pro-GE policies of higher levels of
governments. GE-free zones are also a means to protect, and even
revitalize, local agriculture by meeting the growing demand for GE-free

In effect, Premier Binns is apparently seeking an economic strategy to
enable his island province to find a niche in world markets. In this
regard, the European market, which represents annual sales of over 1.6
billion Canadian dollars, offers a particularly relevant example: over
80% of the major food retailers and processors have introduced policies
favourable to GE-free products6. This market represents a very real
commercial potential for Canadian farmers.

Support the P.E.I. GE-free zone

Write, phone or fax Premier Pat Binns to show your support for this
Phone: (902) 368-4400, fax: (902) 368-4416

The Honourable Patrick George Binns
Premier of Prince Edward Island
Fifth Floor South, Shaw Building
95 Rochford Street
P.O. Box 2000
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
C1A 7N8

The P.E.I. public hearings are broadcast live on the Internet at:

What does Greenpeace recommend to ensure that Prince Edward Island
becomes an authentic GE-free zone?
1 Ban GE crops on the island.
2 Eliminate GMOs in animal feed.
3 Ban GE fish.
4 Institute mandatory GMO labelling, as in Europe.
5 Adopt policies to foster ecologically and socially sustainable
agriculture. Publicize the GE-free zone and encourage other governments
to follow suit.

Economic arguments for the GE free zone - economic
Support the PEI GE free zone - support
Internet broadcast of the hearings -
What does Greenpeace want? - want
Poll says Canadians want GMO free zone


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