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POLICY & REGULATION: Canadian Parliament rejects stronger export regulations for GM crops



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   OTTAWA REJECTS STRONGER EXPORT REGULATIONS FOR GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS

SOURCE:  The Globe and Mail, Canada

AUTHOR:  James Bradshaw

URL:     http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario/ottawa-rejects-stronger-export-regulations-for-genetically-modified-crops/article1901494/

DATE:    09.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Parliament has voted down a bill that sought to strengthen regulatory laws that govern the export of genetically modified crops. But hours earlier in Guelph, Ont., leading minds in the study of the controversial agricultural technologies were already talking about how to control and promote fast-moving innovations in the field. [...] Members of Parliament meeting with academics and industry stakeholders in Guelph on Wednesday heard that GMOs are a fact of agricultural life, and what matters is ensuring scientists and farmers are responsible in using them."

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OTTAWA REJECTS STRONGER EXPORT REGULATIONS FOR GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS

Parliament has voted down a bill that sought to strengthen regulatory laws that govern the export of genetically modified crops. But hours earlier in Guelph, Ont., leading minds in the study of the controversial agricultural technologies were already talking about how to control and promote fast-moving innovations in the field.

Manipulating genes to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has long provoked fiery debate between proponents and critics, who accuse scientists of ?playing God? to produce ?Frankenstein foods.?

At the University of Guelph, one of the nation?s most respected agriculture schools, the debate is more sanguine. Members of Parliament meeting with academics and industry stakeholders in Guelph on Wednesday heard that GMOs are a fact of agricultural life, and what matters is ensuring scientists and farmers are responsible in using them.

Food policy experts the world over ? even in fields that are traditional enemies of genetic engineering ? have turned their attention to the tricky challenge of managing with engineered crops rather than attempting to have them scrapped.

Alex Atamanenko, an NDP MP, renewed the debate last year by introducing C-474, a private member?s bill that would have required a regulatory review of the potential harm to demand for Canadian exports of a particular GMO before its approval, on top of current examinations for its safety for feed, human consumption and environmental release.

The bill died on Wednesday evening by a vote of 178-98, after Conservative and Liberal MPs united to quash it.

Absent from the vote were several of Mr. Atamanenko?s colleagues from Parliament?s Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, who had stopped for the meeting in Guelph as part of a cross-country tour exploring biotechnology. The MPs heard from academics and industry stakeholders, including Derek Penner, president of the Canadian arm of biotechnology giant Monsanto, who opposed the bill.

Their presence, along with the looming federal vote, drew nearly 100 protesters to the Guelph campus, brandishing signs with slogans such as, ?I Vote No to GMO.? The group was specifically targeting Enviropigs ? genetically modified pigs created by the university to digest phosphorous in its feed differently than normal pigs in hopes that this would make them cheaper and easier for farmers to raise and better for the environment.

The pigs have yet to earn regulatory approval, and the protesters hope they never will.

?The biggest market potential we have for our products is in Europe right now, and Europeans do not want genetically engineered foods,? said Sean McGivern, executive co-ordinator for the National Farmers Union, one of the protest organizers. ?There?s no reason for the Enviropig: good farmers with good management skills do not have phosphorous problems.?

GMOs have been on the local market for about a decade, mostly corn, soya and canola. Canadians can consume them without knowing it because labelling laws do not force disclosure of GM content.

Proponents argue the modifications create higher yields, hardier crops and market advantages for farmers. Professor Peter Pauls, chair of the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph, said farmers have already ?embraced [them] big time,? but often remain frustrated by the restrictive contracts dominant producers such as Monsanto and Syngenta insist on.

According to Manish Raizada, an associate professor in the same department who has worked on GMOs, many in the public realm still see genetic engineering as ?evil,? but the angry academic clashes of a decade ago have subsided.

?I think there?s more consensus now,? he said. ?We have to be more sophisticated in our regulation.?

Prof. Raizada advocates a two-tiered regulatory system. When scientific testing suggests a GMO?s effect is benign, the approval process should be less strict than it is now. But those GMOs that appear potentially dangerous to humans or conventional crops should be subject to even more stringent reviews, he said.

Prof. Pauls said he accepts that considering global market concerns may be a valid next step, but said at that point, the discussion has left the scientific realm.

Federal Conservatives have consistently opposed Bill C-474, arguing farmers deserve access to innovative technology to be competitive.

?The defeat of this bill is good news for farmers,? Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a statement. ?It is critical that our system remain based firmly in science, not politics.?

Liberal MP Wayne Easter said the bill lacked depth and would have created undue uncertainty around biotechnology.

With a report from Jessica Leeder



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   GMO EXPORTABILITY BILL SHOT DOWN IN COMMONS

SOURCE:  GrainNews, Canada

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.grainews.ca/issues/story.aspx?aid=1000401902

DATE:    09.02.2011

SUMMARY: "While Bill C-474 [...] got farther than most private members? bills, it fell short of the votes needed to keep it alive at third reading Wednesday night. The bill had called for amendment of the federal Seeds Regulations to require that an ?analysis of potential harm to export markets? be conducted before federal permission is granted for the sale of a new GM seed."

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GMO EXPORTABILITY BILL SHOT DOWN IN COMMONS

Federal lawmakers have voted down a bill meant to prevent approvals for sale of seed of any new genetically modified (GM) crops that export markets won?t accept.

While Bill C-474 -- introduced in the House of Commons in November 2009 by the New Democrats? agriculture critic, British Columbia MP Alex Atamanenko -- got farther than most private members? bills, it fell short of the votes needed to keep it alive at third reading Wednesday night.

The bill had called for amendment of the federal Seeds Regulations to require that an ?analysis of potential harm to export markets? be conducted before federal permission is granted for the sale of a new GM seed.

Members of the Conservative government and Liberal opposition rejected 10 amendments to the bill by a count of 174 to 95, before voting down the bill itself, 176 to 97. Members of the NDP and Bloc Quebecois voted in favour of the bill and amendments.

?Once again we see these two major parties putting the interests of their big business buddies ahead of everyday farmers whose livelihoods can be destroyed in an instant from contamination by genetically engineered seeds and crops,? Atamanenko said in a statement Wednesday evening.

Nevertheless, he said, ?it has been an honour for me to bring this important debate to the forefront in the House of Commons.?

Motions for the bill and amendments were seconded by Ontario MP Malcolm Allen, the NDP?s caucus chair and deputy ag critic.

C-474, which passed second reading in April 2010 by a 153-134 vote, did not propose shutting down all approvals for GMOs. But Atamanenko has said he believes the government?s science-only approach to how GM seeds are regulated is ?irresponsible because it completely ignores market considerations.?

He had previously described the bill as ?a regulatory mechanism that will ensure farmers are never again faced with rejection in our export markets because we allow the introduction of (GM) technologies that they have not approved.?

But a number of crop commodity and biotech industry groups mounted vocal opposition to C-474, claiming ?non-science-based? criteria for GM seed approvals could put a needless chill on future developments in seed biotech.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was quoted in news reports Wednesday evening as calling C-474 ?short-sighted.?



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   GUELPH PROTESTERS SNORT AT ENVIROPIG

SOURCE:  Guelph Mercury, Canada

AUTHOR:  Rob O?Flanagan

URL:     http://news.guelphmercury.com/News/Local/article/760680

DATE:    09.02.2011

SUMMARY: "As the House of Commons standing committee on agriculture and agrifood met Wednesday in Guelph, activists gathered at the University of Guelph to warn against approval of the Enviropig, a variety that was genetically engineered at the university. [...] participants in the protest said the real problem is not conventional pigs but the factory-style farms in which they are raised. Change the feeding method, Oxford County farmer Allan Slater said at the event, and you solve the waste-management issues related to industrial pig farming."

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GUELPH PROTESTERS SNORT AT ENVIROPIG

As the House of Commons standing committee on agriculture and agrifood met Wednesday in Guelph, activists gathered at the University of Guelph to warn against approval of the Enviropig, a variety that was genetically engineered at the university.

GUELPH ? Pig-nosed protesters vilified a genetically modified swine Wednesday in the heart of the University of Guelph, birthplace and home of the Enviropig.

About 75 people, many wearing plastic snouts, warned against introducing the laboratory-developed porker into the human food chain. Protesters shouted slogans such as ?Say no to GMO? (or genetically modified organisms) and waved signs of protest. One read: Public Funding, Private Pig.

Developed by U of G scientists in 1999, the Enviropig poops a less phosphorus manure and is said to be less environmentally damaging than conventional pigs.

But participants in the protest said the real problem is not conventional pigs but the factory-style farms in which they are raised. Change the feeding method, Oxford County farmer Allan Slater said at the event, and you solve the waste-management issues related to industrial pig farming.

The protest was organized by Food Justice Collective, a working group of Ontario Public Interest Research Group ? Guelph, and was staged to coincide with Wednesday?s meeting in Guelph of the House of Commons standing committee on agriculture and agri-food, OPIRG-Guelph volunteer co-ordinator Andrea Rivera said.

She said U of G portrays itself as a leader in genetic engineering, ?but there is not a lot of research or analysis being conducted about the symptoms and side-effects that may cause through human consumption or to the physical environment.?

Slater said the rationale for developing the Enviropig was related to the phosphorus question. ?But in fact that can be accomplished by a simple change in feed, without introducing this pig,? he said.

Genetically modified organisms, he added, often contain genes from sources that aren?t disclosed to the public.

?Basically, we are not eating quite the same thing that we used to,? he said. ?The secrecy is a dangerous part of it.?

U of G scientists created the pig with genetic material from E. coli bacteria and mouse DNA. The gene alteration allows the pig to produce phytase, an enzyme that regular pigs lack. Phytase helps the animal digest plant phosphorous more efficiently.

Protester Margaret Atkins said studies suggest genetically modified potatoes caused alterations in the size of internal organs in rats. ?I don?t want that to happen to me,? she said. ?I want the food I eat to be good for me. I don?t want to have that concern.?

While the Enviropig is not approved for human consumption, doing so would open the floodgates for all other genetically altered organisms, she said.

U of G spokesperson Lori Bona Hunt said the protest raised legitimate questions which are part of the process of understanding genetically modified organisms and their place in society.

?They absolutely have to be explored,? she said. She added that an in-depth regulatory process is underway surrounding the approval of the Enviropig, and it is nowhere near being complete. The issue has been rigorously debated, and the debate, which is ?integral to the process,? will continue, she added.

?We are not even sure if or when any of the applications are going to be reviewed or approved,? Bona Hunt said. ?The university?s role is to bring forth the science, develop and create it, and to let the public decide.?

Several scientific studies related to the Enviropig have been published since its development, she added. Contrary to what the protesters maintained, much data on the animal has been made available.

While some may not accept the technology behind the Enviropig, she added, many will applaud efforts to reduce the environmental impact of animal production.



                                  PART 4

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

TITLE:   LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES VOTE DOWN BILL C-474

SOURCE:  Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Canada (CBAN)

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.cban.ca/Press/Press-Releases/Liberals-and-Conservatives-Vote-Down-Bill-C-474

DATE:    09.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Last night, a majority of Liberal MPs joined with Conservatives to vote down an important Private Members Bill on genetic engineering. Bill C-474 would have required that ?an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.? The Bill was defeated 176 to 97."

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LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES VOTE DOWN BILL C-474

Inaction on genetic engineering will cost farmers, groups vow to protect alfalfa in ongoing controversy

Thursday, February 10, 2011. Ottawa - Last night, a majority of Liberal MPs joined with Conservatives to vote down an important Private Members Bill on genetic engineering (GE). Bill C-474 would have required that ?an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.? The Bill was defeated 176 to 97.

?Farmers had everything to gain if the Bill was passed. Now we have everything to lose while biotech companies once again have everything to gain,? said Colleen Ross, Vice President of the National Farmers Union. ?Our government has been supporting genetic engineering at any cost. But we refuse to accept their willingness to sacrifice some farmers and some crops for the sake of the biotech industry,? said Ross. ?Our democracy has to work for farmers and consumers and not just for multinational biotech corporations.?

?The excuses for not supporting the Bill were never truly valid,? said Maureen Bostock, speaking for the Ecological Farmers of Ontario, ?This is a clear case of politicians siding with the powerful biotech industry.?

?The Bill was voted down but a real debate about the impacts and future of genetic engineering has now started,? said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, ?Canadians defied the tremendous power of the industry lobby by pushing the Bill further than any other on this issue.?

?Its crazy that the economic risks to farmers are not considered before GE crops are put on the market,? said Genevieve Grossenbacher a young Quebec farmer speaking for the Canadian Organic Growers. ?Its farmers who pay the costs of GE contamination, not the biotech companies.?

An immediate concern shared by both conventional and organic farmers is the threat of crop contamination by GE alfalfa. On January 27th, the US Department of Agriculture approved plantings despite widespread opposition from farmers and consumers, and after protracted legal cases. Canada is only one step away from allowing GE alfalfa to be planted here. ?It's urgent that our Members of Parliament take action to stop GE alfalfa from being imported or being approved and grown in Canada. This is the only way to protect our conventional and organic alfalfa from loss of markets and loss of livelihoods,? said Cathy Holtslander speaking for the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate. Because alfalfa is a perennial crop pollinated by bees, GE contamination is inevitable. In addition to export markets for processed alfalfa products, alfalfa is used as pasture and high-protein feed for animals like dairy cows, beef cattle, lambs, and pigs and is also
  used to build up nutrients in the soil, making it particularly important for organic farming.

?Genetic engineering has become more controversial over the years, not less,? said Eric Darier, Director of Greenpeace Quebec, speaking on behalf of the Quebec Network Against GMOs, a coalition of over 20 groups. ?The problems with genetic engineering are not going away and the federal government is still refusing to address the issues head on.?

?Building a strong future for food and farming in Canada will take political leadership. Elected representatives must listen to what farmers and consumers are saying,? said Tony Beck of the Society for a GE Free BC, a coalition of local grassroots groups, ?Canadians are becoming more involved in farming issues and want to support a sustainable food system.?

Private Members Bill C-474 was introduced by NDP Agriculture Critic and MP for BC Southern Interior, Alex Atamanenko.