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POLICY & REGULATION: Petition calling for mandatory GE food labelling in Quebec (Canada)



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   GENETICALLY MODIFIED CORN BEING SOLD UNLABELLED, OPPONENTS SAY

SOURCE:  Montreal Gazette, Canada

AUTHOR:  Michelle Lalonde

URL:     http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Genetically+modified+corn+being+sold+unlabelled+opponents/5454358/story.html

DATE:    24.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Seven years after a parliamentary commission recommended obligatory labelling of genetically modified foods, environmental groups in Quebec are sounding the alarm that genetically modified corn on the cob is now being sold, unlabelled, in Canadian grocery stores. [...] The groups have launched a petition demanding the Quebec government apply the recommendations of a report it commissioned called Food Security: A societal challenge, a responsibility for all the stakeholders in the food chain. That report, adopted unanimously by the National Assembly in 2004, recommended obligatory labelling of genetically modified foods and a system to trace the origins of foods sold in Quebec."

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GENETICALLY MODIFIED CORN BEING SOLD UNLABELLED, OPPONENTS SAY

Launch petition calling for mandatory labelling

MONTREAL ? Seven years after a parliamentary commission recommended obligatory labelling of genetically modified foods, environmental groups in Quebec are sounding the alarm that genetically modified corn on the cob is now being sold, unlabelled, in Canadian grocery stores.

?We now know that genetically modified corn is being produced in Ontario and sold for human consumption,? said Christine Gingras, president of the Réseau québécois contre les OGM, a network of Quebec organizations fighting genetically modified foods.

?If a supplier is buying his corn in Ontario and selling it here, there is no way for the consumer to know. You can ask, but the grocer may not know,? she said.

The groups have launched a petition demanding the Quebec government apply the recommendations of a report it commissioned called Food Security: A societal challenge, a responsibility for all the stakeholders in the food chain. That report, adopted unanimously by the National Assembly in 2004, recommended obligatory labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods and a system to trace the origins of foods sold in Quebec.

The groups are calling for those recommendations to be adopted by July 2012, for the government to increase its support for organic farming, and pressure the federal government to tighten approval procedures for GM foods. They also want Quebec to adopt laws to make GM food producers responsible when non-GM food crops are contaminated by GM crops.

Health Canada?s website claims that ?no GM food is allowed on the market in Canada unless Health Canada?s scientists are satisfied that the food is safe and nutritious?.

But the Réseau claims Health Canada has approved the sale of corn grown from Syngenta?s Attribute sweet corn varieties, which have been genetically modified to protect against damage by European corn borers, corn earworms and fall army worms. The modified corn carries a gene that enables it to produce the same insecticidal protein as the naturally occurring Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium, which binds to their digestive systems, and causes them to stop feeding and die within 48 hours.

The product was authorized despite the results of a recent Quebec study that showed the presence of the Bt toxin in fetuses and pregnant women who consumed genetically modified foods. The groups say since it is not known what impact this toxin has on babies and women, more research should be done before selling this corn to consumers.

They are also concerned that GM crops can contaminate nearby organic farmers? crops, and threatens various species important to biodiversity.

Gingras notes that surveys show that more than 80 per cent of Quebecers favour obligatory labelling of GM foods.

Health Canada has developed a program for voluntary labelling of foods that are the products of genetic engineering, but critics say the program does not result in enough information getting to consumers.

The petition regarding GM food labeling is on the National Assembly website at: https://www.assnat.qc.ca/fr/exprimez-votre-opinion/petition/Petition-1969/index.html



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   GENETIC MODIFICATION RAISES QUESTIONS FOR LOCALS

SOURCE:  The Boundary Sentinel, Canada

AUTHOR:  Mona Mattei

URL:     http://boundarysentinel.com/news/genetic-modification-raises-questions-locals-13849

DATE:    22.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Over 15 years ago scientists started along a revolutionary road to solve world hunger. To quote the Monsanto Corporation website ? by 2050 nine billion people will need food, fuel and clothing ? how will this happen? The solution they saw was to engineer the genetics of our food to find ways to grow it better, with less loss to weeds and insects, or to find ways to eliminate diseases in our food sources. But while scientists are still imagining, their work has yet to fulfill the promised solutions according to Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator for the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network."

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GENETIC MODIFICATION RAISES QUESTIONS FOR LOCALS

Imagine a world where our food is growing fast with no weeds or pests. Imagine a world where fish grow five times as fast as they do now so we can eat them sooner. Imagine a world where hunger is solved by changing the genetics of everything we consume.

Over 15 years ago scientists started along a revolutionary road to solve world hunger. To quote the Monsanto Corporation website ? by 2050 nine billion people will need food, fuel and clothing ? how will this happen? The solution they saw was to engineer the genetics of our food to find ways to grow it better, with less loss to weeds and insects, or to find ways to eliminate diseases in our food sources.

But while scientists are still imagining, their work has yet to fulfill the promised solutions according to Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator for the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. Sharratt was in Grand Forks on Wednesday as a part of a tour in B.C. during National Biotechnology Week.

?The technology certainly hasn?t fulfilled its public promise for these fantastical new crops and foods. Instead what we see very clearly is contamination, environmental risk, corporate control because these are patented technologies,? said Sharratt. ?That?s why genetic engineering is a powerful technology. That?s why corporations love to use it ? is because they can then claim ownership over the seeds themselves.?

With all the scientific work done over the past 15 years, Sharratt said there are only seven actual genetically modified plants on the market in North America: corn, canola, soy, sugar beet (all available in Canada) and cottonseed (India, China and United States), papaya, squash and milk products (in the United States only). Most plants are modified to be resistant to herbicides or insects.

?Even on its own terms with these two traits of herbicide tolerance and insect resistance we see that the system is failing,? said Sharratt.

Fears from farmers are based in cross-contamination issues. Even if farmers are not organic, the GM seeds can cross into their crops, and, as has happened in the recent past, not only are their crops contaminated, but corporations can sue farmers for using their seeds.

?For five years the Manitoba Association and other associations of farmers have tried to stop GM alfalfa ? they?ve made that very clear to the federal government,? Sharratt continued. ?It is not available in Canada yet, but it has been approved for safe eating and environmental release. The problem with alfalfa is that it?s pollinated by bees, it?s a perennial crop, it will quickly spread, contaminate. For organic certification of course that?s a very serious problem. It?s a very unique crop and the contamination is potentially very devastating.?

Two other new products are also up for approvals by Health Canada and the American Federal Department of Agriculture: the Enviropig ? and a GM Atlantic salmon. The new pigs are modified to excrete less phosphorous, while the salmon is being engineered to grow five times faster than regular salmon. Both are products of Canadian scientists.

Genetic modification (GM or genetically modified organisms GMO) is the process of changing plants or animals at the molecular level by inserting genes or DNA segments from other organisms. Unlike conventional breeding and hybridization, the process of genetic modification enables the direct transfer of genes between different species or kingdoms that would not breed in nature.

Of importance to Sharratt is the fact that you may not know when you are consuming GM products. Canada does not require labelling of processed food products to identify GMOs so they may be present in your food.

But for Sharratt the science itself does not scare her, the biggest issue is the lack of consultation and testing over approvals for the new products being created by labs in Canada and the United States. The process is done in secret, and can rack havoc on markets for agricultural products, she added.

?The Canadian government has no mechanism to consult farmers and it?s literally irrelevant in our regulation, this question of market harm,? said Sharratt. ?Flax farmers say: GM flax will destroy their market, alfalfa farmers and farmers who use alfalfa say GM alfalfa will destroy their market. That?s irrelevant, it doesn?t matter. If it?s safe for eating and it?s safe for the environment, it will be put out into the environment. Unless politically we stop it.?

Solutions lie in protecting local food systems so they remain free of these products, potential for local governments to declare their region as GM free areas, step up to participate in campaigns to force consultation at the government level and share information.

?The mentality in government is that if we haven?t had thousands of people dying from this it?s probably ok,? Atamanenko commented. ?No where is there a precautionary principle. The science is flawed. There is a minimum of two years (for approval) for pharmaceuticals and still there are problems with products on the market. It?s a tough battle.?

Sharratt shared the forum panel with Roly Russell, president of GFBRAS and a PHD in sustainable systems; Sheila Dobie, seed bank volunteer and organic farmer; and JJ Verigin, Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ.

The forum, held at the Grand Forks Seniors Hall and attended by 100 people, was organized by MP Alex Atamanenko and the Grand Forks and Boundary Regional Agricultural Society (GFBRAS). Atamanenko attempted to pass a bill last year in Canadian parliament that called for analysis of potential harm to export markets as a test for all new requests for approval on GM products. The bill was defeated by the Conservative and Liberal parties at the time.



                                  PART 3

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

TITLE:   PUBLIC FORUM ON ?GENETIC MODIFICATION AND THE FUTURE OF FOOD? WITH A BENEFIT DANCE TO FOLLOW

SOURCE:  Canada.com, Canada

AUTHOR:  Comox Valley Echo, Canada

URL:     http://www.canada.com/Public+forum+genetic+modification+future+food+with+benefit+dance+follow/5450417/story.html

DATE:    23.09.2011

SUMMARY: "The Courtenay event is part of a series of public forums called ?Genetic Modification and the Future of Food? which is touring 12 communities across British Columbia this fall, from September 18 to October 1st.

Events will be held in Kelowna, Nelson, Grand Forks, Osoyoos, Keremeos, Princeton, Langely, Vancouver, Bella Coola, Richmond, Courtenay, and Campbell River. ?We?re really excited that we have this chance to find out more about genetically modified foods from one of Canada?s foremost experts,? said Linda Cheu of GE Watch Comox Valley."

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PUBLIC FORUM ON ?GENETIC MODIFICATION AND THE FUTURE OF FOOD? WITH A BENEFIT DANCE TO FOLLOW

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), the Society for a GE Free BC and GE Watch Comox Valley are holding a public forum on the controversy over genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered, GE) foods, in Courtenay on Friday, September 30 at 7:00 - 9:00pm. The discussion will be followed by a Music Benefit with Shane Philip, at 9:30 pm.

The events take place at the Royal Canadian Legion Br 17, 367 Cliffe Ave. in downtown Courtenay.

Admission to the Forum portion of the evening, featuring guest speaker and CBAN Coordinator, Lucy Sharratt of Ottawa, is free.

It will be followed by revelry and dancing to the mesmerizing sounds of multi-instrumentalist Shane Philip, with admission by donation to support CBAN?s efforts to raise awareness about GE issues. Coffee, tea and tasty local treats will be available, and everyone is most welcome to join the fun.

The Courtenay event is part of a series of public forums called ?Genetic Modification and the Future of Food? which is touring 12 communities across British Columbia this fall, from September 18 to October 1st.

Events will be held in Kelowna, Nelson, Grand Forks, Osoyoos, Keremeos, Princeton, Langely, Vancouver, Bella Coola, Richmond, Courtenay, and Campbell River.

?We?re really excited that we have this chance to find out more about genetically modified foods from one of Canada?s foremost experts,? said Linda Cheu of GE Watch Comox Valley.

?The event is on a Friday night so we have combined the public forum with a music benefit,? said Cheu, ?Shane Philip?s music is incredibly fun to dance to. He is so talented and we are thrilled he is giving his time to help us celebrate the growing movement for local, ecologically-grown food.?

?Information about genetically modified foods is hard for people to find by themselves. People want to know what genetically modified foods are on the shelves and who is making the decisions,? said Lucy Sharratt. ?People in BC need a voice, especially because companies want to introduce GM Atlantic salmon and GM apples.?

?GM crops are living pollution that we cannot control. For example, if GM alfalfa is approved it will spread everywhere and farmers will be left to deal with the problem. We are working to protect our environment as well as the future of organic food and farming, ? said Sharratt.

For more information, go to www.cban.ca/events