Summary of GMO Free Zone Campaign.

What is impeding a regional decision on GM Crops?

by Huguette Allen
For years, first as a concerned citizen then as a representative of Bee SAFE, I've been warning our Regional District that GM crops contaminate wild and cultivated plants of the same family, which means that:
  1. GM crops cannot co-exist with organic or conventional crops

  2. GM crops inevitably destroy our choice to grow organic or conventional non-GM crops

  3. to continue letting GM crops proliferate is to decide to turn the region's agriculture into a chemical-based, corporate-owned GM monoculture model.

We have examples of this. In regions where GM corn, canola or soy contaminate organic and conventional crops, diversified farming is replaced by corporate, chemical-based GMO monoculture.

Hundreds of people have attended meetings, written letters that were supported by organizations such as the Council of Canadians, the Certified Organic Association of BC, and many more asking NORD to make a decision. Whole countries, and 61 BC municipalities have steered the future of their region away from GM crops in order to encourage a more sustainable agricultural model.

So what is impending a regional decision? What information is still missing? Let's examine the facts:

  1. The Regional Agricultural Advisory Committee of NORD (RAAC) is aware that 2% to 5% of organic products are now contaminated with GMO. It was stated by one of the directors and recorded in their minutes. This indicates that the RAAC understands that GM contamination is real.

  2. Although hundreds of scientific references were provided to the board over the years regarding the impacts of GM crops on public health, the economy, and the environment, none of these need to be agreed on in order to declare the intention to become GMO Crop free. The only issue is whether or not contamination is real and whether people want it or not.

  3. In order to “hear the other side” of this issue, the RAAC invited the GMO and pesticide industry to discuss co-existence as well as anything else regarding GM Crops.

  4. The Crop Life vice-president gave no scientific or verifiable information to support her claims that GM crops can coexist with non GM crops.

The industry rep said both sides can work together, that GM crops are needed to stand up against future challenges such as drought and floods (contrary to all evidence and to what is being recommended to the UN), that 25 years of existence proves their safety (weren't they first grown in 1996? - haven't hospital-related allergies increased by 260% and autism by 250% in the US between 1997 and 2006?) but all this without giving any evidence.

When asked pointed questions by committee members, the typical answer was “we have to trust government” and that despite Canada-wide protests by scientists, she does not believe government is muzzling scientists. Should we trust these statements by industry?

A quick look at the industry's record shows that Monsanto was found guilty in courts for false advertising and misleading the public on the safety of their products. Recently unsealed court documents reveal Syngenta's (pesticide manufacturer) corporate strategy to discredit critics and strip plaintiffs from a class-action suit. The company targets outspoken critics and researchers who suggest that their pesticides are harmful. They keep lists of people and groups to recruit as experts without disclosing ties to the company, pay “third-party allies” to appear as independent supporters, and hired a detective agency to investigate scientists on federal advisory panel (The Ram's Horn, #298).

So the issue is very clear. People in RDNO want to stop GM contamination. They will not be sidetracked by what is being proposed by the RAAC chair, which is that farmers simply label their crop GMO or NON GMO, and thus allow people to choose! Choice is precisely what is being removed by having GM Crops grown in our region.

So what can people who are trying to protect not only the future of agriculture, but also food sovereignty and security, the health of our environment (GM crops depend on toxic herbicides and pesticides that affect water, air and soil), the social and economic fabric of our rural communities, as well as the economic potential of art and ecological tourism, do?

Continue to demand that a clear and urgent decision about GM crops be made by the Regional District. A simple decision could look like this:

  1. NO new GM crops shall be brought into the region, such as GM alfalfa, trees, wheat, etc..

  2. Current GM crops will be excepted, grandfathered for 3 years, in order to give time to GM crop growers to seek other types of seeds and farming methods, with the possibility of extending the exception period based on findings.

Although such a statement may not carry legal weight, it would provide communities with the clear direction needed to build our future and would attract more people such as those who are building the Eco Village in rural Lumby. For more info google OK-Eco.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for a very exciting presentation coming our way in November. Dr. Shiv Chopra, the whistleblower from Health Canada, and Dr. Thierry Vrain who used to work on GMO for Agriculture Canada, will jointly present their findings on the impacts of GMO on human health. More info in the November issue.