Keeping House: UBCM makes key resolution on GMOs

Part 1 of 2: Alex Atamanenko shares information on GMOs and why the UBCM resolution is important.

I was pleased to see the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) pass a motion to make BC a GE free area in respect to all plant and animal species.  This is an important statement, especially in light of the pending commercial release of GE (Roundup Ready) alfalfa and the trademark GE Arctic Apple.

Our BC municipalities have been quite progressive on this important issue.  In 1999 the UBCM resolved to petition the Prime Minister of Canada, the Premier of British Columbia, and their respective Ministers’ of Agriculture to take immediate and decisive action to halt the growing monopolization of our food production industry and the introduction of “terminator seed” which could spread plant sterility among all seeding plants, potentially creating a global catastrophe; and that the UBCM urge the government of Canada and of BC to act immediately to prevent any Canadian corporation from patenting, and thus controlling and monopolizing, any seed stock of any variety in Canada and elsewhere in the world.

Resolutions in 2006 and 2009 saw the UBCM request that the federal government label GE organisms. A 2012 motion was passed to ask that the BC government legislate the prohibition of importing, exporting and the domestic production of fruit and plant material containing GE DNA constructs and to declare BC as a GE Free province in respect to all tree fruit products.

Some may question why UBCM delegates would pass this type of resolution at their Convention.  Part of this is in response to the fact that 14 BC communities have now passed individual resolutions declaring themselves a GE Free zone including our communities of Nelson, Rossland, Kaslo and New Denver. Furthermore 10 Official Community Plans of Regional Districts have come out against GE crops.

Currently, there are only 4 GE crops grown in Canada: corn, soya, canola and sugar beet.  Approval has been given by the federal government for GE alfalfa.  Alfalfa is used as pasture and hay for animal feed as well as for nitrogen fixation in the soil and is also manufactured into pellets for export.  It is a vital crop in organic farming. Forage Genetics International is waiting to begin selling GE alfalfa seeds in Canada pending approval of a so-called “co-existence plan”. The US government deregulated GE Alfalfa in 2011 and the USDA is finding its adventitious presence in a growing number of sites they have tested, making it clear that co-existence is nothing more than an absurd industry talking point. Any release of GE alfalfa in Canada can only be viewed as a willful attack on non-gmo and organic farmers.

Recently a farmer in Washington State had his export shipment rejected because of the presence of GE alfalfa.  In 2009 Canadian farmers were hit hard when flax shipments were rejected by EU markets due to its contamination with GE flax.  There is a strong economic argument against allowing GE alfalfa or the non-browning GE arctic apple into BC – once crops are contaminated by GE traits, both conventional and organic farmers lose money.  It is that simple.

GE Free BC and Greenpeace Vancouver are sponsoring a fall and winter tour to spread awareness, educate, and share concerns about genetically engineered foods.  The speaker’s tour, Genetically Engineered Foods and Human Health, will feature Dr. Thiery Vrain, retired Ag Canada genetic engineer and Dr. Shiv Chopra, ex-scientist for Health Canada and tireless defender of the world’s food supply.

We are fortunate that the tour is coming to Osoyoos – Nov. 26, 7 p.m. at the Watermark Beach Hotel, to Grand Forks – Dec. 5,  at 7 p.m. at the Seniors Centre (City Park) and to Kaslo – December 14, at 6 p.m. at St. Andrews Heritage Hall.

I hope that constituents will be able to attend one of these important events.

(In part 2, I will cover GMOs in more in detail and include more reasons why we should be putting a stop to this “madness”.)

Alex Atamanenko, MP

BC Southern Interior

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