Wednesday, July 14, 2010

GM plants and foods, the risks to Canadians

Diagram showing development of pesticide resis...Image via Wikipedia
For this blog I've pasted some correspondence I've had with my local MP regarding GM regulations in Canada and how inadequate I believe them to be.  It's literally from a general concern emailing through the Canadian Biological Action Network  "" with my name and contact info inserted, so you'll need to start at the bottom in order to follow the correspondence properly.

Blaine Cameron

 to PoiliP

Pierre Poilievre,  M.P.; Hon. Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture:

Thank you for your prompt reply.  I would like to address the response
you have provided from Hon. Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture.
There are a number of woeful oversights in the regulation of
genetically modified plants that lead me to believe that they are
inadequate in protecting biodiversity, public health and the

Firstly the designation of novel foods is simply a product of industry
lobbying, this designation is a mechanism to avoid that particular
product from being scrutinized and studied scientifically.  As to my
knowledge it simply states that if the genetic modifications to a
particular plant is not significant (a very relative term), then it is
considered the same as a similarly unmodified plant and thus does not
have to be subject to further scrutiny.

Secondly there is no requirement for these genetically modified
plants/novel foods to be labeled, again a clear indication of industry
lobbying, this leads one to the belief that regulators must believe
the Canadian public to be of limited intelligence.  If any individual
has an adverse reaction to these modifications they have no way to
track the source of what it is that is causing this reaction.  This
leaves the government and industry free from any liability, no way for
the public to verify the safety of these GM/novel foods, and no choice
in what it is consumers are buying and eating.  And if one looks at
groups involved in the development of the "National Standard for the
Voluntary Labelling and Advertising of Foods That Are and Are Not
Products of Genetic Engineering", we see that the majority are from
the food industry and related individuals who have a principle
interest in getting the products to market and profit earnings.
These are not necessarily those who are concerned with public safety,
choice and the environment.  As well one cannot help but think the selection
of these groups and individuals is the result of industry lobbying, lobbying
which benefits industry and elected officials.

Thirdly most of the GM crops being approved are Round up Ready.
So the claim of reducing pesticide usage is simply not true.  These
particular crops can withstand high amounts of pesticide usage, and
most individuals who have taken a basic science course or through
simple observation can tell you is that pests can and will develop a tolerance,
and thus higher and higher amounts of pesticide will be required to
control them.  Simple farming techniques such as crop rotation or the
technique of placing plants near by that insects find more desirabl
than our crops.  These are just two environment friendly examples among many
that can help reduce or negate pesticide usage.  Many municipalities in Canada
have banned cosmetic pesticide and chemical fertilizers due to the scientific
and common knowledge ofthe damage to the environment and human health.
Why would our government at all levels continue and encourage it's usage on the
very foods we ingest, and it's usage on the vast swaths of
agricultural land that are part of
the environment that sustains us?

Finally as to the claim of producing healthier food alternatives to
Canadians, in the way
of cooking oils with lower amounts of trans fats, this is simply not
necessary as healthy
cooking oils already exist.  Oils such as safflower, peanut, olive,
sunflower and
flax seed oil (I've left out corn and canola oil due to the fact that
these crops generally
have high amounts of pesticides sprayed on them due to the fact that
they are Round up Ready).
The other oils I've mentioned are low in trans and saturated fats and contain
polyunsaturated and/or monounsaturated fats which are good for us.
Again one can not
help but see the hand of industry lobbying playing a part in the
statements that your
Ministry has put forth.  Creating a need where none exists in order to
increase industry profits
and opportunities.

I am disheartened at how little the Canadian public is being served by
your Ministry
and the related Ministry's involved in the development of the
regulation of GM plants and food.
A Government after all has the sole purpose of serving all citizens,
not just a select few with
special interests that only benefit them while at the same time
putting Canadians, the environment
and biodiversity at risk.

Genetic manipulation, forcibly inserting parts of DNA of unrelated
species into another,
is not the same as traditional breeding and cross pollination.
Traditional breeding and cross pollination only work with related species.
This idea, that the techniques are the same, is used by Government and industry
 to further the argument that all is okay with genetic manipulation,
as we've been
doing this thousands of years, which is simply not true  We need to
behave conservatively
and error on the side of caution, we are after all talking about DNA
the very makeup of all life on earth!


Blaine Cameron.

On 7/6/10, <> wrote:
> Blaine Cameron
> Blaine,
> Thank you for your comments concerning modern biotechnology and food safety.
>  Like all Canadians, I share your interest in Canada having an abundant and
> safe food supply.
> I want to send you this information that comes from the Hon. Gerry Ritz,
> Minister of Agriculture:
> Canada has one of the most stringent and rigorous regulatory systems in the
> world. This extends to crops or foods that are modified or contain genetic
> modification—all of which must undergo a comprehensive science-based
> approval process involving both Health Canada and the Canadian Food
> Inspection Agency (CFIA).
> Canada’s regulatory system for products of agricultural biotechnology is
> designed so that every possible precaution is taken. The safety of new
> products is carefully and cautiously assessed before they can be cultivated
> by a grower, used in livestock feed or made available to the consumer.
> Agricultural products of biotechnology require three separate safety
> assessments and authorizations prior to commercial use. The CFIA assesses
> the safety of the end product for release into the environment and for use
> as a livestock feed, while Health Canada assesses the safety for use as food
> and its effect on human health.
> Over the past number of years, Canada and several other countries have
> carefully considered the topic of mandatory labelling for products of
> biotechnology. While broad mandatory labelling policies may be in place in
> other countries, it should be noted that there are issues regarding the
> practicality and enforceability of these requirements and the number of
> claims that may actually appear on food.

> I support the principle of providing consumers with credible, useful and
> clear information about the foods they buy. Recognizing that consumers
> wanted more information regarding the application of specific techniques of
> genetic engineering, federal departments and agencies (including the CFIA
> and Health Canada), along with consumer groups, food manufacturers, grocery
> distributors, provincial representatives and farm organizations,
> participated in the development of the National Standard for the Voluntary
> Labelling and Advertising of Foods That Are and Are Not Products of Genetic
> Engineering. This standard can be viewed at

> It is important to note that Health Canada could require mandatory labelling
> for foods, including those derived through biotechnology, where there are
> health or safety concerns that could be mitigated through labelling, or to
> highlight a significant nutritional or compositional change.
> A list of novel foods that have been assessed for safety and approved in
> Canada can be found on the Health Canada website at
> . For further information about how the Government regulates products of
> agricultural biotechnology and how the CFIA assesses these products for
> safety, please visit the CFIA’s website at
> .
> The CFIA has three main priorities regarding the commercialization of new
> crops: to contribute to a safe food supply for Canadian consumers, to
> determine whether new products pose an environmental risk, and to ensure
> that varietal identity and, where applicable, agronomic, disease and end-use
> quality requirements for the various crop kinds are met. As part of the
> environmental safety review, the potential for cross-pollination with
> traditional crops is assessed, as is the potential environmental impact of
> cross-pollination, should it occur.
> As noted previously, Canadian laws require that genetically modified crops
> undergo safety assessments and be authorized before they can be cultivated,
> used as food, or used as livestock feed. When needed, specific conditions
> that support the responsible and sustainable long-term use of a genetically
> modified crop are applied at the time of its authorization for cultivation.
> The CFIA is responsible for regulating the environmental release of
> biotechnology-derived plants, which must undergo thorough safety assessments
> before they can be commercialized in Canada. These safety assessments
> consider the following five criteria: the potential of the plant to become a
> weed of agriculture or to be invasive of natural habitats; the potential
> consequences of gene flow to wild relatives; the potential to increase the
> activity of a plant pest; the potential impact on non-target organisms; and
> the potential impact on biodiversity.
> It is also important to note that biotechnology applications can contribute
> to advancing the sustainability of agriculture by creating solutions not
> only to increase food production, but also to respond to a number of
> environmental challenges and risks to human health. Around the world,
> biotechnology developments in agriculture are already helping to do the
> following:
> • conserve water and adapt to climate change;
> • reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizer and improve soil conservation;
> and
> • produce healthier food alternatives for Canadians, such as cooking oils
> with lower amounts of trans fats.
> Sincerely,
> Pierre Poilievre,  M.P. Nepean-Carleton
> Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
> and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
> LP
> -----Original Message-----
> From: []
> Sent: June 30, 2010 11:01 AM
> To: Poilievre, Pierre - M.P.
> Cc: Ritz, Gerry - M.P.; Atamanenko, Alex - M.P.; Easter, Wayne - M.P.;
> Bellavance, André - Député
> Subject: Please Support Bill C-474, Support Canada's Farmers
> From: Blaine Cameron
> To: Pierre Poilievre
> Re: Please Support Bill C-474, Support Canada's Farmers
> Date: Wednesday 30 June 2010
> Cc: Hon. Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
> Cc: Alex Atamanenko, NDP Agriculture Critic
> Cc: Hon. Wayne Easter, Liberal Agriculture Critic
> Cc: André Bellavance, Bloc Québécois Agriculture Critic
> Dear Pierre Poilievre, MP
> I am writing to ask you to support Private Members Bill C-474 in order to
> protect Canada’s family farms.
> Bill C-474 would support Canadian farmers by requiring that “an analysis
> of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new
> genetically engineered seed is permitted.”
> This Bill is important because the introduction of new genetically
> engineered (GE) crops can cause economic hardship to farmers.
> On June 7, the House of Commons Agriculture Committee heard a clear
> message in support of Bill C-474 from alfalfa growers represented by the
> Manitoba Forage Seed Association and Manitoba Forage Seed Council as well
> as the president of a forage seed company. Kevin Einarson from the Manitoba
> Forage Seed Association told the Committee, “Bill C-474 is the first step
> in offering some protection in the future for Canadian family farms. Market
> acceptance must be made a part of the evaluation process.”
> All three of the witnesses stated their opposition to the introduction of
> GE alfalfa because it is unnecessary and would ruin their markets. The
> issue is also highly controversial in the U.S. where the Supreme Court
> ruled on July 21st that it is still illegal to plant GE alfalfa in that
> country, until the USDA finishes its environmental review.
> Farmers are at risk when GE crops are commercialized in Canada without
> also being approved in our major export markets. For example, flax farmers
> in Canada are paying the price for unwanted GE contamination that damaged
> their export markets. Flax farmers, like alfalfa growers, foresaw that GE
> contamination would close their export markets. This is why they took steps
> in 2001 to remove GE flax from the market. Despite this measure, farmers
> were not protected.
> It’s the government’s responsibility to protect Canadian farmers from
> predictable problems caused by the introduction of new GE crops that have
> not yet been regulated in our export markets. Bill C-474 would help our
> government meet this responsibility.
> Pierre Poilievre, please examine the important testimony from alfalfa
> growers to the Agriculture Committee. Please support Bill C-474 to make
> sure that alfalfa growers and other farmers do not face the same market
> harm caused by GE contamination that continues to hurt our flax farmers.
> Yours Sincerely,
> Blaine Cameron
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