‘GM free zones’ | Initiative launched to ban GM plants and animals
A resolution by British Columbia municipalities to prohibit the production of genetically modified plants and animals in the province would be difficult if not impossible to implement.
The Union of B.C. Municipalities passed the resolution at its convention Sept. 19, directing its board to ask the provincial government to prohibit importing, exporting and growing plants and seeds containing GMOs.
Morelea Milne, a councillor from Metchosin, B.C., who brought forward the motion, said Sept. 22 that she knows the challenges.
“It’s a statement of intent. It’s more symbolic at the moment. I certainly hope that the government would listen to us and listen to the concerns.”
The resolution now goes to the provincial government for consideration, and Milne said she would discuss it with agriculture minister Pat Pimm. As well, she said a similar resolution will be brought to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities next year.
Groups opposed to GM products praised passage of the resolution, while biotechnology proponents criticized it.
“Our understanding is that the government of B.C. understands that these are federally regulated products, and it’s not within their jurisdiction to declare B.C. a GMO free zone,” said Janice Tranberg, western Canadian vice-president for CropLife Canada.
“They also understand that under the Farm Practices Protection Act — the right to farm act —they do not have the legal authority to instruct a farmer on what they can or cannot grow on their farm.”
Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, said the resolution is a sign of public unease with GM plants and animals.
“This is a move that really does reflect the strong concern in B.C. communities about GE crops and animals,” Sharratt said.
“We haven’t seen the type of response from the federal and provincial governments that we think is needed, but here we actually see municipal governments in B.C. taking up the concerns that people have and addressing them in a serious way, which is a very positive step.”
B.C. Agriculture Council chair Rhonda Driediger said the organization has members on both sides of the GM question, but all agree rules must be based on science and safety, which are the respective domains of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada.
“As a provincial representative of agriculture, we have to look at whether rules are science based and not just based on someone’s emotions or opinion.”
Driediger said municipal governments can have opinions on biotechnology, but that doesn’t change anything.
“I mean, you can declare your city nuclear free but there is no way of enforcing that.”
BCAC executive director Reg Ens said the economics of the proposal would have to be explored even if B.C. had jurisdiction over the matter. Restrictions on movement of food could put some agricultural operations at risk.
The CBAN said in a news release that 14 B.C. municipalities have already declared themselves to be GM free zones.
“Without real regulation at the federal level, and without any real consultation with farmers and consumers, we see people asking for this type of ban. No one else is addressing these types of concerns.”
B.C. farmers grow GM crops, and Tranberg said they have found value in biotechnology. Regulations are designed to ensure they are safe, she added.