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University releases GMO film

A controversial anti-genetically modified crops film will get its national premiere before the annual convention of the National Farmers Union in Ottawa this month.

The University of Manitoba is allowing the film to be publicly aired, ending a long dispute with two of its researchers who made Seeds of Doubt, a documentary that focuses on the anti-GMO struggles of Percy Schmeiser and the various groups that resisted GM wheat. The NFU is thrilled to be able to show this long-delayed project.

“We think this is exactly the kind of information that Canadian farmers need to understand GM crops, to evaluate GM alfalfa, which is in the pipeline right now, and we thought that it was an extreme disservice when the University of Manitoba sort of broke faith with the people of Manitoba and the rural people of Manitoba in trying to keep this information from farmers,” said NFU research director Darrin Qualman.

He has not seen the film nor spoken to the university about the controversy, but said he admires the work of researcher Ian Mauro, who has previously aired a documentary at an NFU convention. Mauro, a graduate student, and professor Stephane McLachlan said they believed that the university intentionally prevented the release of the film for years because it was scared of offending Monsanto, which operates a research facility on campus.

The university said problems arose when the researchers fundamentally changed an academic research project into a movie, brought in a private investor and incorporated a company to produce and release the film, creating a host of legal and ethical difficulties.

The university said it had no concerns about the content of the documentary and Monsanto said it had never heard of the project before its travails were discussed in a Winnipeg newspaper.

The documentary covers both the Schmeiser Supreme Court of Canada decision and the campaign against GM wheat, but spends much time providing individual farmer perspectives about the GM issue. That is what the NFU is most pleased with.

“There is just so little of this kind of research done that is of such importance to farmers,” said Qualman.

Most research on GM impacts “ignores farmer attitudes and the only thing they really check to see is if the stuff is selling out there.”

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