Syngenta lobbies farmers to fight variety proposal

HALIFAX – As major seed development companies move back into cereal research, genetically modified and hybrid wheat varieties will be introduced, the president of Syngenta Canada predicted recently.

Jay Bradshaw told delegates to the semi-annual meeting of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture July 28 that such scientific developments can help Canadian agriculture be prosperous in the future while feeding a growing world population.

His underlying pitch, beyond the argument that Syngenta has a plan to be at the forefront of a sustainable development strategy that includes biotechnology innovation, is that the farm community should join industry in resisting movements to inject politics into regulating new crop varieties.

He said a major piece of good news is that Canada, the United States and Australia signed a deal last year to collaborate on creating a compatible regulatory environment for innovation in cereals research.

“Peel away the onion skin layers and it is about preparing common policies for introduction of GM wheat,” he said.

His main message to federation delegates was that they should lobby to stop proposals like Bill C-474, a private member’s bill sponsored by New Democrat Alex Atamanenko that would require a Canadian Food Inspection Agency assessment of potential market damage before it approved new GM varieties for the market.

It was approved in principle by the House of Commons in the spring and is now subject to committee hearings. With Conservative and Liberal hostility, there is almost no chance the bill will make it out of the Commons agriculture committee.

“It would result in denying Canadian farmers access to new products and varieties,” Bradshaw said. Regulations must be science based.

When it was time for questions, CFA members praised him for his ideas and then gave many of them a rough ride.

Former CFA president Bob Friesen wondered why Syngenta objected to the market impact analysis that would be required by Bill C-474.

Bradshaw insisted science rather than consumer preference should guide decisions on approving new crop varieties but he agreed that Syngenta does market acceptance analysis before it develops varieties.

Wild Rose Agriculture Producers delegate Lynn Jacobson complained that introduction of hybrid wheat would be another blow to farmers’ right to save their own seeds.

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