Letters to the editor – January 9, 2014

PROPER STUDY NEEDED

Re: WP op-ed, Nov. 21, “No room in science for provocateurs.”

I read, with interest, the opinion piece authored by Cami Ryan, a research associate with the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources. I observed that the premise of Ryan’s position was that the three studies or trials were flawed science and the authors were provocateurs. She reached that conclusion because the studies were, in her opinion, guilty of (not adhering to) three or more of the cornerstones of “good” science including poor methodology, statistical analysis, controls, sample sizes and spelling and grammar errors. She also mentioned the fact that the authors refused to release data or methods so that other scientists could replicate the work.…

I have not been able to locate one study done by institutional scientists that is not funded by the proponents of genetically modified organisms that provide evidence that genetically modified organisms are safe. The studies show that there are no ill effects to the consumers of the organisms, but how long were those studies conducted and what are the sample sizes and methodology utilized?

…I challenge Ryan and her associates at the university, as well as other agricultural institutions, to conduct a simple study of genetically modified organisms and any effects on animals fed those GMOs.

I would like to suggest that the studies be designed so that there is accepted methodology, good use of controls, appropriate sample sizes and above all proper grammar and correct spelling in the final report.

I agree that we all would be interested in the results of a properly conducted study of genetically modified organisms as feed for animal consumption. My idea of an ideal study would be to feed genetically modified feed to rats, rabbits or other suitable mammals for at least three generations. Then observe for any positive or negative manifestations and report those findings to the public and let the public know the results. Let the public read the results with no spin or conclusion. The results may even be provocative.

L. Patrick Lannan,
Claresholm, Alta.

EXERT PRESSURE

The Western Canola & Pulse Crops Producer supplement to the Nov. 28 edition of The Producer contains two reports of public sector research with potentially great benefit to canola growers and the canola industry.

The first describes development of hairy canola by scientists at the Agriculture Canada Saskatoon Research Centre. The second relates a breakthrough in green seed by researchers at the University of Calgary.

These research projects both offer solutions to serious production problems encountered by prairie farmers. Hairy canola could reduce or eliminate the use of chemical pesticides to control flea beetles, a major insect pest of canola. Lowering green seed content would lessen the biggest downgrading factor for canola.

Whatever the potential of these technologies, the aforementioned articles make it clear that the reception to them by some players in the canola industry is not the same.

The University of Calgary researchers anticipate licensing their technology to the likes of Bayer Crop-Science, Monsanto and BASF.

In contrast, it is apparent that Ag Canada’s discoveries have not received an enthusiastic reception from the “big three.”

It is no surprise that companies enjoying sizeable profits from the sale of pesticides to control flea beetles are not excited by an innovation making these pesticides obsolete.

This is not the first instance in which the result of public sector canola research could languish unused. About a decade ago, Ag Canada scientists in Saskatoon developed yellow-seeded Argentine canola.

Adoption of yellow seed would have significantly increased seed oil content and improved the quality of canola meal for livestock rations. It is still sitting on the shelf.

The potential harm to the canola industry from failure to adopt discoveries such as hairy canola and yellow-seeded Argentine canola cannot pass unchallenged. If the private sector canola breeding companies will not adopt this technology, there needs to be an alternative means of its commercialization.

The bottom line is that public sector science serves the public interest. Private companies serve their corporate interests. If the two are incompatible, the public interest should take precedence. In the current situation, this appears an unlikely outcome unless there is pressure from producers and the general public.

Leo Howse,
Porcupine Plain, Sask.

LEADERLESS ORGANIZATIONS

Producers in Western Canada are experiencing governments with insane agricultural policies.

When the announcement about killing the Canadian Wheat Board was made by (agriculture) minister Gerry Ritz, there was Saskatchewan agriculture minister Bob Bjornerud sitting beside him. Bjornerud looked uneasy but never took a stand to save the CWB, even though Saskatchewan producers elected six of six farmers as directors for the CWB who supported the single desk.

Brad Wall, premier of Saskatchewan, never took a stand on the CWB either and I suspect the trade-off was the prime minster stopping the sale of Saskatchewan potash companies to foreigners.

Present Saskatchewan ag minister Lyle Stewart now has a big problem on his hands with Ottawa shutting down the PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) pastures and the Indian Head tree nursery. Stewart should leave these properties as publicly owned and protected as they have been since the 1930s, rather than putting farmers deeper into debt by requiring them to buy these assets again After all, it was our tax dollars that purchased them in the first place…

Norm Hall, president, Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, and Doug Chorney, president, Keystone Agricultural Producer Association, are gentlemen who appear not to take a stand on any issue that might get them on the wrong side of the federal government. Their waffling on the CWB single desk is on the public record. Recently, Chorney and Hall have been silent on UPOV 91, which will take more royalties from farmers for the seed they have already paid to develop.

These so-called leaders and farm organizations must take stands on important agricultural issues and promote initiatives that are good for farmers and not let the federal government destroy family farms and bully them into oblivion.

Eric Sagan,
Melville, Sask.

REAL WORLD ISSUES

I see that agriculture minister Gerry Ritz is off in his fantasy world again (Dec. 5 WP). He says that he has been working with producers to improve agriculture, but out here in the real world the opposite seems to be true.

No government has worked so hard against the wishes of so many farmers to disempower them. Yes, I know most of us rallied behind the Crowsnest freight rates, but do you really think that agreement would have survived (prime minister Stephen) Harper?

Against the wishes of two-thirds to four-fifths of western farmers, Harper and Ritz destroyed the CWB, costing us hundreds of millions per year. They say that they support supply management, in apparent contradiction to their philosophy, yet they have started to trade away the cheese market for pretend increases in beef exports.

Canada is (was?) known for growing the best bread wheat in the world, yet Conservative-led changes in registration, grading and handling are moving us toward growing the same old schlock that everyone else grows. It should be noted that no one else has the additional cost of getting their generic wheat through the Rocky Mountains or the Great Lakes before they can sell it.

To general producer disapproval, they have also made cuts to the PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration), the CGC (Canadian Grain Commission), Ag Canada research stations and heritage sites like the Seeger Wheeler farm.

Ritz is proud of Growing Forward 2, however it is designed to shift economic and discretionary power away from farmers toward big business. In his letter, he correctly stated that he was working with industry on that one, but he did not mention farmers.

Ritz and company have a mania for trade, which is fine, but any increase in potential trade is a very hollow victory if farmers cannot profit from it. We must also remember that any bits and pieces of funding that minister Ritz announces are carved out of roughly half of what we used to have as a federal agriculture budget.

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Glenn Tait,
Meota, Sask.

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