Public review urged for GM apple

British Columbia may be well known for its natural beauty, but our province also has a particularly good reputation for growing fruit.

That’s why I, like many of you, am concerned about the prospect of a company in British Columbia introducing a genetically modified apple into the marketplace without any prior health, environmental or economic impact assessment. 

The potential threat that genetically modified organisms pose to our agriculture industry and to the health of those consuming genetically modified foods requires comprehensive study and scientific review . We need to fully understand the implications that genetically modified organisms might have before we even begin to think about allowing their use in local agriculture production.

Thousands of concerned citizens and B.C. fruit growers have expressed their concerns and have called on the B.C. Liberal government to ensure that before we see any companies introduce genetically modified apples into our province, we know what the impact will be on the industry, public health and the environment.

Unfortunately, we are seeing another broken promise from Norm Letnick, the minister of agriculture. 

In 2012, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the body formed to represent local governments across the province, passed a resolution asking the B.C. government “to legislate the prohibition of importing, exporting, and the domestic production of fruit and plant material containing GE (genetically engineered) DNA constructs and to declare through legislation that B.C. is a GE-Free province in respect to all tree fruit production.”

In response, Letnick said, “the province will explore the complex GE fruit issue and the UBCM resolution to request legislation to prohibit the B.C. production, importation and export of GE fruit trees and their products. Upon completion of this review, the province will provide UBCM with its findings.”

And so it was alarming to recently learn that Letnick, unbeknownst to consumers and fruit growers, had changed his mind and now plans to rely entirely on the federal government to develop a position on genetically modified apples.

This passing of the buck is just another example of how little responsibility the B.C. Liberal government is willing to take in issues of public importance.

B.C.’s agriculture minister should be standing up for B.C. fruit growers, not hiding in silence.

The impact of introducing a genetically modified apple into the marketplace in B.C. could be profound.

If the B.C. Liberal government wants to protect B.C.’s interests, it should stand by its commitment to explore and report on the implications that introducing genetically modified apples into the marketplace would have on both growers and consumers alike.

Nicholas Simons is a British Columbia New Democrat agriculture critic and MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast.

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