Letters to the editor – May 13, 2021

Farmers be wary of gene editing

The WP editorial, Canadian gene editing rule deserves farmer support, in the April 8 issue is entirely focused on the wrong issue. The central issue for farmers is, “will customers purchase food produced (or) created using gene editing?”

It would seem our customers in Canada, Europe, South Asia and Africa are less than enthused.

Farmers might also want to be cautious because we already own the cereals genome through our public plant breeding system. The private sector is proposing the remarkable idea that by using gene editing technology on a food plant like wheat or barley, they get the right to patent the plant, making things much more expensive for farmers.

As any farmer planting canola knows, the cost of patented private sector seed is much higher than for cereal grains developed by our public plant breeding system.

There is a moral issue as well. All plants and animals are the result of billions of years of evolution, and in the case of food plants, the result of public plant breeding over generations. Like the works of Shakespeare, these genetics represent a common heritage. What the private sector agrochemical companies are proposing is that by deleting a period or comma from Shakespeare, they get to patent all of Shakespeare.

Once you remove the emotive language about science, what you have is a simple attempt at the regulatory theft of a public resource by a very well-resourced private industry. If they get their way, prairie farmers will certainly pay more for patented gene-edited varieties. Customers may or may not buy these products, but it is certain farmers will pay the freight both ways.

Ken Larsen,

Benalto, Alta.

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