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GE Alfalfa, GE Pigs and Bill C-474

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Last night, the University of Guelph hosted a panel discussion featuring:

Sean McGivern, National Farmers Union Ontario, hog farmer

Roger Rivest, Ecological Farmers of Ontario, grain farmer

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network

Moderator: Jodi Koberinski, Executive Director, Organic Council of Ontario

All panel members spoke from their own experience about their experiences with the negative influence of genetically modified organisms. Roger Rivest provided background on the history of GM grains in Canada, and the harm done to the industry by GM soy among others. Roger went on to underscore the ubiquity of alfalfa in agriculture – alfalfa is fed not only to dairy cows, but is also incorporated in hog and poultry ration. GM contamination of alfalfa WILL mean GM contamination of our food chain.

Sean McGivern spoke about EnviroPig and the phytase supplement currently in use. He pointed out that the phytase supplement costs hog producers $5/kg, and at a feed rate of 250g per ton of feed adds approximately $1.25 per ton to feed cost. Given the development costs of EnviroPig, licensing the technology will not come cheap, and the “novel trait†promised by Enviropig is not significantly mnore effective than the phytase supplement currently in use.

Lucy Sharratt from CBAN spoke about the regulatory framework surrounding genetically engineered organisms, and pointed out that there is no requirement for public consultation or input in the approval process, and that the views of farmers and consumers are not only not being listened to, but are not required to be heard in order for regulators to come to a decision. Lucy also pointed out that there is not a separate regulatory framework for evaluating GE. “Biotech†is all lumped together, so that “novel (genetically engineered)†advances are evaluated within the same regulatory framework as conventional plant or aniumal breeding advances.

Jodi Koberinski spoke passionately about the potential for GE alfalfa in particular to harm the organic sector. Jodi invited Professor Rene Van Acker, associate dean from from OAC and a transgene research specialist to speak about alfalfa. Professor Van Acker has studied the movement of alfalfa genetics, and expressed concern for the future of non GMO alfalfa. As an insect pollinated perennial, “it is everywhere,†he told the crowd, and GE alfalfa will spread once released.

During the question period, an Ag student from the university stood up and spoke to Sean’s concerns about EnviroPig genetics moving through the population. She talked about buying hogs at auction, and noted that “ear tags come off.†Sean responded to her comments and pointed out that in the nine years of EnviroPig research, there have already been two “accidental†releases of enviropigs, one of which saw mortalities sent for rendering resulting in tonnes of feed being recalled and destroyed.

During the question and answer session, concerns were raised about “Roundup Ready†crops creating Roundup resistance in weed populations. Other concerns were raised specific to the lack of health studies regading consumption of “novel†foods.

The audience was encouraged to support Bill C-474, which would require “an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.â€

Please write or call your MP and tell them that you need them to vote for C-474.

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PRESS RELEASE

Liberals and Conservatives Vote Down Bill C-474: Inaction on genetic engineering will cost farmers, groups vow to protect alfalfa in ongoing controversy

Thursday, February 10, 2011. Ottawa - Last night, a majority of Liberal MPs joined with Conservatives to vote down an important Private Members Bill on genetic engineering (GE). Bill C-474 would have required that “an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.†The Bill was defeated 176 to 97.

“Farmers had everything to gain if the Bill was passed. Now we have everything to lose while biotech companies once again have everything to gain,†said Colleen Ross, Vice President of the National Farmers Union. “Our government has been supporting genetic engineering at any cost. But we refuse to accept their willingness to sacrifice some farmers and some crops for the sake of the biotech industry,†said Ross. “Our democracy has to work for farmers and consumers and not just for multinational biotech corporations.â€

“The excuses for not supporting the Bill were never truly valid,†said Maureen Bostock, speaking for the Ecological Farmers of Ontario, “This is a clear case of politicians siding with the powerful biotech industry.â€

“The Bill was voted down but a real debate about the impacts and future of genetic engineering has now started,†said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, “Canadians defied the tremendous power of the industry lobby by pushing the Bill further than any other on this issue.â€

“Its crazy that the economic risks to farmers are not considered before GE crops are put on the market,†said Genevieve Grossenbacher a young Quebec farmer speaking for the Canadian Organic Growers. “Its farmers who pay the costs of GE contamination, not the biotech companies.â€

An immediate concern shared by both conventional and organic farmers is the threat of crop contamination by GE alfalfa. On January 27th, the US Department of Agriculture approved plantings despite widespread opposition from farmers and consumers, and after protracted legal cases. Canada is only one step away from allowing GE alfalfa to be planted here. “It's urgent that our Members of Parliament take action to stop GE alfalfa from being imported or being approved and grown in Canada. This is the only way to protect our conventional and organic alfalfa from loss of markets and loss of livelihoods,†said Cathy Holtslander speaking for the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate. Because alfalfa is a perennial crop pollinated by bees, GE contamination is inevitable. In addition to export markets for processed alfalfa products, alfalfa is used as pasture and high-protein feed for animals like dairy cows, beef cattle, lambs, and pigs and is also used to build up nutrients in the soil, making it particularly important for organic farming.

“Genetic engineering has become more controversial over the years, not less,†said Eric Darier, Director of Greenpeace Quebec, speaking on behalf of the Quebec Network Against GMOs, a coalition of over 20 groups. “The problems with genetic engineering are not going away and the federal government is still refusing to address the issues head on.â€

“Building a strong future for food and farming in Canada will take political leadership. Elected representatives must listen to what farmers and consumers are saying,†said Tony Beck of the Society for a GE Free BC, a coalition of local grassroots groups, “Canadians are becoming more involved in farming issues and want to support a sustainable food system.â€

Private Members Bill C-474 was introduced by NDP Agriculture Critic and MP for BC Southern Interior, Alex Atamanenko.

-30-

For more information:

Colleen Ross, National Farmers Union, Cell: 613 213 1522;

Lucy Sharratt, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 613 241 2267 ext 25;

Cathy Holtslander, Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, 306 384 2141;

Maureen Bostock, Ecological Farmers of Ontario, 613 259 5757;

Genevieve Grossenbacher, Canadian Organic Growers, 613 234 6827 ext 244;

Eric Darier, Quebec Network Against GMOs, Cell: 514 605-6497 (English or French);

Tony Beck, Society for a GE Free BC, Cell: 604 671 2106.

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)

Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice

431 Gilmour Street, Second Floor

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 0R5

Phone: 613 241 2267 ext. 25

Fax: 613 241 2506

coordinator@cban.ca

www.cban.ca

Bill C-474 is concrete action! Final vote February 9! http://www.cban.ca/474

Subscribe to the CBAN News and Action Listserve http://www.cban.ca/About/CBAN-e-News

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More Info

Come on out! Show your support for the motion for a moratorium on GM alfalfa!

WHAT: Tomorrow, Thursday March 10, 11:00 - 1:00 the House of Commons Agriculture Committee is meeting and will, unless the Conservatives stall or the Liberals do not push the motion to the top of the agenda, debate and decide on a motion for a moratorium on GM alfalfa. The motion will then go to the House of Commons for a vote.

WHY: A large audience of i...nterested observers at the meeting will help push the moratorium through! It is a small room and an audience will help pressure the Liberals and Conservatives. There is rarely a significant audience at the meetings and so it will be remarked on and show strong public support. Your presence at the Committee hearings will make a lasting impression to these MPs of the public support behind the moratorium. If the motion is passed, this impression will help Conservatives and Liberals to support the motion in the House of Commons.

TIMING:

11:00 - 11:30 The first half hour of the meeting is closed to observers.

11:30 - 1:00 the meeting will open to the public and the motions will be debated.

This schedule inside the two hour period could change slightly.

The meeting notice is here

LOCATION: 151 Sparks Street, Room 268 (up the stairs), Ottawa.

PLEASE NOTE:

* Bring photo ID.

* Arrive 15 minutes ahead of time so you can go through security and get a pass.

* Please remember that observers to Committee hearings, just as to Question Period, cannot participate in the meeting and are asked to refrain from making loud comments etc. However, a nice round of applause after a good decision is not unprecedented and can be most welcome to Committee members who rarely get this feedback.

* A lunch will be brought in for the MPs to allow the Committee to meet over the lunch period, please note that food and beverages are for the MPs and we are asked to refrain from munching (even though its lunchtime!). Bring a snack if you will get peckish!

* There is a small waiting area outside the Committee room where we can wait for the closed part of the meeting to finish.

* There are translation devices so that you can listen in English or French. Unplug these to unwind the cords. If the Bloc members speak and you do not speak French you will appreciate easy access to your device - Channel 1 should be English.

* CBAN Coordinator, Lucy Sharratt, will be attending and will arrive for 11:00.

Come on out to show your support, make change happen, and witness the results of your actions! Your presence could make a big difference.

Please contact me if you have questions. Best, regards, Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network

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Conservatives Block Vote on Moratorium on GM Alfalfa. Write your MP today! http://www.cban.ca/alfalfaction

UPDATE MARCH 10, 2011

Conservative Members of Parliament purposefully delayed a vote on the motion for a moratorium on GM alfalfa at today's Agriculture Committee meeting! A full hour was spent discussing the motion for a moratorium without a vote ever being called. First, Conservatives protested putting the motion ahead of others but the Chair, Conservative Larry Miller, allowed the GM alfalfa motion to be debated. Then the Conservatives delayed with their comments until the meeting time ran out. The Liberals, NDP and Bloc members all support the moratorium so if the vote had happened today, the motion would have been approved and the motion would have passed to the House of Commons for a vote! The motion will be debated at the next Committee meeting which could be March 22. 16 members of the public, including farmers, attended the Committee meeting on March 10 to witness Conservative delay tactics first hand.

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