Thursday, 10 February 2011
I see my new Member of Parliament, Robert Sopuck (Conservative Party - Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette - l.) has already made his mark on the political landscape. He voted with the rest of his Conservative Party and many Liberals last night to defeat an NDP private members' bill. The thrust of Bill C-474 was pretty simple - protect farmers by requiring “an analysis of potential harm to export markets before the sale of any new genetically engineered (GMO) seed is permitted."
In other words, new GM seeds would actually be examined to make sure other countries would want to buy them. (This, of course, is something an honest, competent government should have been doing anyway.)
Had it passed, the bill almost certainly would have prevented the GM flax fiasco of 2009. Canadian farmers paid a heavy price in that year (and since) when unwanted GM contamination damaged their export flax markets.
It might have also saved many organic farmers in this country from harm and misery when widespread plantings of GM canola contaminated their crops and ruined their market opportunities many years ago.
It would have at least provided a check-and-balance against the introduction of GM alfalfa and GM sugar beets. Both of these "Frankenfoods" have recently been approved by the USDA (in the case of sugar beets - in defiance of a court order).
Our weak-kneed government "regulators" here in Canada even beat the misguided USDA to the punch. They approved GM alfalfa some time ago - although no sales or plantings have gone ahead yet. And, make no mistake - GM wheat, unpopular tho it may be, is also coming.
GM alfalfa has been opposed by more than a hundred farm and consumer groups in Canada. And according to one advocacy group, more than 10,000 people signed petitions supporting Bill C-474!
Alfalfa is a marvellous, hardy cover crop which I have planted myself to suppress weeds and replenish the soil when I rotate my vegetable plots. Alas, our legislators seem not to have learned anything from the wise old saying - if it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Because alfalfa is a key feed for livestock, fears are even being expressed for the future of the organic beef and dairy industries in this country! (That's because pollen from GM crops travels and contaminates those of organic growers.)
So why did most of our MPs line up with rich, monumentally ruthless corporations like Monsanto, (which manipulates food genes so it can hook producers on its infamous "Roundup" herbicide) rather than individual farmers? Monsanto no doubt had the most to gain from the death of C-474.
Before the vote, Mr. Sopick told me, the private members bill would have "harmed the Canadian agriculture industry." He added, it would have meant more "red tape." Funny, those are the precise words also used by Syngenta, another "gene-giant," to criticize the same bill.
He also described Canada's current oversight of GM products as "science-based" and "rigorous!"
A scant few years ago, federal regulators lifted not a finger while Monsanto and its partner, Dow AgroSciences, went ahead and introduced "Smatstax"corn, yet another GE product, into this country. No health study - no market study - nothing. "Smartstax" is shot-full of chemicals, including an especially nasty one implicated in the poisonings of billions of precious, life-giving pollinators like honey bees, in many parts of the world.
The biotech industry has been lobbying hard against C-474. According to the Globe and Mail, its national association held 50 meetings with federal politicians and government officials last fall, trying to have it quashed!
(Don't you wish you had that kind of influence over our decision-makers?)
Mr. Sopick will undoubtedly be running for office again when the general election is held.
Will he continue to represent corporate interests in the next House? Or will he see the light and begin representing people, instead?
If you would like to question him about this issue, here is his contact information.
1450 Main Street,
Dauphin Marketplace Mall (Main Office)
Dauphin, Manitoba R7N 3H4
Telephone: (204) 622-4659 Fax: (204) 622-4654
PO Box 68 Whirlpool Drive West Unit A - No. 9 Public Road 354
Onanole, Manitoba R0J 1N0
Hill Office House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Larry Powell is an organic grower, journalist and blogger near Roblin, Manitoba