June 20, 2013
April 1 Debate on Bill C-474
These are unofficial, un-quotable notes from the debate - the official transcript will be available soon.
House Vote - Move that Bill C-474 be referred to the Agriculture Committee - all in favour say yay - all those against nay - the Nays Have it! The Conservatives were louder and more numerous in the House of Commons at 6:30PM before a long weekend...The Liberal Party must be convinced now to have all members present and voting in support of Bill C-474 on April 14 when the registered official vote happens.
5:30 Wayne Easter, Liberal Ag Critic: I am willing to allow this Bill to go to committee. This Bill would not have necessarily prevented the flax contamination issue from happening. Flax farmers did everything they could to prevent this.
There is a lot of controversy - a lot of pressure to not allow this Bill. But I think we need to have the debate. We need to lay it on the table. We have a science based system and I don't know how the mover of the Bill sees market harm could be assessed. But we need this to be studied in a transparent way.
The Bill does not question GE as a tool - this does not need to focus on support of or against GE.
We will listen closely to witnesses to see how this economic harm can be assessed.
This is not the first time we have faced this issue. In 1994 Monsanto was pressing to have Bovine Growth Hormone approved - the Agriculture Committee in 1994 recommended a moratorium on BGH approval in order to assess costs and benefits - I raise this because the response of the industry to the work of the Committee was to question why the Committee would do that work.
At that time industry said that the future of the biotech industry was under threat from the Committee work. and the future of Canadian agriculture.
Monsanto said that the science based system was essential - and argued that if the Committee even studied the issue there would be loss of investment in Canada.
BGH is still not approved for use in Canada and Monsanto and other research companies have continued to invest heavily.
Sending this to Committee should not impact investment in Canada.\
5:45 Bernard Bigras Bloc: This is a very important Bill. It is part of a policy Canada should adopt. Yes we should support and adopt this Bill. We must take into account market losses connected to decisions made by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and approval of GMOs. Canada must do more - we must ratify the Biosafety Protocol.
In addition we need mandatory labelling - this is the right of every citizen. Over 90 percent of people in Quebec want labeling. This Bill is part of a broader policy that needs to be implemented.
We know that Asia and Europe are two regions that tend to ban imports of products containing GMOs. Decisions to approve GM in Canada can have huge impact on our farmers.
Consider GM Wheat - there was immediately an economic study done by the Canadian Wheat Board that warned economic loss if GM Wheat was approved. This Bill seeks to ensure that the alarm that was sounded by the CWB to protect our farmers.
We must go further and amend the Food and Drugs Act because currently GM foods are considered the same as conventional food. The distinction must be made between GM and conventional food.
We are the fifth largest producer of GMOs and yet we still refuse to ratify the Biosafety Protocol that seeks a framework for the trade of GM.
5:55 Don Davies, NDP MP from BC:
This Bill raises some broader issues - in BC we have a proud farming tradition. Today there is a strong local food movement and concern about climate change. Local food is healthier etc...prison farms are important...
This Bill shows the vision and sound policy of the NDP. It protects farmers of the future.
Currently GE seeds are approved for sale without any consideration for their impact on farmers. GE alflafa has already been approved in Canada and Monsanto has relaunched its research in GE Wheat.
Canadian agriculture policy cannot exist in a vaccum. We have a duty to protect the livelihoods of farmers.
The government spent 1.9 million on the flax contamination situation. This Bill would save farmers and the government money.
6:07 Brian Storseth, Conservative;
We should pass the Colombian Free Trade Agreement for the sake of farmers.
I am saddened by the position the Liberals are taking, this is a dishonest position. We know all along that the Liberals will vote against this Bill in Commitee.
We know that Alex Atamanenko is trying to put good public policy forward.
We need honest debate, it should not be political games when it comes to farmers.
Canada is a true leader in ag science and innovation. This proposal will allow other countries to affect our regulation.
One example of how Canadian innovation is helping farmers - our research funding...we are a leader in research to develop new varieties...
We recognize that this Bill raises important policy issues. We need to be cautious of any move to introduce a subjective consideration like consumers attitudes, these matters are not science-based and can change overnight. The industry is divided on this issues.
(Storseth is reading a letter from a farmer opposing the Bill - very telling, they need to counter the grassroots voices supporting the Bill and the fact of the flax contamination crisis.- CBAN)
We depend on innovation and trade. We are putting more investment on innovation, competitiveness. We want to help the sector to succeed. "Growing Forward" policy. Science based trade works and we must maintain it.
6:15 Jean Crowder, NDP, BC: This Bill is actually very narrowly focused - we are not talking about labeling and other issues. In my riding there is a lot of work that I want to acknowledge on food security. This Bill is about protecting farmers' incomes.
A GE crop that is not approved in our export market has little value to farmers.
I have had so many letters and phonecalls from constituents: I would just like to read one from Heidi Brown who said that farmers are at risk, flax farmers in Canada are paying the price but foresaw the threat of contamination and took steps to remove GE flax. Despite these measures the flax farmers were not protected. Its the government's responsibility to protect farmers from predictable problems. This is typical of the letters we are receiving, you can tell from this letter that people are well informed about the market issues etc. Its important that we listen to people writing in about this.
In Argentina, GM crops require an absence of negative impacts on export markets. A key part of the regulatory process requires that GM crops will not have a negative impact on trade. If Argentina can put in a system that assesses this risk , surely we can also.
I want to refer to the detailed briefing from the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network - there are two actions required: potential market harm needs to be assessed and the entire regulatory system needs to be reformed. In their statement they say that the government approves GM crops without any mechanisms to deny or approve in relation to economic considerations.
The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network also identified other areas of concerns: transparency in science, inadequate monitoring etc and the regulatory system does not consider negative market harm and is not adequately constructed to assess environmental and health issues.
I urge the House to support this Bill and protect these markets for farmers.
6:25 Alex Atamanenko Bill C-474 sponsor, NDP Ag Critic:
It is vital that we have a thorough and democratic debate - and it is up to us to do everything we can to protect farmers.
I would like to clear up some information - it has been stated that this Bill would not have prevented flax contamination.
Traditional breeding is capable of a lot of the advances that we want - non-GE methods.
With little time, let me concentrate my remarks on the GE alfalfa issue. Farmers and seed companies are opposed to the introduction of GE alfalfa and yet we are at risk of the introduction of this product. The key word here is contamination. GE alfalfa will contaminate - bees and other issues will ensure this - as outlined by the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate.
House Vote - Move that Bill C-474 be referred to the Agriculture Committee - all in favour say yay - all those against nay - the Nays Have it! The Conservatives were louder and more numerous in the House of Commons at 6:30PM before a long weekend...The Liberal Party must be convinced now to have all members present and voting in support of Bill C-474 on April 14.