May 25, 2013
Bill C-474 Debate, Feb 8
On February 8, 2011 there was an unprecedented debate in the House of Commons on genetic engineering. Upon the closure of Parliamentary hearings on Bill C-474 which would have required “an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted,” the NDP secured a debate of up to 5 hours in the House. This was a great opportunity for any Member of Parliament to participate and speak up about their constituents’ concerns. Unfortunately only 2 Liberals and 2 Conservatives chose to speak in the debate, while 21 NDP Members spoke about various concerns over genetic engineering and the need for Bill C-474. See below if you MP participated. Below are also some quotes from each MP.
Hon. Mark Eyking (Sydney—Victoria, Lib.)
Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.)
Hon. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC)
Mr. Leon Benoit (Vegreville—Wainwright, CPC)
Mr. Malcolm Allen (Welland, NDP)
Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)
Mr. Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt, NDP)
Ms. Chris Charlton (Hamilton Mountain, NDP)
Mr. Wayne Marston (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, NDP)
Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP)
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)
Mr. Fin Donnelly (New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP)
Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP)
Ms. Linda Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona, NDP)
Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Eastern Shore, NDP)
Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP)
Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP)
Mr. Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay—Superior North, NDP)
Mr. Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway, NDP)
Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP)
Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP)
Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP)
Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP)
Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP)
Mr. Jack Harris (St. John's East, NDP)
Hon. Mark Eyking (Sydney—Victoria, Lib.):
The potential for GMO foods is phenomenal in the next 10 years. When we look at the hunger in Africa and many parts of Asia, GMO foods could help them there with micronutrients and drought resistance. Canada needs to be at the forefront in developing new crops and technologies that will help feed the world.
Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.):
Reading from a letter from constituent and farmer, Tom Rudge: “May I remind you that there has never been an epidemiological study for the health effects of GE foods, so the jury is still out on its population studies and possible health effects. We are all aware of the socio-economic and cultural effects. The government's experts, the Royal Society of Canada, were commissioned to examine genetic engineering and produced a report outlining their recommendations”.
Hon. Gerry Ritz (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, CPC):
The situation that would be created by Bill C-474 would be another layer of red tape. The government is against red tape. The business community, including farmers, really takes that to heart and is happy about it. That red tape, which would be instilled under Bill C-474, would mean no innovative new varieties would ever have a chance of being populated in Canada.
Mr. Leon Benoit (Vegreville—Wainwright, CPC):
I remember when I was first elected 15 years ago there was talk about how, if people ate genetically modified foods, there would be terrible things happening. We have been eating them for 15 years and we have not seen that.
The scientific evidence that there is any danger in these products is not there. What is happening here today, I would argue, is fearmongering. Why do we not base these issues on science and allow science to determine what happens and, beyond that, let industry and trade take place?
Mr. Malcolm Allen (Welland, NDP):
However, to actually limit that science is a fundamental issue. We are actually allowing corporate entities to decide that there will only be this amount of science to deal with rather than the whole body of science. There are many around who actually talk about that.
Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP):
The bill is about protecting producers and our export markets and, ultimately, the 1.4 billion farmers around the world in developing nations, who depend on farm safe seed, from science about which we are not sure. It is using the precautionary principle for our export markets.
Mr. Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt, NDP):
We have a real example cited earlier whereby the European Union, our largest market for flax, banned our imports because an illegal GE flaxseed called CDC Triffid had contaminated Canadian flax exports. The EU buys 60% of our flax. What happened to flax prices? Those prices plummeted and our farmers lost out.
The bill clearly and eloquently provides the federal government with a mandate to provide a mechanism currently missing in the regulations that can protect farmers from the economic hardship caused by the commercialization or contamination of their crops by GE seeds in the face of widespread market rejection.
Ms. Chris Charlton (Hamilton Mountain, NDP):
We cannot just ignore what is happening to farmers in our country. Farmers feed cities, and that is more than just a catchy slogan. It underscores an important reality that is crucial to our economic future. Yes, we need to acknowledge advances in science. However, we must also acknowledge the economic reality of farmers.
Mr. Wayne Marston (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, NDP):
Recently, Monsanto has re-launched its genetically engineered wheat research. Our international customers that buy 82% of Canada's wheat crops say that they will stop buying wheat from us, GE and non-GE alike, if we allow the introduction of GE wheat.
What are the economic realities for farmers if GM alfalfa or GM wheat are introduced, for example? There is the very significant possibility of a market closure and for farmers that is an unacceptable risk. Do we introduce new GM crops at any cost, even if that cost is the loss of our own markets?
Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):
One of the things we know is that farmers need to be protected. Farmers throughout Canada are concerned about continuing to be able to make a living producing good, quality food.
Farmers are often the stewards of our environment, and I know many farmers want that kind of research and analysis to ensure that the crops they are planting are not actually decimating their future ability to survive on their farms
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Consumers feel very strongly about labelling and feel very strongly that we should take a prudent approach on things like genetically engineered seeds.
Mr. Fin Donnelly (New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP):
Food security is a growing concern, especially in a world of changing climate. In order to maintain a viable and sustainable food system in our country, we need to support small and organic farmers. We need to keep our local, small-scale and family farmers in business.
[GE seeds] put local independent farms and farmers at risk and can have a devastating impact on organic certification. People in my community support local sustainable farming because it invests food dollars back into the community. It produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions on food transportation and storage and ultimately helps with the production of a healthier diet. GM seeds endanger local farming.
Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP):
[Biotech companies] would like to control more and more of our production. They want to make seeds that dovetail with their pesticides and herbicides and sell the complete package to the farmers. It is a model that works well in a vacuum, but does not take into account the wishes of consumers and, more important, the wishes of other countries, many of whom are less than keen to see genetically engineered crops that take the place of the tried and true varieties.
That reality is also part of the problem in that it makes products like Roundup so attractive. The company can then come in with seeds that will work best with their pesticides. The end result is a good harvest that cuts into future harvests a little each time. This happens because these herbicides are indiscriminate. They kill beneficial organisms as well as the weeds they seek to eliminate from a field. After time, the soil is less fertile and the dependency on chemicals becomes greater. Organic farmers know this. They operate on older principles that those dictated by corporation that seek efficiency over short periods at the expense of the long-term soil health.
Ms. Linda Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona, NDP):
I find it incredible that not all MPs support this pragmatic, precautionary and important measure in the interests of Canadian agricultural producers, exporters and the Canadian economy.
Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Eastern Shore, NDP):
I want to very quickly talk about [genetically engineered fish] in Prince Edward Island many years ago when I was the fisheries critic. The oceans do a great job giving birth and raising fish on their own through the natural system. The last thing we should be doing is fooling around with fish and genetically engineering them.
Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):
We should look out for the interests of the farmers in our communities. We should look out for the interests and concerns that our constituents have about food security and GE products and what it is that is taking place so rapidly.
Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP):
We want to put a stop to this trend toward shutting the door on exports of key Canadian products that may be contaminated by genetically engineered products coming into our country. At the most fundamental level, we want to look ahead at protecting the livelihoods of farmers.
Mr. Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay—Superior North, NDP):
Genetically modified food remains a far from perfect science. Rather than solving the hunger problems abroad or here at home, we are still not sure we can trust this new technology. At this stage, new genetic food solutions often raise more questions than they answer.
Mr. Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway, NDP):
All this bill is doing is asking the Canadian government to do a simple thing, and that is to study the impact of GE products in our foreign export markets before we venture down a path that may cause destruction. That is no more than asking us to follow the precautionary principle. It is wise, prudent, good for business, good for farmers and good for our food supply.
Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP):
The reality is that it is farmers who are bearing the brunt of the cost of that problem. In addition to the cost of market uncertainty with the collapse of the flax market related to this and lower prices, farmers are paying for the testing and cleanup of their farms. Farmers are now also being asked to forego using their farm-saved seed and to take on the extra cost of growing certified flax seed in 2010 for export to Europe.
Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP):
There are four companies. Monsanto sells more than 90% of all the GM seeds worldwide. Dupont, Syngenta, and Bayer round out the final four. The governments should have paid some attention to this earlier on. As other members of our caucus have pointed out, we do not know the final effect of these crops on the population at the end of the day
Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):
The human species becomes the guinea pig with respect to what the health consequences will be. It does not take into account at all the risk that we are at as we use these types of products and they become the monopoly product. We do not have sufficient seed product that is not genetically engineered. If anything ever happened to the genetically engineered product, we would have no way of replacing it on this planet, and that is a great fear.
Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP):
We must stop being in denial of reality. These genetically modified organisms can spread through nature and interbreed with natural organisms, thereby contaminating non-GE environments and future generations in an unforeseeable and uncontrollable way. Their release is genetic pollution and is a major threat because GMOs cannot be recalled once released into the environment.
Biodiversity must be protected and respected as the global heritage of humankind and one of our world's fundamental keys to survival.
Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP):
To say that we are not taking the concerns of the public forward on these new products that actually influence huge sections of our land and our agricultural production is simply wrong.
Mr. Jack Harris (St. John's East, NDP):
If the Canadian Wheat Board is concerned, I am concerned. If the Canadian Wheat Board is concerned, all Canadians should be concerned. We should all be concerned when the Wheat Board is expressing the need for a proper full and total analysis of the consequences of introducing and licensing new genetically modified organisms.