Greens call for ban on federal GMO research

A ban on federal research into genetically engineered crops, eventual 100 per cent testing of slaughter cattle for BSE and reducing allowable pesticide residues in crops are on the federal Green Party’s policy wish list.

Leader Elizabeth May released the party’s platform Thursday at a press conference in Toronto, featuring a long list of farming-related platform planks based on a goal of “regional food self-sufficiency across Canada” in the launch of a “shift to organic agriculture as the dominant model of production.”

Among those planks are a ban on further research of genetically engineered crops at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, coupled with a ban on corporations “such as Monsanto” owning patents to GE products developed through joint research with AAFC.

The Greens also call for mandatory labelling of all GE foods and food ingredients; a ban on field testing, commercial use, sale or import of genetic use restriction technology (GURTs, or “terminator” seeds); and support of local, provincial and territorial GE organism-free zones.

The party said it would also seek a ban on patenting of life forms and move to ensure that developers of genetically-engineered crops are “liable for any damage those crops cause.”

The party said it would also aim to ensure “quality and wholesomeness of food” by boosting monitoring of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, growth hormones, “non-therapeutic” antibiotics and insecticides in food production, processing and storage.

The goal of such a policy, the party said, would be “an orderly reduction in detectable residues of these substances until they reach undetectable limits.”

The party said it would also aim to tighten Canada’s testing net for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in slaughter cattle by implementing “100 per cent” testing of all slaughtered animals, but only “as soon as the process of detecting BSE in blood samples is perfected.” The party also calls for ensuring no “animal byproducts” are used in ruminant animal feed.

“Credibility problem”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is also targeted for an overhaul in the Greens’ platform, which says the agency “has a credibility problem.”

CFIA, the party said, has “an inherent conflict of interest, mandated to regulate for food safety, while at the same time mandated to promote Canadian food products in Canada and abroad.”

The Greens would amend the agency’s mandate to remove “any obligation to promote Canadian agri-business, ensuring the focus is on food safety and food safety only, with enhanced resources for inspection and monitoring.”

Among other ag-related planks in the Greens’ platform are:

  • “transitional assistance” for those switching to certified organic farming practices;
  • making federal farm support payments “farm-based (not production-based), to encourage more farms and more farmers;”
  • restructuring business risk management programs to help farmers cope with climate risk, especially in disaster assistance;
  • enabling local areas without industrial-scale agriculture to develop “area-specific food safety regulations meeting national standards, without placing undue financial burdens on local farmers and food processors;”
  • negotiating agreements with the provinces to secure “preservation of the prime agricultural land in Canada;”
  • reinstating the Canada Land Inventory program with funding to update and maintain a “comprehensive record of land capability and land use, as a vital ongoing aid to local planning;”
  • making sure supply management systems provide “stable domestic markets” and “viable farm income” but also permit “unregulated production by smaller and family farms that sell to local markets;” and
  • supporting the Canadian Wheat Board, to ensure “fair trading of high-quality Canadian grains.”

In advance of the general federal election on May 2, a national agriculture debate is booked for Monday (April 11) in Ottawa. Kate Storey, a farmer from Grandview, Man. and the Greens’ candidate for Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, will represent the party in that debate.

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