Public Values

Passage of Bill C-474 important victory for farmers

Bill will require analysis of potential harm from GM crops before licensing.

Terry BoehmOTTAWA, April 15, 2010: Last week's vote in Parliament to send Bill C-474 forward to the Agriculture Committee for detailed analysis and debate is an important victory and major step in trying to protect farmers and the Canadian economy from the economic disaster that GM crops can create," said NFU President Terry Boehm.

As the text of the Bill states, C-474 would "require that an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted."

Boehm said: "Triffid flax has demonstrated the serious consequences GM contamination can have. It is time now for the Agriculture Committee to make the Bill a functional reality in our regulatory system­it is not time to kill the idea of market harm assessment."

"This bill will not impede innovation," said Boehm. "Instead, it will make innovators conscious that their work needs to benefit a broad cross-section of society­not just the company selling the product. This is only logical for a healthy society and economy."

Boehm urged MPs not to be swayed by pressure or threats from biotech companies. "The biotech industry has threatened Canadians before; companies said that they would pull out and shut down research when citizens overwhelmingly wanted their food labelled for GM content. MPs bought that bogus argument at the time. Let's hope that MPs do not accept it with regard to C-474. Unfortunately, most Conservatives MPs have already bought that argument­with the exception of two brave Members from that party. Let's hope the rest of our minority-Parliament MPs act for farmers and citizens and do not accept the threats of the biotech industry. We will all be stronger and better off if they stand up to these threats," said Boehm.

Boehm dismissed arguments that our system must be guided solely by so-called "science-based" calculations. He said: "There is an almost superstitious belief that 'science-based' means infallible or beyond question­that someone has 'proven' food A or B is 100% safe. In reality, so-called science-based assessments are largely based on data submitted by companies seeking to sell products. The data is the result of limited testing. And there is little independent verification done in government labs. Most important, so-called science-based assessment of human-health safety or 'substantial equivalence' is largely a simple risk assessment­primarily a mathematical calculation of probability. Once we realize this, it is only rational to ask: In what way is this mathematical probability assessment of human health harm superior to a mathematical assessment of market harm? Why should an economic analysis which is also mathematically based be so scary to the biotech industry?"

"All farmers and Canadians should act promptly to ensure Bill C-474 becomes law," said Boehm.

Posted: April 21, 2010

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