Bill C-474 – Scientists reject market acceptance as GM approval factor

Bill C474

Scientists say “no” to Bill C474 while some seed and organics growers support it.  What are your thoughts?  

Dr. Peter Phillips’ (University of Saskatchewan) and Dr. Wilf Keller (Genome Prairie) warn MPs against support of such a bill.  Dr. Phillips’ kindly provided his notes from this presentation and they are attached. 

“…this proposed 42-word, well-intentioned and apparently simple and straightforward amendment is a veritable Trojan horse that would destabilize the vitally important Canadian agri-food innovation system. As an alternative, I strongly urge you to broaden the dialogue to consider how we might truly achieve the stated goals of this amendment—an efficient, effective and commercially viable research, development, regulatory commercialization system that delivers world-class agri-food products…” (Phillips)


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Please check out previous ‘Kaleidoscope’ postings on Bill C474.

Bill C-474 Update from the Council for Biotechnology Information….

Excerpt from CBI’s recent Speak-up Newsletter

Bill C-474 Update

CBI Canada and CropLife Canada continue to monitor and oppose the private member’s Bill C-474, along with a coalition of various groups across Canada. The Bill would require an export market assessment be completed before any new biotech seed varieties are approved for sale. This month, various groups are presenting to the Agriculture Standing Committee with the goal to have the Committee recommend that the House of Commons not proceed further with this Bill, due to the reasons noted below. This recommendation would pave the way for a clear vote to defeat the Bill when the vote finally occurs, most likely this Fall. Speak-Up participants are encouraged to write to your MP contacts to let them know about the benefits of biotechnology and request that the Committee recommend that the House not proceed further with this Bill as it:

* Departs from Canada’s world class, science based and
defendable regulatory system

* Could reduce Canada’s market access opportunities by
introducing new non-tariff trade barriers

* Creates uncertainty for the introduction of innovative and
beneficial new crops

* Leaves us vulnerable to some importers effectively blocking
all exports of biotech crops – even to willing importers

Please email Janice Tranberg –
if you have an opportunity to write a
letter to your MP, respond to letters to the editor, comment on
articles or blogs, or have any other questions on this issue.

Update on today’s Bill C-474 debate… comments and outcomes….

As of today’s debate, Bill C-474 was not referred to Committee. Instead the Conservatives delayed action. There will be another hour of debate in April or sooner. The Conservative Party spoke against the Bill. The Liberal Party mostly spoke against the Bill but left the door open to a debate in Committee…

Quotes of note:

“We have a dominant position in the world in GMOs and so it is important that we consider our future…” Andre Bellavance, Bloc 

“The content and ramifications of the Bill are complex. The wording is problematic. The Member Atamanenko has stated that the Bill was developed in response to the Flax contamination issue. The EU – 70% of our flax export market – was closed due to contamination…if this Bill had been the law at the time, and the study of impact on the market for flax would the knowledge have stopped GE flax and prevented market disruptions?….The Bill does not describe what “market” or “harm” means, we look forward to more debate in the House and maybe debate in Committee.” Francis Valeriote, Liberal, on Agriculture Committee

“This Bill raises the question of how best to manage the market impacts. But we need a process based on sound science. The Canola Growers Association warned to keep the politics out of the decisions. There are technical flaws in the Bill also.” Pierre Lemieux for the Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz

“We need to be very cautious about including any non-scientific issues like public attitudes – this has to be resolved by industry, not government. GMOs have been around for 50 years and are important.” Larry Miller, Conservative, Agriculture Committee Chair

Bill C-474

Bill C-474 was introduced by Alex Atamanenko, the NDP Agriculture Critic and MP for British Columbia Southern Interior. Bill C-474 is said to support Canadian farmers by requiring that “an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.”

Alex Atamanenko’s Letter to the Editor of the Western Producer regarding Bill C-474:

Wed 27 Jan 2010

Dear Editor,

I read with interest the January 21 article in the Western Producer about my Private Members Bill C-474, ‘NDP MP’s Bill Worries Canola Industry’. The article gives voice to the industry preference to avoid the market analysis of new GM crops being proposed by this Bill and presents a rather hollow argument that this could put a chill on R&D. It struck me that there was absolutely no acknowledgement of the market reality which exists internationally towards GM. The recent loss of our flax markets due to contamination by GM Triffid makes it pretty clear that a GM technology that is not accepted by our major export markets has no economic value whatsoever.

European zero-tolerance is the current reality. The outcome of any possible negotiations toward low-tolerance levels in other countries is far from guaranteed and relying on this potential future change in policy leaves farmers with no protection. Is it not more prudent to learn from the current crisis of GM flax contamination and take concrete measures to protect our export markets?

The industry warns against introducing “politics” into GM approvals in Canada but my Bill is about economics, not politics. What are the economic realities for farmers if GM alfalfa or GM wheat are introduced, for example? Is the possibility of market closure an acceptable risk? Do we introduce new GM crops at any cost, even if this cost is our own markets? The reality is that GM contamination happens and is hurting farmers in Canada.
Flax farmers knew that the threat of GM contamination was a danger to their European markets. Unfortunately, they were right. There is nothing in our current regulations to prevent the commercialization of GM seeds that we know would lead to economic disaster.

The biotech industry may wish to avoid this economic reality but the people’s government should not have that luxury. Bill C-474 is meant to ensure that the government provides an analysis of the level of market acceptance before permitting the introduction of new GM seeds. I believe this is a necessary step to ensure that farmers are protected from unwanted GM contamination that could actually destroy their business.

Alex Atamanenko, MP
BC Southern Interior
NDP Agriculture Critic

Genetically modified flax target of bill

“The proposed legislation focuses on the potential harm that occurs when genetically engineered seeds — which are permitted domestically —contaminate a shipment meant for the international market. If Bill C-474 is passed, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would be required to analyse the potential harm to export markets “before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted,” the bill reads.”

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