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.

More developments on the EU Biotech Policy

“…Importing biotech crops for feed and food will continue to be regulated as now. Member states would not be allowed to prohibit the import and/or the marketing of authorized biotech products. The current list of authorized biotech crops for feed and food use includes one sugar beet, three soybeans, three rapeseeds, six cotton and 17 corn products. What would change is that once a new biotech crop is authorized for cultivation, member states would be able to ban it across all or part of their country for socioeconomic, ethical and moral reasons other than those included in the health and environmental risk assessment of the EU.”

EU Biotech Policy Debate Continues
Ross Korves
July 23, 2010

“In 2009 the EU grew 234,000 acres of the one biotech corn (MON810) authorized in 1998. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), Spain had 187,900 acres of biotech corn, the Czech Republic 16,000 acres, Portugal 12,600 acres, Romania 8,000 acres, Poland 7,400 acres and Slovakia 2,200 acres. Germany and France had previously grown biotech corn. Romania grew 360,000 acres of biotech soybeans in 2006 before joining the EU in 2007. A biotech starch potato, known as ‘Amflora’, was authorized for cultivation and industrial processing in March 2010. Austria, Luxembourg and Hungary have already notified the Commission they will prohibit its cultivation.”

Full article at:…

EU Wants to Put GMO Dispute to An End

– EurActive, July 2010 12

The European Commission will tomorrow (13 July) propose an overhaul of the EU’s policy for approving genetically modified (GM) crops, which will allow countries more freedom to ban cultivation on their territory while retaining an EU-wide authorisation system.

The new policy for GM crop cultivation, to be unveiled tomorrow, aims to draw a line under years of stalemate between countries that support GMOs and those opposed to their cultivation. The initiative aims to deliver on a promise made by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso before his reappointment last year (EurActiv 03/09/09).

At present, EU member states are only able to restrict GM crop cultivation under strict conditions, as authorisation licences are valid across the 27-country bloc, in accordance with the principles of the EU single market.

The plans would allow large-scale commercial planting in pro-GM countries such as Spain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, opening up new markets for major biotech companies, while at the same time legally endorsing existing GM bans in countries like Italy, Austria and Hungary.

Legislative proposals
The legislative proposal seeks to insert a new article (Article 26b) into the 2001 Directive on the Deliberate Release of GMOs. The proposed new article allows member states to prohibit cultivation provided that the reasons are not related to GMOs’ adverse effects on health and their environment, or to their socio-economic impact.

Health and environmental concerns can continue to be raised using the existing safeguard clause (Article 23 of the directive).

Meanwhile, prohibition on socio-economic grounds will be authorised under a new Commission Recommendation on guidelines to prevent GM contamination of conventional and organic crops, which will also be tabled tomorrow. The guidelines are set to replace 2003 Commission guidance on national co-existence measures.

Speeding up authorisation processes
The draft new texts also stress that member states should adopt “a more positive stance” on GMO authorisation at the risk assessment stage and “avoid” seizing the safeguard clause to address non-scientific issues.

The idea is to trade a broader right to restrict GM crop cultivation on national territory in exchange for some member states dropping their long-standing opposition to GM crops.

For years, EU member states in the Council of Ministers have been unable to reach a qualified majority for or against GMO authorisations, referring the matter back to the Commission, which has invariably authorised them via a special regulatory procedure.

NGOs denounce flawed proposal
Under the proposed deal, the GMO approval process would therefore speed up. But environmental NGOs Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace argue that restrictions on invoking Article 26b would limit the set of admissible grounds for bans mainly to ethical concerns.

According to them, national decisions based on ethical grounds are likely to be subject to legal challenges brought by crop companies due to the difficulty of defining “objective” criteria in the field of ethics, they stress. A legal opinion on the draft proposal commissioned by the two NGOs argues that it does not provide the legal certainty that member states need in order to adopt permanent bans on GMOs that have received EU approval.

NGOs also note that while the Commission proposals address the banning of GM crops by national governments, there is nothing to protect conventional and organic farmers in countries that decide to allow them.

Business worried about legal uncertainties, single market
EuropaBio, the European bio-industry association, says the Commission’s plan to “nationalise” the GMO issue should be seen as positive step.

But it notes that the “devil is in the detail,” arguing that the draft proposals could in practice cause legal uncertainty as farmers will be able to challenge their national authorities for restricting access to products, for example. The industry underlines the importance of allowing all EU farmers the same choice of technology once it has received scientific approval from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

In this regard, EuropaBio notes that tomorrow’s proposals represent a move away from the EU single market as they would allow member states to restrict products on non-scientific grounds.

New environmental risk assessment guidelines under way
Before a GM plant can be cultivated in the EU it has to undergo an extensive Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) to identify any possible adverse effects it may have on the environment. Following criticism from some member states, the European Commission mandated the European Food Safety Authority’s GMO panel to revise the agency’s guidelines on environmental risk assessments.

The guidelines assess, for example, the persistence and invasiveness of a GM plant, including plant-to-plant gene transfers, its impact on non-target organisms and criteria for setting up field trials.

However, a report analysing the EFSA’s draft guidelines for the environmental risk assessment of genetically engineered plants, presented by the Greens in the European Parliament last week (6 July), argues that the agency fails to properly address risks posed by genetically engineered plants.

The report stresses that there is a “basic misconception” in EFSA’s thinking, which assumes that genetically engineered plants are similar to those obtained by conventional breeding. The Greens argue they are fundamentally different.

Marco Contiero, GM policy officer at Greenpeace, added that if this concept of “substantial equivalence” were taken as a basis, it would be impossible to assess unpredictable long-term effects of GM plants. French Green MEPs José Bové and Sandrine Bélier said that together with the Commission’s upcoming new policy on GM crop cultivation, the EFSA’s current environment risk assessment proposals “would allow companies to reduce risk assessment to just a few studies and to speed up market authorisation for the EU territory overall”.


At present, EU member states are only able to restrict genetically modified (GM) crop cultivation under strict conditions as authorisation licences are valid across the 27-country bloc, in accordance with the principles of the EU’s single market.

Several member states have repeatedly invoked an EU safeguard clause enabling them to suspend the marketing or growth on their territory of GM crops that enjoy EU-wide authorisation, but the European Commission has never substantiated their applications and has always ordered the lifting of national bans.

In addition, the safety assessments performed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have come under criticism over the years (EurActiv 05/12/05 and 10/03/06). The EU executive has tried to introduce practical changes to the EFSA’s GMO-approval process and in spring 2008, it mandated the agency to revise its guidance for the long-term environmental risk assessment of GM plants (EurActiv 12/04/06).

The EFSA itself has been trying to improve the openness and transparency of its work. During the French EU Presidency in 2008, EU ministers also called for the long-term environmental risk assessment of GMOs to be improved.

EU Offers Olive Branch In GM Crop Battle

– AFP, Jul 12, 2010

BRUSSELS – Europe’s long battle over genetically-modified crops will take a new turn tomorrow when the European Commission offers a truce with governments to break an impasse blocking their development.

The European Union’s executive arm will propose to give individual governments the freedom to ban such products in their countries and ask in exchange that states relax their opposition to new crop applications by biotech firms.

The idea has caused alarm among opponents of biotech foods who fear that the proposals would pave the way for GM crops to sprout across the EU. Opponents speak of “frankenfoods” which will inevitably contaminate other crops and for which there can be no definitive evidence of their safety. Supporters argue that such crops have higher yields, resist pests and disease better.

Under the current system, GM crop applications are examined by a panel of experts of members states and need to pass with a qualified majority. In case of deadlock, the decision goes to EU ministers and if the impasse persists, the European Commission is left with the final decision.

While GM crops are thriving in other parts of the world, they represent a tiny slice of the farm business in Europe. France has already taken a hard stance. “We want the conditions for authorisations to be tough. We see a trap in this proposal which consists in calming everybody by letting each one do as they please,” said French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo.…

GM Plantings Explode in Australia!

Stock & Land (Australia)
By Gregor Heard
July 8, 2010

THE advent of commercialised genetically modified (GM) canola cropping in Western Australia in 2010 has seen the national GM canola acreage more than treble, according to Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) estimates.
And although it is the first year of production in WA, the west already makes up over 50pc of the acreage.

There will be 72,790ha of GM canola in WA out of a national total of 133,330ha, grown in WA, Victoria and NSW, with the latter two states in their third year producing Roundup Ready (RR) canola.

Based on the AOF’s June production estimates, GM plantings will make up around 8pc of the total canola crop of around 1.61 million hectares.

Victoria will be the second largest producer, growing 36,500ha and NSW is estimated to be planting 24,040ha.

The big increase in plantings is being seen as a win for the technology, according to its developers, in spite of the fact the overall canola plantings are also up 15pc, due to a combination of pricing opportunities and favourable seasonal conditions.

On a related note, USDA’s planted acreage report shows another increase in the use of biotech seed varieties. USDA estimates 93 percent of the US soybean acreage was planted with biotech varieties, up from 91 percent a year ago. Corn biotech varieties were planted on 86 percent of this year’s acreage, up from 85 percent last year. 

… MORE in Truth about Trade @

Science is not trusted by organic farmers, and that plays against their economic interests

Green thumbs

Genetically engineered crops are more environmentally friendly than
organic ones

By Elliot Entis
April 11, 2010
The Boston Globe


The yield per acre of such organic crops as wheat and beans is
between 50 and 80 percent of the yield of conventional crops


GE outperforms conventional crops: yields from genetically
engineered crops are 36% better for corn and 12% better for soy beans


Since 1997, the reduction in pesticide use resulting from
genetically engineered crops is estimated at 790 million pounds,
or 8.8%, and herbicide reduction in soybeans at 161 million
pounds, or 4.6%

“Farmers who grow Bt-corn [a GE variety that contains the natural pesticide Bt] use 75 percent less pesticides, essentially receiving the benefits of chemicals without releasing them into the environment or leaving residue on the final product.’’ Bt is one of the pesticides organic farmers use to protect their own crops.”

“The organic movement is largely a romantic ideal, far removed in many ways from science. It believes it is environmentally friendly, but it largely avoids science. True environmentalists look at the facts, and those facts do not support the growth of organic farming as a way to feed the world. However, with few exceptions, environmental organizations do not admit to this publicly. Why? Because they share a constituency: citizens who oppose certain elements of mass production farming, who yearn for a simpler time, when things were more natural. But this constituency is built on a shared belief system about the past, not the future.”…