by BRIAN LOCKHART
Grain Farmers of Ontario is protesting a proposal that would make the registration of genetically modified seeds in Canada contingent on how other countries view them.
The private member’s bill C-474 passed second reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday. Introduced by British Columbia MP and NDP agriculture critic Alex Atamanenko, the bill proposes to amend the Seeds Regulations Act to require an assessment of the impact of genetically modified seeds on export markets.
Barry Senft, Grain Farmers of Ontario CEO, says the current process has a “clear cut criteria when genetically modified products are brought forward whether they get registered or not.”
The proposed bill, he says, would just create more red tape and reduce the science-based evaluation in the approval process.
And that would create an unfair advantage for foreign competition, he says. “You could have the same type of crop being registered in the United States and not registered in Canada because of our criteria which would give U.S. competitors an advantage.
Countries in Europe with a sensitivity to genetically modified products could use the legislation as a “non tariff” barrier, he adds.
“Given the criteria they’re talking about, this may shut off the whole development of technology just because that one market isn’t accepting to a new technology,” says Senft. “But what about other markets that would be accepting? If you can’t register it, you can’t sell it.”
He says several farm groups who are opposed to bill C-474, including the Grain Farmers, plan to lobby the Agricultural Standing Committee on the issue.
The bill has been sent to the committee for further study. The committee can amend the bill and send it back to the House with changes or recommend that it shouldn’t proceed. BF
— with files from Susan Mann