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PEI Considers Banning Genetically Modified Crops

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Issue: 25 Section: Canadian News Geography: Atlantic PEI Topics: gmos, food security

February 4, 2005

PEI Considers Banning Genetically Modified Crops

by Dru Oja Jay

The provincial government of Prince Edward Island has attracted international attention with its plan to hold hearings on a possible ban on the growth of genetically modified (GM) crops. US and Canadian experts and citizens groups opposed to GM foods are directing their energies to setting a precedent on the island province.

Industry groups like the PEI Federation of Agriculture are urging a more cautious approach. "We need to make sure that any decisions that affect farmers are based on truth and science," a spokesperson was quoted as saying. "Right now, GMOs are legal crops in Canada, approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency."

Critics of GM crops also claim the side of truth and science, arguing that new organisms were approved because of corporate political pressure, not because they were proven safe -- a process they say would take years. Other critics say that GM crops are a sophisticated and possibly dangerous means of asserting corporate power insofar as they are used to control the food production process and extract profit with no benefit to Canadians.

Polls have shown that as many as 70 per cent of Canadians want GM foods labeled, but citizens' groups say that the government has been intransigent.

"Ottawa has ignored Canadians' repeated calls for a public debate on GE foods. The federal government has done nothing to address concerns about the potential harmfulness of these products to our health, environment, and economy," says Nadège Adam of the Council of Canadians.

Several municipalities in Canada have passed resolutions banning the cultivation of GM crops. Except in Europe, where distribution without clear labeling is largely banned, banning the sale of GM crops is another matter. An estimated 60 per cent of processed food in North America contains some GM material.

Industry groups have not responded directly to criticism from citizens' groups, instead focusing on economic arguments. "If the PEI government decides it wants to seriously consider a GMO ban, it had better make darn good and sure those markets really do exist for the non-GMO products -- enough to sustain producers who are currently making a living on GMO products," the PEI Federation of Agriculture spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Canadian Press: Hearings spark interest in possible P.E.I. ban on genetically modified crops

» Council of Canadians: PEI to go GE-free?

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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