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GM wheat could devastate Canadian farmers, says Greenpeace

(Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- The following information comes from a Greenpeace Canada press release.

REGINA- Canada's wheat growers could suffer devastating market losses and farm management problems, and consumer and environmental safety could be compromised if GE wheat is approved, according to a new report released today by Greenpeace.

The study is the most comprehensive investigation to date of the threat of GE wheat to North American farmers, many of whom actively oppose the crop's introduction. It has been sent to the Canadian government by Greenpeace with a plea to block the introduction of GE wheat and guarantee to Canadian farmers and the public that it will not be approved for growing in Canada.

The study cites six main causes for concern:

  • Loss of Canadian and U.S. export markets;
  • segregation problems and inevitable contamination of fields and food;
  • weakening of Canada's wheat variety registration system and tarnishing Canada's reputation for quality;
  • the difficulties of managing crops would not be offset by claimed benefits;
  • increased, more toxic, pesticide use and ecological disruption are likely;
  • and regulatory flaws mean GE wheat approval could not assure safety for humans or the environment.

"Canada can not put effective, affordable systems in place to ensure that GE wheat wouldn't contaminate the wheat supply and the environment. Such contamination could have huge economic, health and environmental implications," said Dr. Rod MacRae, food policy consultant and the report's lead author.

"Given what is at stake, we are alarmed by the secrecy surrounding the looming approval of GE wheat. Neither the government nor Monsanto will fully inform the public of its status. A Monsanto spokesperson said last week that they are 'open and honest' in their handling of GE wheat. Well, if that's true, come forward, Monsanto, and debate us on the risks," said Holly Penfound of Greenpeace Canada, also a report co-author.

Preliminary arrangements have been made for a public debate to be overseen by an independent third party.

"Monsanto and the Canadian government don't seem to realize that the livelihoods of Canadian farmers and the viability of a key export commodity are at stake," said Marc Loiselle of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, which represents farmers suing for an injunction to halt the approval of GE wheat. "If they really want to be 'open and honest' they'll let an anxious farm community know the status of the application and put an end to this looming threat."

The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate is one of a long list of farm organizations that have been actively opposing the approval of GE wheat in Canada. Other groups include the Canadian Wheat Board, the National Farmers Union, the U.S.-based Farmer-to-Farmer campaign, Manitoba's Keystone Agricultural Producers, and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities.