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Syngenta biotech wheat article misses the point, says farmer

(Thursday, Sept. 23, 2004 -- Letter to CropChoice editor) --
Hello Robert
I just read your Sept 17th article about Syngenta's GE wheat trials in Canada ('Secret wheat trials in Canada maybe not so secret' http://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=2757 ). I am writing to you to express my disagreement with what you refer to as being able to access CFIA's website to find out the locations of GE crop test plots. The "detailed" tables showing the list of each year's "confined" PNT trials is only as specific as to the province where the trial was done. It in no way comes close to revealing the actual location of the plots or even if it was conducted on government research station sites or on private land.

Your article cites Judy Shaw, government affairs director for Syngenta Canada as saying that "...the trials are public and a continuation of those done in 2002 and 2003." This is an absolutely false statement except for the fact that the trials have indeed been conducted for the past 2 years. In no way can listing the trials on a government website be understood to therefore be public information and the end of what should be posted. What the concerned public wants to know is where precisely the plots are located!

Your article implies that we'll be able to, as of Sept 22, find out where Syngenta's test plots are for the current year. But we will soon discover that secrecy is maintained as has been for many years now. Knowing for example that a certain number of plots of GE wheat are in Saskatchewan, doesn't help me a damn bit in knowing the necessary information as to the actual site locations which should be publically accessible information.

The companies' and governments' arguments that the precise locations are "confidential business information to protect intellectual property rights" to prevent possible tampering or destruction, doesn't wash with the immediate contamination threat these plots pose to neighbouring fields and eventually farmers' seed use and sales and entering food and feed stocks.

Given the enormous potential or already realized impact of GE plots and crops, the least that should be done is allowing the public to be able to access information on PNT/GMO test plots prior to actual sowing; just as the selected provincial government reps are given notice of the nature of the tests and their precise locations a couple months in advance so that they can evaluate that information then sign off on approval for the CFIA sanctioned field trials. An example of that provincial process is that the Provincial Specialist, Oilseed & Transgenic crops - for Saskatchewan Agriculture Food & Rural Revitalization (SAFRR), Bill Greuel, receives notification from CFIA that confined research field tests are proposed. In Access To Information (ATI) documents that I have (same ones that Greenpeace and the NFU have), a letter dated March 22, 2004 was sent by a Heather Arbuckle, Environmental Release Assessment Officer-Plant Biosafety Office of the CFIA, to Bill Greuel alerting him of applications for confined research of GE wheat in Saskatchewan. She writes: "We would ask you to notify us as soon as possible with any questions in regards to this application. If we have not received a response by April 22, 2004 we will assume that provincial officials have no concerns regarding these trials, and will proceed with the final stage of our review process ." Attached to the letter is a table showing the 9 Monsanto GE wheat trials at 7 locations (location detail information withheld from us on ATI copy).

So Mr. Greuel gets complete notification but it is unknown to what extent he consults others about the proposed trials. The simple fact that he represents the transgenic crops sector for the government, appears to provide him with a strong bias towards such crop trials.

Sufficient concern regarding this process prompted me, as a rural municipal councillor, to introduce a resolution to our 2003 annual Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) ....see attached file for copy of the resolution and my arguments in favour of... and the resolution was overwhelmingly supported and approved.

In conclusion, Robert, there has been no change here in Canada about revealing locations of GMO test plots; but be assured that many of us are working to see that changed and in the case of GE wheat we are pushing for a moratorium on research trials and development. Specifically we are targetting Syngenta's GE wheat and will accept no less than their withdrawal just as Monsanto withdrew earlier in 2004.

Also, other transgenic developments such as Roundup Ready alfalfa is being targeted by us now in Canada (was developped in the US by Monsanto), as Monsanto has applied to the CFIA for regulatory approvals.

Marc Loiselle

Communications & Research Director,
Organic Agriculture Protection Fund (OAPF),
‘To preserve and protect certified organic food and fibre production ’
Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD)

Loiselle Organic Family Farm
'Holistic Stewardship for Abundant Life '
P.O. Box 25
Vonda, Saskatchewan
S0K 4N0
tel: 306-258-2192
email: loiselle@sasktel.net

Marc Loiselle's resolution to 2003 annual Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) in March 2003.

Here is the reconstruction of my arguments I presented in favour of the resolution on test plots (see below)

"Mr. Chairman, I am speaking in support of this resolution. (Point of Privilege #4, March 13, 2003)

Based on this association's members' previous voting on the issue of GM grains; it's evident we think that RRW is a bad idea that threatens us in many ways!

I wasn't present Tuesday to hear and question Lyle Vanclief, but I've heard he was defensive in response to a delegate's question about market impact re: 82% rejection.

Based on Mr. Vanclief's response to the 2002 SARM Midterm Convention resolution calling for a "moratorium on the release of new GM cereal crops..."; if the federal government thinks that by cooperating with Monsanto and others, including our CWB, that they can develop and implement an effective segregation system to prevent contamination and losing markets; then they are sadly mistaken.

This response by Vanclief is found in the 2002 Annual Reports that are in all of your package of items for this convention.

On page 73 and 74, the second last paragraph reads as follows:
"Once a biotechnology-derived crop has been granted approval for commercialization, it is treated just like any other commodity crop. Growers are free to implement identity preservation systems for certain specialized types of production and can co-operate with their neighbours to minimize the impacts of surrounding production methods. In 2001 in Canada, the majority of canola production was herbicide-tolerant. As a consequence, cultivation of organic canola using a zero-tolerance standard would not have been possible, but cultivation of other conventional varieties would have been unaffected."

What a lie! 2 research studies have proven that the pedigree non-gmo canola seed stocks are greatly contaminated; and furthermore it is a reality that all canola production in the Prairies is deemed to be GM canola now because of widespread outcrossing.

Vanclief then continues "The CFIA continues to sponsor public research into pollen flow from canola production, and the resulting data can be used by farmers who may wish to minimize the impact of pollen flow from surrounding crops."

I invite you all to please read this letter and judge for yourself if he's really listening to us?! He certainly didn't address the demand of the resolution in question.

If our minister of Agriculture and his ministry think that the introduction of RRW or other GM grains might only affect organic farming, then they've got their collective heads buried in the sand!

This particular resolution is quite self explanatory, although lengthy but necessary to highlight the fact that the very test plots of RR wheat may be threatening the integrity or our current non-GMO market; and RMs and landowners aren't given opportunity to say no to test plots.

Therefore, I ask that you please support this resolution."

(I have actual copy of the letter SARM received from Vanclief.)

Point of Privilege resolution #4 (full length version)
Brought forth at the 98th Annual Convention of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), March 13, 2003.

Submitted by the RM of Grant #372, Division 4 councillor Marc Loiselle, and overwhelmingly approved by delegates representing 292 of the 297 Saskatchewan rural municipalities.

WHEREAS, SARM has 2 previously passed resolutions opposing the registration and release of GM transgenic wheat and cereal crops; and

WHEREAS, in July 2002 Monsanto filed for health approval in Canada, then in December 2002 filed for regulatory approval in Canada and the United States to release its Roundup Ready wheat on an unconfined basis for feed use and commercial production; and

WHEREAS, wheat does spread its pollen, despite its mostly self-pollinating nature, and that the pollen then does drift by wind, insect and other activity; which results in genetic out-crossing to other wheat and similar species of plants; and

WHEREAS, initial research data in Saskatchewan has demonstrated conclusively that wheat pollen drifts to 27 metres and supplementary information indicates as far as 80 metres; and

WHEREAS, the isolation perimeter zone surrounding the Roundup Ready wheat confined field test plots is set at only 30 metres, according to the protocols established for the variety registration trials within the framework of the Prairie Registration Recommending Committee for Grain (PRRCG); and

WHEREAS, there are many more field test plots of Roundup Ready wheat in Saskatchewan, besides the few done for the PRRCG variety registration purposes, for which it is not known what, if any, isolation perimeter zones are established; and

WHEREAS, without substantially increasing any isolation perimeters to allow for the still unknown overall potential out-crossing of wheat, there is already an open possibility that the Roundup Ready gene could be escaping beyond the confines that are currently established; and

WHEREAS, the exact locations of Roundup Ready field test plots is a closely guarded secret known only to Monsanto, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and to Saskatchewan Agriculture, Food and Rural Revitalizationís (SAFRR) Provincial Oilseed and Transgenic Crops Specialist; and

WHEREAS, Rural Municipalities and individual landowners/ratepayers are not notified when and where Roundup Ready wheat test plots are located;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that SARM lobby AAFC/CFIA and SAFRR to disclose the locations of all field test plots of Roundup Ready wheat in Saskatchewan and to give prior notification to SARM, rural municipalities and landowners of the intent to set up such test plots; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in order to safeguard the genetic purity of non-GM wheat, SARM lobby AAFC/CFIA to stop further confined field testing of Roundup Ready wheat until it is known to what extent genetic out-crossing (cross-pollination) of wheat and related species is possible.