NOTE: As a result of the introduction of GM canola (oilseed rape) in Canada, organic canola farmers say they've suffered:
*the loss of market access,
*loss of income,
*loss of choice;
as well as
*loss of control over what they produce,
*how they produce it,
*what value it has, and
*who will buy it.
Organic canola farmers in Saskatchewan say coexistence doesn't work and they want legal redress:
"We ultimately want the present growing of transgenic canola to stop and an environmental cleanup to occur so that we may possibly once again grow organic canola. We in Saskatchewan and Canada want the freedom to grow what we want and what the consumer demands, without GMOs. We want to be able to continue to farm organically, and we want our children and generations to come to have that same opportunity. We want to see the success story that is organic farming continue to flourish in Saskatchewan and elsewhere... The right to farm GMO free, the right to eat GMO free - that is what's at stake here."
And for anyone under the illusion that at least GM crops are turning round the fortunes of non-organic growers, the latest Statistics Canada release on Net Farm Income (May 28th 2007) shows that - despite rising prices and the surge in demand for biofuels - Canadian farmers continue to see declining incomes. In other words, any economic benefits are going to the likes of Monsanto, Cargill and Exxon. Meanwhile, the number of farms in Canada continues its descent - down 7% in five years.
Protecting farms from GMOs
The Leader-Post, June 7 2007
Despite the denial of class-action certification by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ("Organic farmers may appeal ruling", Leader-Post, May 4), Saskatchewan organic farmers maintain there remains a compelling legal and moral claim for damages resulting from contamination of food, field and crops, by genetically engineered canola.
After the ruling, Monsanto's Trish Jordan was quoted as saying all types of farming can coexist "with reasonable tolerances and thresholds for adventitious presence ...", and that Saskatchewan organic farmers should "focus on something positive for your industry instead of trying to criticize what other farmers want to do".
This condescending and insulting advice ignores the fact organic farmers' livelihoods depend on protecting the integrity of the food they produce in a way that meets the demand of their customers, many of whom believe contamination by transgenic material is potentially harmful.
Despite Jordan's assertions that "food and feed products containing ingredients derived from plant biotechnology crops have a solid 10-year history of safe use", consumers have reason to question the safety assessment given GMO (genetically modified organism) crops by government regulators.
A study released at a Paris press conference on March 13 2007 (in the peer-reviewed American journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology), revealed the Monsanto maize MON863 caused serious damage to the livers and kidneys of rats in feeding trials. Prof. Gilles-Eric Seralini, who conducted the study on data initially suppressed by Monsanto, said "this maize cannot now be considered safe to eat. We are now calling urgently for a moratorium on other approved GMs while the efficacy of current health-testing methods is reassessed".
The maize was approved by the European Community on Aug. 9, 2005, and while this study deals with maize, not canola, it exposes shortcomings in the approval process for GMO products.
Saskatchewan organic farmers embrace the precautionary principle and will continue our struggle to protect organic farming and organic food from GMO contamination.
Taylor is chairman of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, Organic Agriculture Protection Fund Committee.