LETTER FROM ONTARIO
The GMO controversy continues
Prince Edward Island is among the latest to join a growing list of regions around the world fighting to become GMO-free zones

Farm & Countryside Commentary by Elbert van Donkersgoed

Editor's NOTE

Elbert van Donkersgoed is the Strategic Policy Advisor of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, Canada. CFFO is supported by 4,500 family farmers across the province of Ontario.

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April 29, 2005: The controversy around transgenic modified foods just won’t go away.

Riceland Foods, a farmer-owned cooperative and the world’s largest rice miller, has asked U.S. regulators to deny a request from a competitor to grow about 200 acres of transgenic modified rice in Missouri. Riceland Foods, as the largest marketer of rice, fears for its world markets. It believes that transgenic rice has no level of acceptance among consumers.

Almost a year ago the agricultural multinational, Monsanto, announced that it had given up on further development or open field trials for its transgenic "Roundup Ready" wheat. That decision was a marketplace decision. Many overseas wheat buyers do not want transgenic wheat. Many overseas countries now have mandatory labeling rules for transgenics. Should consumers choose to buy primarily non-transgenic foods, food wheat will at great risk of being reduced to livestock feed. As livestock feed it would compete with corn and drive feed prices -- already at a 25-year low - still lower.

Also last year Mendocino County in California became the first jurisdiction in North America to prohibit the “propagation, cultivation, raising and growing of genetically modified organisms” in a ballot designed to protect the health, welfare, economy, and private property rights of residents. The concept of GMO-Free Zones is catching on around the continent -- not without controversy. There are currently nine US states with new legislation in various stages of development designed to pre-empt the rights of local cities and counties. In Iowa a new law blocks “a local governmental entity…from adopting or enforcing legislation which relates to the production, use, advertising, sale, distribution, storage, transportation, formulation, packaging, labeling, certification, or registration of agricultural seed.”

In the UK, farm scale trials of transgenic modified crops have been completed. Of the four trial crops, three of the conventional crop varieties tested better for the environment than their transgenic equivalents.

Closer to home, the Prince Edward Island legislature has asked its Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment to hold public hearings on making Canada’s smallest province a GMO-Free Zone. PEI is looking for ways to differentiate its agricultural, fisheries and aquacultural food products in the marketplace. The committee has already held eight hearings -- presenters from all over North America are still waiting in line to have their say. Meanwhile, a Greenpeace-sponsored poll shows that 62% of PEI residents are in favor of PEI being declared a GMO-Free Zone. Elsewhere in Canada, 58% of respondents said they want their province to go GMO-Free.

Finally, I note that the eleventh edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary has added a new word that means genetically engineered food -- "Frankenfood."

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