November 9, 2004, Isabelle
Southcott, The Powell River Peak -- CropChoice.com: Powell
River has been presented with the provincial agricultural achievement
of the year award for being declared the first genetically engineered
(GE) free crop zone in Canada.
Julie Bellian, manager of the Open Air Market and organizer of
the Powell River Fall Fair, accepted the award on behalf of the
community at the BC Association of Agricultural Fairs and Exhibitions
annual conference held in Abbotsford last month.
"The fall fair made a presentation describing the success
of a coalition of local Powell River groups who succeeded in having
the regional district [board] officially declare Powell River Regional
District as a genetically engineered free crop zone," she said.
Although Bellian accepted the award she said she did so on behalf
of the Powell River Coalition for Safe Food which includes the Powell
River chapter of the Council of Canadians, the Powell River Farmers'
Institute, the Powell River and District Agricultural Association,
Small Planet Whole Foods, the Sierra Club, local farmers and other
Regional district directors declared the Powell River area as a
GE free crop zone on June 24. Being a GE free crop zone means the
area is free of propagating, cultivating or raising genetically
engineered organisms by people, firms or corporations.
The month before Powell River was declared a GE free crop zone,
Percy Schmeiser visited the area to talk about his fight with Monsanto
and how genetically engineered crops are affecting Saskatchewan
farmers. He is credited with being instrumental in creating awareness
about the issue.
As a result of Powell River's success a national campaign has been
launched to raise awareness about GE issues, said Bellian. Powell
River will also support other agricultural communities and areas
to become GE free, she said, noting that other communities will
look to Powell River for advice and information on how to proceed
in this area.
New local enterprises including seed companies and permaculture
(sustainable organic gardening and farming) have sprung up and are
offering workshops and training opportunities.
Future plans for Powell River include a new community garden with
a training component as part of the Open Air Market. As well, Powell
River's local seed exchange has had an increase in membership this
At the fall fair in September, hundreds of people stopped by the
Powell River Farmers' Institute booth looking for information on
seed saving, said Bellian. "And at least 1,200 pamphlets were
given out on GE free information."