Group pushes to rid Kootenays of genetically engineered food;


Sara Newham. Nelson Daily News. Nelson, B.C.: Nov 27, 2007. pg. 1.FRON

(Copyright 2007 Nelson Daily News)


If one group of environmental and food security activists has its way, the Kootenays will become a "genetically-engineered free zone," part of a worldwide initiative to stop the production of genetically modified food.


"A group of activists across the Kootenay region met with representatives from GE Free BC and Greenpeace... to discuss the idea of creating a zone throughout the Kootenay region that would see the area having a moratorium on the production of genetically engineered [GE] crops," said Josh Brandon, a Greenpeace agriculture campaigner.


About 25 individuals representing various groups gathered at the Nelson United Church to devise their strategy, a priority of which includes chatting with local farmers to hear their concerns on the issue.


According to a press release issued by the group, GE free zones are regions or districts that have committed to not grow genetically engineered crops or animals. The movement has spread beyond Currently, 3,000 such zones exist including Powell River and the Gulf Islands in B.C.


Brandon explained that genetically engineered plants are pesticide sponges noxious to local ecosystems and biodiversity.


"Kootenay area farmers will likely see benefits from premiums by growing crops they can guarantee are free of contamination caused by genetically engineering," said Josh Brandon, one of the organizers for the conference. "The greatest positive impacts of a GE free zone are seen on the environment. Genetically engineered plants are pesticide sponges, noxious to local ecosystems and destructive to biodiversity.


"What the GE free zone would do is it would allow farmers to have the benefit of being able to say for sure that their product isn't going to be contaminated by a neighbouring field for example that might be growing GE food," added Brandon, saying that in the case of canola crops, the seeds are so small they can easily be swept to neighbouring fields.


If a conventional or organic farmer's products have been contaminated, it may make it difficult to market their products to places where restrictions on genetically engineered food are in place.


Brandon explained that about half of the corn and canola crops in Canada are genetically engineered. These two crops are grown in the Kootenay region, he said but he has no evidence to show if any or how much of these crops are genetically engineered. He explained that studies have shown detrimental effects to the health of rats when those subjects were fed with genetically engineered corn.


Calls to two farming associations for a comment were not returned and when the Daily News called a third group, the Kootenay Organic Growers Society, we were told we would need to submit a written request to the board of directors before the society could comment about the proliferation of genetically engineered crops in the Kootenays.


MP Alex Atamanenko attended the meeting and said he supports this initiative calling the Kootenays an "ideal" location for such a project. He explained that genetically modified food is an issue he will be addressing with the federal government.


"This is one of the areas that I'm going to be pursuing at the federal level, the whole area of not only labeling genetically modified foods but trying to get more research into the effects of genetically modified foods on our health," he said. "There hasn't been a lot of research [on that] so that will be one of the issues I'm taking forward this year."


Credit: Nelson Daily News