October 30, 2008
Genetically-Engineered Free Zone Nearing Reality in B.C.
In less than four months since the campaign's official launch, a devoted group of food security advocates have begun introducing their resolution to municipal councils.
The Deconstructing Dinner column introduced the topic of genetically-engineered (GE)-free zones back in July.
Upon the passing of a GE-free resolution, a region would be sending the message to both within and outside the region, that genetically-engineered plants and trees are not welcome.
The first such region in Canada to become GE-free was Powell River, British Columbia in 2004. They were followed by the Southern Gulf Islands of the province. No other zones in Canada have been created since.
There are, however, other groups working towards the creation of more GE-free regions. A group in the Yukon has been working for almost three years towards the creation of a GE-Free Yukon, and in B.C., there is a province-wide campaign led by the Society for a GE-Free B.C. The B.C. campaign is being coordinated among a number of regions who are currently working towards that same goal.
Located within the interior of the province is the GE-Free Kootenays campaign. Deconstructing Dinner has been documenting the campaign's evolution. GE-Free Kootenays was officially launched in July alongside Saskatchewan farmer and GE opponent, Percy Schmeiser. Schmeiser has received international recognition for his fight against GE plants.
In less than four months since the campaign launch, the group is now making steady progress towards the creation of a GE-free zone.
"Shortly after the campaign launch, we drafted a resolution that was to be presented to municipal councils and regional boards," says campaign spokesperson Kim Charlesworth.
The resolution is a one-page document outlining the many reasons why a GE-free zone is warranted and desired in the Kootenay region.
"Because our region is made up of many municipalities and regional boards, the campaign is now working on presenting this resolution to the region's municipal councils," says Charlesworth.
The key resolution statement reads, "THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the (name of municipal/regional government) hereby opposes the cultivation of genetically engineered plants and trees in the municipality/region of (name of municipal/regional government)."
On October 20, the group's GE-free resolution was presented to the cities of Castlegar and Nelson. Both presentations were received relatively well by the councils.
Following Charlesworth's presentation to Nelson's city council, Councillor Gord McAdams came out as a strong supporter of the resolution. McAdams is currently running for the position of Mayor in the city's upcoming election on November 15.
"We have a history of food production here and our isolation can help with things like GE pollen," said McAdams following the presentation of the resolution. "So I think it's a good area to be a proving ground for this," he added.
Because the Nelson council meeting where the resolution was presented was not a decision-making meeting, McAdams requested that the resolution be tabled to the next meeting for further discussion and a vote.
While it may seem like a daunting task to convince municipal councillors that agricultural issues can be a municipal concern, McAdams did not require much convincing. "Climate change is going to introduce a lot of unknown impacts and make our ecosystems quite vulnerable," said McAdams during the council meeting. "We do not need less biodiversity. GE just moves in that direction."
On that same day, the group's presentation in Castlegar was also met with an enthusiastic interest by the majority of councillors.
There was more time for a question and answer period following the presentation than there was in Nelson and councillors had the opportunity to express their concerns.
Of concern to Councillor Gordon Turner was the seemingly daunting task of trying to enforce a GE-free zone. Campaign organizers assured Turner that GE-Free Kootenays is requesting that a non-binding resolution be passed and not a bylaw. Therefore, no enforcement would be necessary and the adopting of the resolution would simply send a message and a statement of position on the issue. If the cultivation of GE plants and trees ever appeared to be a problem, then a council or regional board who has adopted the resolution could choose to enact a bylaw to manage the concern.
While there were clearly more questions on the minds of Castelgar's municipal councillors, the time allocated to the presentation had already been met and a motion was thereby made to table the resolution to a future meeting.
"We will continue to work with Castlegar's council to make sure their concerns are addressed prior to them making a decision," says Kim Charlesworth.
With the upcoming municipal elections in B.C., the passing of the resolution by one or both councils may be delayed until 2009, but you can stay posted to the Deconstructing Dinner web site for future updates.
Deconstructing Dinner is heard on radio stations across Canada and is available as a Podcast. More information on today's topic can be found at (www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner/103008.htm).
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