House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

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The House resumed from November 30 consideration of the motion.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology concerning the extension of time to consider Bill C-452.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it I believe you will find unanimous consent to proceed with applying the vote from the previous motion to the current motion with Conservatives voting yes.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, members of the Liberal Party of Canada are voting yes.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, members of the Bloc Québécois are voting yes.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, members of the NDP will also be voting yes.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Independent

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I support this motion.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

December 1st, 2010 / 6:20 p.m.

Independent

André Arthur Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am in favour of this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #137

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6:34 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-474, An Act respecting the Seeds Regulations (analysis of potential harm), as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Speaker's Ruling
Seeds Regulations Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

There are 10 motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-474.

Motions Nos. 1 to 10 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table. The Chair does not ordinarily provide reasons for selection of report stage motions; however, having been made aware of the circumstances surrounding the committee's study of this bill, I would like to convey to the House the reasons involved in considering these motions.

The note accompanying Standing Order 76(5) reads, in part, “The Speaker will normally only select motions that were not or could not be presented in committee.”

The Chair takes note that the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior sits on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, which was mandated to study Bill C-474. Although I believe that the majority of the amendments in his name could have been proposed during the committee consideration of the bill, they were not.

The bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on April 14, 2010. The committee considered the bill on five different occasions either to hear witnesses or to discuss a work plan. Indeed, the committee was still hearing witnesses when its request for a 30 day extension was denied and the bill was deemed reported back to the House without amendment.

It is to this turn of events that the member for British Columbia Southern Interior referred in a letter to the Chair highlighting that the committee was thus unable to commence clause-by-clause consideration.

The member has therefore submitted at report stage the amendments he had intended to move in committee.

The Chair has carefully reviewed the sequence of events and the submission made by the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior and in its view it is reasonable to afford him an opportunity to propose these amendments.

Accordingly, I have selected them for debate at report stage. I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 10 to the House.

Motions in Amendment
Seeds Regulations Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-474, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 6 on page 1 with the following:

“2. The Governor in Council shall, within 90”

Motion No. 2

Bill C-474, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 10 on page 1 with the following:

“by the Government of Canada, published in the Canada Gazette and taken into consideration by the Government of Canada before the sale of any new genetically en-”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-474, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 11 on page 1 with the following:

“gineered seed is permitted in Canada.”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-474 be amended by adding after line 11 on page 1 the following new clause:

“3. The results of the analysis referred to in section 2 shall be included as part of every application that is made for the registration of a variety of seed and any notification of the release of the seed in question into the environment.”

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-474 be amended by adding after line 11 on page 1 the following new clause:

“3. The analysis referred to in section 2 shall take into account the regulatory systems that govern genetically engineered seed and the crops and products that are derived from that seed in the countries that import Canadian agricultural products.”

Motion No.6

That Bill C-474 be amended by adding after line 11 on page 1 the following new clause:

“3. The analysis referred to in section 2 shall take into account the economic impact on Canadian farmers and exporters whose established markets for registered seed or for the crops and products derived from that seed would be harmed as a result of the introduction of the new variety of genetically engineered seed.”

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-474 be amended by adding after line 11 on page 1 the following new clause:

“3. The analysis referred to in section 2 shall take into account whether or not the variety of genetically engineered seed in question has been approved for use in the countries that import Canadian agricultural products.”

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-474 be amended by adding after line 11 on page 1 the following new clause:

“3. In this Act, “genetically engineered seed” means a seed that has been altered using recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology.”

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-474 be amended by adding after line 11 on page 1 the following new clause:

“3. In this Act, “new”, in respect of a genetically engineered seed, means a genetically engineered seed that was not registered in Canada before the day on which this Act comes into force.”

Motion No. 10

That Bill C-474 be amended by adding after line 11 on page 1 the following new clause:

“3. For the purposes of section 2, “potential harm to export markets” exists if the sale of new genetically engineered seed in Canada would likely result in an economic loss to farmers and exporters as a result of the refusal, by one or more countries that import Canadian agricultural products, to allow the admission of any registered Canadian seed, or crops or products derived from that seed.”

Mr. Speaker, we are here to participate in debate at third reading of my Bill C-474, An Act respecting the Seeds Regulations (analysis of potential harm). The purpose of this bill is to require that an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.

This is not complicated. It makes sense to me to conduct a risk analysis before embarking on something that is potentially risky.

The government clearly believes that the biotech industry should be the only ones with any say over marketing decisions on GM seeds. Perhaps we should consider for a moment how we came to confer this enormous privilege on big biotech.

Devlin Kuyek, from the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, a researcher who has written extensively on the seed system in Canada, recently told the standing committee:

To understand where we are with GMOs in Canada, you have to look at it as a deliberate policy shift that has taken what we call a public seed system with broad-based support from farmers, scientists, and the general public to what we have today, which is essentially a corporate seed system where the research agenda is in the hands of a very small number of corporations, most of them pesticide corporations outside of Canada.

He notes that billions in taxpayers' dollars have been spent over the last 30 years to support biotech companies, while public plant breeding programs have been slashed and privatized.

In September 2009, Canadian farmers and their European customers, who have a zero tolerance policy for unapproved GE crops and products, found that an illegal genetically engineered flax seed called CDC Triffid had contaminated Canadian flax exports. Contamination reached 35 countries.

GE contamination is already hurting Canadian farmers and if a contamination incident similar to the current flax contamination crisis were to happen with wheat or alfalfa, the economic consequences to farmers would be devastating.

What is very disturbing is that we have not had a full and democratic debate at committee, because it was shut down by the Conservative government.

The Conservative government reneged on an agreement that would have given the committee more time to examine the advantages of Bill C-474. As a result, farmers no longer have a say and must resort to public protests in order to stop these big biotech companies that are threatening their export markets. It is completely unacceptable that expert witnesses from around the country, brought to Ottawa at taxpayers’ expense to provide testimony, were turned away at the committee's door when they arrived to make their presentations.

Let us hear what some of these presenters would have discussed with the committee members if they had been given the chance.

Bill Toews, from the Canadian Wheat Board, says that in order for the commercialization of a GM variety to benefit western Canadian wheat and barley producers, there would first have to be widespread market acceptance. He states, “This includes both what governments will approve and what customers will buy, which is not necessarily the same thing. There remains strong and widespread opposition to GM wheat or barley in about half of our markets. This includes, but isn't limited to, the governments of, and customers in, the European Union, Japan, Thailand, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and a number of African nations. Unfortunately, the markets that are most likely to demand non-GM shipments also have zero tolerance for unapproved GM content”.

Mr. Toews goes on to say that segregating GM wheat or barley throughout the bulk handling and transportation system would be impossible. In addition, he points out that there is currently no detection system available to quickly and accurately detect if a GM variety is present in a truck, rail car or vessel and to quantify that presence.

Dr. Rene Van Acker, professor at the University of Guelph, has done extensive research on the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops and trait movement from crop to crop. He has been involved in international collaborations, presentations and consulting work with governments and organizations in Denmark, Australia, Switzerland and the U.S.

According to Dr. Van Acker, “when novel traits are grown commercially outside for any length of time the movement of those traits beyond their intended destinations is virtually inevitable. Once a given trait has escaped into the environment, retraction is difficult if not impossible”.

Dr. Van Acker cautions that trait movement is extremely complicated. It occurs within a complex of crop subpopulations, including the crop and volunteer and feral subpopulations. Trait movement can occur via equipment and via human handling during planting, harvesting, seed cleaning, seed handling and seed storage.

He points to the failure of trait containment in the U.S. StarLink case, where GE corn, approved for animal feed but not human consumption, was found in a number of processed foods in 2000.

Recently, GM LibertyLink rice events escaped contained field trials and were eventually found in many elements of the U.S. commercial rice supply chain, including in certified seed, mills and final consumer products in key U.S. rice export markets. The economic impact to U.S. farmers was over $1 billion.

I would urge my colleagues to visit the online GM contamination registry, which tracks contamination events around the world. The register has documented over 20 unauthorized contamination events in 2010. We must not forget that once the genie is out of the bottle, it is farmers who pay.

Larry and Susan Black, who were also denied their time before the committee, have been farming in southwestern Manitoba since 1978. Their farm is Manitoba's first certified organic dairy farm. According to Mr. Black, “Organic farms have no way to avoid contamination if GM alfalfa is introduced. Alfalfa feeds our soil and our livestock and is an integral part of organic farming. Approving the release of GE alfalfa would threaten our very existence as organic producers. Organic farmers have invested and developed our industry. Government should not allow agri-business to destroy what we have achieved”.

Mr. Black goes on to say that not a single commodity group on the Manitoba Forage Council last year was in favour of the introduction of GM alfalfa.

Stewart Wells, the recently retired president of the National Farmers Union, wrote to the committee about the fact that farmers this year were having trouble selling newly harvested flax because the testing now required to ensure it is GE-free could not be done in a timely fashion, again resulting in further extra costs for Canadian farmers.

He wants to know why it is that because of failures in the regulatory system he should now be forced to pay $205 per test on flax that he has had in storage for several years.

Two varieties of GE alfalfa have already been approved by Health Canada and Environment Canada, and all Monsanto has to do now is register them before they can be marketed and turned loose into the environment.

I have to wonder how rigorous Canada's environment evaluation could actually have been, given a U.S. court ruling and a class action suit that came down recently. The judge ruled that plaintiffs' concerns that Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa will contaminate natural and organic alfalfa are valid, stating that the USDA's opposing arguments were “not convincing” and do not demonstrate the “hard look” required by federal environmental laws. The ruling went on to note that “...For those farmers who choose to grow non-genetically engineered alfalfa, the possibility that their crops will be infected with the engineered gene is tantamount to the elimination of all alfalfa; they cannot grow their chosen crop”.

Arnold Taylor, president of the Canadian Organic Growers, writes in the final thoughts of his submission, “I have spent most of the past 10 years fighting in the courts to protect my organic farm and the organic sector from GE crops. Arguably, I should not have had to do this, as my government should have introduced adequate regulations that ensured organic farmers were not adversely affected by the introduction of GE crops”.

He says, “We have lost the ability to grow organic canola because of the introduction of GE varieties. We almost lost our ability to grow organic wheat, because of the potential introduction of GE varieties, and now industry is trying to introduce GE alfalfa”.

He continues, “Arguably, the threat to organic alfalfa is the most significant yet, because it is a soil builder that fixes nitrogen and other essential nutrients, and if it were to be contaminated with GE traits, this might destroy our way of farming entirely. Arguably, GE alfalfa is not needed in agriculture, as it really offers no benefits for conventional or organic farmers--”