Seeds Regulations Act

An Act respecting the Seeds Regulations (analysis of potential harm)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Alex Atamanenko  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (House), as of Nov. 3, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires the Governor in Council to amend the Seeds Regulations to require that an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Feb. 9, 2011 Failed That Bill C-474, An Act respecting the Seeds Regulations (analysis of potential harm), be concurred in at report stage.
Feb. 9, 2011 Failed 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.”
Feb. 9, 2011 Failed 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.”
Feb. 9, 2011 Failed 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.”
Feb. 9, 2011 Failed 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.”
Feb. 9, 2011 Failed 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.”
Feb. 9, 2011 Failed 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.”
Feb. 9, 2011 Failed 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.”
Feb. 9, 2011 Failed 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.”
Feb. 9, 2011 Failed That 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-”
Feb. 9, 2011 Failed 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”
April 14, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

November 17th, 2011 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thanks to all of you for being here.

And Ted, it's good to see you again. I'm going to direct my first question to you.

You mentioned in your presentation the fact that GE alfalfa is awaiting commercialization. I've been trying to follow this file fairly closely, and I haven't found anyone who feels there is a real need to have herbicide-tolerant alfalfa in Canada, whether they're conventional farmers or organic farmers. In spite of many promises, we know there are basically two traits of GE crops: one is herbicide tolerance, and one is insect resistance. We've seen some problems like super weeds coming; and there are studies linking health questions to the use of glyphosate, etc.

We had quite a discussion on this in the last Parliament, even after my bill on alfalfa was defeated. I'm not sure if it was by Frank or Wayne, but we had a motion to have a moratorium on GE alfalfa and for reasons I'm not going to elaborate, that didn't go through. We tried to get it into Parliament.

But this is specific. It's not as encompassing as my Bill C-474 would have been. Should we all get together and support a moratorium on GE alfalfa until we really do a thorough analysis of the economic effects? Specifically, should we be recommending that our government do this? If that's the case, who should be involved in doing this analysis? Should there be cooperation between the farming sector and government, for example?

Also, the second part of the question, for the record, what exactly are the specific concerns you have as a farmer with regard to GE alfalfa? I'll stop there.

March 24th, 2011 / 11:40 a.m.
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Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm glad it was one of the witnesses that mentioned Bill C-474. At the same time, Mr. Phillips, you are congratulating Mr. Atamanenko for bringing the debate forward in the House of Commons. You know we have even been having trouble talking about it here in committee, because the bill was blocked when the time came for the debate to be extended. The Conservative members of the committee do not want to hear about it. I don’t think your organization wants to hear about it either.

All of you must certainly have expertise and information from all over the place. In terms of adding to the bill an analysis of the impact on international trade, as well as the analysis being done on health and the environment, would you be able to give me an example of a country where an analysis like that has been enforced and where it affected at least one agricultural sector or brought an entire agricultural sector to its knees?

In Argentina, they have a bill like that. Argentina is the second or third largest producer of GMOs in the world. I tried to do the research, but our staff is limited; I am not a department. However, I was not able to find any lawsuits at any time from other WTO countries, or other countries, as a result of this measure being imposed when GMOs are exported. And Argentinians continue to be very large producers of GMOs. Could you give me a specific example where that has caused problems somewhere in the world?

March 24th, 2011 / 11:20 a.m.
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Executive Director, Grain Growers of Canada

Richard Phillips

Thank you, Stephen.

I have three quick points to raise. The first is a misconception about corporate concentration in the seed business and farmers being forced to buy seed from one or two companies. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have here a couple of documents that I will leave with the clerk. The first is from SeCan. SeCan is the largest supplier of certified seed to Canadian farmers. It is a private, not-for-profit, member organization with more than 800 farmers across Canada who are growing, cleaning, and marketing seed. SeCan has more than 430 varieties of field crops, including cereals, oilseeds, pulses, special crops, and forages. Most of the varieties they sell were developed by publicly funded Canadian plant-breeding organizations such as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, provincial ministries of agriculture, and universities. Farmers can purchase these SeCan varieties at most local seed dealers, many of whom are their neighbours. I will also quickly flip through the “Manitoba Seed Guide”, where there are pages and pages of varieties and crops and varieties within the crops for farmers to choose from.

The second point I would like to raise today is about the need to invest in research and innovation. The private sector is a huge investor and has made tremendous advances in three crops: corn, soybeans, and canola. But there is limited private money going into cereal grains, special crops, forages, or pulses. Public research and farmer check-off have historically funded research in these crops; however, investment in public research is lower today than it was in 1994. There have been small increases over the last couple of years, but we have a long way to go. The public sector is important because it often invests in areas where the private sector doesn't, for example, in soil science or on core agronomics and diseases, where there may not be a commercial return, so that if the public sector doesn't do it, no one will. However, we need to encourage private-public partnerships as well, so all the resources available can be brought to the table.

The last point I would like to make is about how safe our crops are. In my hand is an excerpt from a recent book published by the European Commission. It's titled A decade of EU-funded GMO research (2001 - 2010). It's hot off the press. The EU reviewed GMO environmental impact studies, GMO food safety, GMO biomaterials and risk assessments, and risk management. I would like to quote:

The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.

This is coming from the European Union.

In addition to this, the European Union is moving forward to accept low levels of new traits in feed, and there have been over one billion hectares of biotech traits planted in the world to date. I heard a stat the other day. One trillion meals served and not even a headache. Here in Canada we have Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Health Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency all vigorously checking new technologies and traits. The fact is our food is safe.

At the Grain Growers of Canada, we believe the government does not owe farmers a living, but it does owe us a policy environment where we can make a living. So we recommend you do not spend time boxing with shadows on corporate concentration but invest with us in public research, encourage private-public research partnerships, and support a sound science-based system of approvals that ensures any new products are safe for human, animal, and environmental health.

I would like to recognize the good initiative of the committee in looking at biotechnology and searching for answers. Although we may disagree with Mr. Atamanenko and Bill C-474, we still respect that he brings it forward and encourages the debate so that we can explore the issues more thoroughly. Thank you, Mr. Atamanenko, for that. Some of my board members may not like my saying that, but I respect the fact that people bring forward different opinions at this ag committee so we can look at the issues.

Thank you.

March 22nd, 2011 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I certainly oppose the amendment. There has been a lot of discussion by the previous speakers on the motions on the paper, trying to leave the impression that some of those motions are frivolous.

I can tell you that the motion that came forward last March on hogs and the other one last October on hogs were extremely important at that time. I can tell you with all honesty that had we been able to deal with those motions at that time.... I regret not pushing the issue at that time because we were doing other committee business. But I can name you farmers who are not farming now because we didn't deal with that issue. So they were not frivolous motions. Don't try to give me that line.

This motion, the amendment, comes forward at.... There comes a time in parliamentary life when parliamentarians have to make some decisions. Having heard the witnesses during the Bill C-474 debate--

March 10th, 2011 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Having read through the motion, I would say it is a motion that is definitely worthy of consideration and debate. We are in the middle of the biotech study as Mr. Hoback mentioned. We've heard the concerns that farmers and farm groups have about Roundup Ready alfalfa, and I think we need to seriously consider the testimony we've heard. We need to finalize this into a report. We're just not there yet. We haven't heard everybody. We haven't had all the witnesses. We're not at the end of the report. We're in the middle of the report.

So there is nothing wrong with this motion. The issue is just the way in which it was tabled, Chair. If it was so important, I don't understand why there was no consultation. We've worked so hard as a committee to have a good, positive relationship amongst members. There has been no consultation on this at all, and it has basically been strong-armed to the top of the list.

I don't understand that. I think about motivation, and the only thing I can think of, Chair, is that.... Mr. Easter sent very confusing signals during Bill C-474. He supported Alex Atamanenko's bill every step of the way. He voted for it every step of the way except the last step. When it came time to actually pass the bill and move it to the Senate, he voted against it.

He used to be president of the NFU, Chair, and I think some of these groups are very unhappy with him. He's trying to make up the ground now by giving his 10-minute speech on how outraged he is about alfalfa.

As I said, this motion is worthy of more study and more debate. There's nothing wrong with this motion, but the way in which it was presented was completely wrong, and I think it was coming from that advantage, Chair.

I'll just give you an example of some things that need to be considered. There is a move, particularly in Europe, from zero tolerance to low-level presence. What caused undue hardship for our farmers was this zero-tolerance policy of Europe whereby if there was a single grain in there that was GM, the whole shipment was rejected. Of course that is unreasonable. We've agreed on committee that this is an unreasonable approach. It's not manageable, and it's not affordable either for us as the providers of grains and alfalfa or for the purchasers either, because of course they're rejecting crops all over, and the price is going up because the supply is going down. In a sense they are limiting their own markets.

So what are some things that need to be considered before outright bans are considered? There are things like low-level presence. What sort of emphasis should the government be placing on promoting low-level presence, which of course allows for some level of presence to be considered acceptable provided there's no risk or threat to health and safety?

That's the kind of thing we're looking at in committee. What are some of the other factors? It's easy to say...an outright ban, but what are some of the other factors that could actually help the industry and help our farmers? This is one of them. We're starting to see movement.

As you are probably aware--and as, I think, the committee is aware--only one to two weeks ago Europe decided that when it comes to feed they will accept low-level presence. This is a dramatic game-changer. This is a huge shift, and yet it's not considered in this motion.

So I am divided on this, because on the one hand this motion is worthy of consideration, and it's worthy of discussion, and it's worthy of debate. On the other hand, the manner in which this motion was brought in front of committee, the manner in which it was bullied onto the list and bullied to the top, I completely disagree with.

I also disagree with the fact that we are in the middle of a study, and full consideration needs to be given to biotechnology, which as we know and have said many times is not just GM. The GM is just a small subset, a small microcosm, of biotechnology at large, and we are studying biotechnology.

So I think it's important that we continue with our study and that we consider something like what's in this motion as part of the study. It should be a recommendation in the study that can actually be part of what our witnesses said. Right now this kind of stands on its own. There are no reference points on this motion, and we don't know what testimony contributed to it or took away from it.

March 10th, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm still a little disappointed in how we came to this, but that's fine. We're here now. We need to deal with the motion as is.

The concern I have isn't necessarily with the motion itself.

Wayne, I think your heart's in the right place here. When I go to my farmers in my area—we have a lot of alfalfa production—they're concerned about Roundup Ready alfalfa. There's no question about it. They don't know what the drift tolerance is or the pollination areas are. They've heard stories out of the U.S., and they've heard stories out of Canada. There is a lot of information that needs to be looked at and talked about here, for sure. There's no question about that.

I get a little concerned, though, when we start using U.S. data, because you can't use data out of Arizona and then take it into northern Saskatchewan.The logistics are summer versus winter. We have this thing called “winter”. We have our leafcutter bees that go into hibernation, where in alfalfa they could be going year round. The pollination areas can be totally different. I just use that as one example.

But I don't want to defend it; as I said, my farmers are saying very clearly that they have some serious concerns. That's where I was hoping in our biotech report that we could actually start to flesh out what those concerns were and then flesh out what the industry was saying with regard to how they're handling it. I wanted it with Canadian data, not American or European data, because the environmental situation around that data is totally different.

You can't take a data pack out of Arizona and take it into northern Saskatchewan. It just does not work. We need to see that in northern Saskatchewan, if that's the way we want to go.

Now, my understanding is that in 2005 the Liberal government went through the regulatory process on this product and actually approved it. It actually has regulatory approval here in Canada. But I also understand that there is no variety in the registration process at this point in time that is coming forward for this year. This is something that is happening in the U.S.

Now that it's happening the U.S., I have some concerns about the pollution coming up here if they're not able to keep the integrity of their system. Do we do as they did with the honeybees, where they banned all the queen bees coming out of the U.S.? Do we ban all the alfalfa coming out of the U.S. to keep our integrity? Is that where we're going? I really don't know. I don't know what the answer is. But that was point of the study. That's my concern. We're coming out, before we finish the study, with recommendations that may or may not be right. I really don't know.

I'd like to hear all sides of the story before I say yes or no. I just feel I don't have the information in front of me to say yes or no. How do we move forward on this? This is the problem I have, because there are concerns. There is no doubt about that. I think everyone around this committee would say that our farmers are very concerned about the usefulness of alfalfa, especially Roundup alfalfa.

We also understand how important alfalfa is in the fertilization process for the organic sector. They can substitute to peas or lentils in certain parts of the country of Canada to get their nitrogen requirements, if that's an option. But again, I'd like to see the data set here in Canada.

We did have a data set done under the regulatory side of things, to say that it's safe for human consumption. As a government, when you take a step back, when we're talking about human consumption, they're saying there's no issue here, but there is a marketing issue. There is a marketing issue in terms of whether the Europeans will accept it and some of those things.

Those concerns are definitely valid concerns, but what is the role of the Canadian government here? Is it the role to start restricting where and who and what we can sell and where we can sell and what we can't sell? Or is it just to ensure that what we do sell, what you put on your table what you eat, is actually safe to consume, is actually safe for the cow to eat? That's where it starts to get really dicey, because we start going into a grey zone now. Where does it start and where does it stop? You could say, in this situation, on alfalfa, this might be a good example of where you may want to go into that grey zone and say, no, we don't want it.

But then what about canola? If we would have used that example in this scenario, we would not have some of the GMO varieties of canola. We would not have yields pushing 50 or 60 bushels an acre right now in western Canada. We would not have the infrastructure of crushing plants, the employment and the value-added sector in Saskatchewan and Alberta. All that was because we used safe science as the approval mechanism to ensure that the food that we got, the oil that came from the canola seed, was actually safe to eat.

That's why you need to have the science approach, and that's why I'm not willing to bend on the science approach at this point in time unless there's a reason to do it. Is there a way whereby we can accommodate the farmers who don't want to do it? Is there a way to ensure that the guys in organics won't have cross-pollination? I'm not sure. We need to figure that one out.

That is definitely an issue that needs to be discussed, but I don't want to put something like this motion in front of somebody right now without hearing all the sides. That's the concern I have. It's really awkward to have this motion now just because of that: we don't have all the facts in front of us.

I know you'd agree with me, Mr. Atamanenko. You want to hear all the sides before you make a decision.

In some ways, this motion would be better as a recommendation in the biotech study itself. Then we would at least be able to back it up with witness testimony from both sides, and then we could probably address it better.

As I said, though, it's sitting here in front of us, and we need to deal with it. We need to figure out what Mr. Easter is talking about.

He mentions in the motion “Canada's ability to ensure the genetic integrity, production and preservation of a diversity of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), non-GMO and organic alfalfa production”. Well, those issues aren't just in alfalfa. If we were to look at a GMO wheat or a GMO barley somewhere down the road, those issues would also have to be re-addressed in this situation.

Again, you take the balancing of what we need for food requirements throughout the world. We know that organics aren't going to feed the world. I don't care what anybody says. That's pretty well agreed upon among the experts around the world. So if we're going to have people starving just because we want to go to organics, is that the right way to go? Is that a responsible measurement for farmers?

We also know that the organics have a right to make a living. We understand that. They have the right to market their products to be able to put a label on something they believe is right, even if that label has some conditions around it, has some.... I'm looking for the proper word. I don't want to offend anybody. “Regulatory” isn't the right word; what I'm trying to say is “standards”.

When we look at the organic sector and when we're pulling organic vegetables out of the U.S. and Mexico, the standards they're using for their organics sector are very questionable compared to the standards we use here in Canada. Canada has a much different standard system. But the reality is that when we put the label “organic” on there, the consumer doesn't necessarily know which standards are being followed for that product. They know that for wheat it's one set of standards, and they know for lettuce it's another. But if it's coming out of a third country and we have no clue what their standards are, we cannot ensure what they're claiming is true.

So again, it creates an issue in the organic sector of getting them into a situation where they have a set of standards that can accommodate the need for other farmers to use GMO products. What we're talking about is low-level presence so it still meets the organic standard the consumer wants, with the understanding that the farmer next door is producing safe food also and isn't restricting his options.

There are so many issues in this debate. To try to round it up into one motion is very awkward. And I think it's unfortunate, because we have a good study going and we're actually bringing forward a lot of good witnesses.

Even Mr. Atamanenko would agree with me; it's given him an opportunity to bring forward the concerns he had when he brought through Bill C-474. Even though I could not support his motion or his bill--I think he understands why I couldn't support it--I think he appreciates the fact that he can still vet the problems and concerns that he is hearing.

We need to see that report finished before we can start making motions and recommendations. I feel we're only halfway through it.

Mr. Chair, I'm looking at this and I'm just thinking it's premature, at this point, to take any “yes” or “no” on this thing. I really don't know.

I will reiterate, though, that the farmers in my riding are concerned about Roundup alfalfa. It is an issue, and we need to deal with it. We need to have some imagination to do it in such a way that we do not chase away that investment in the GMO and the biotech sectors. As we have heard, GMO is just one small tool in the biotech sector. A lot of the companies are saying it's too expensive a tool to use, so they're using other methods that are non-GMO to bring forward new products.

The pulse sector is a good example of that. If we look at the new varieties coming out of the pulse sector and what they're addressing--the need for fertilizer, the need for water--there is a good example that I think we can look at to see advancements in varieties that are non-GMO that work for everybody.

With that, Mr. Chair, I'll wrap up my concerns. I'll turn it back to you.

March 10th, 2011 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Before I read the motion, I would say to Randy that we will be supporting his Wheat Board motion because we believe they should come before the committee.

The reason that we had to move this up is that with some of the other motions we considered urgent, and still regard as urgent, we find that the government members will--as we've seen here previously--talk it out so that we don't get them forward.

At any rate, the motion that I move is as follows:

That the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food recommend that the government place a moratorium on any approval of Roundup Ready Alfalfa until the government completes public research:

(a) into Canada's ability to ensure the genetic integrity, production and preservation of a diversity of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), non-GMO and organic alfalfa production;

(b) the ability of Canada's handling and transportation system to ensure segregation of forage seeds and detection of genetic commingling in alfalfa seeds and hay;

(c) the development of industry-led, third party audit and verification systems;

(d) that these findings be reported back to the Committee; and

(e) that this motion be reported to the House.

The urgency of this motion in part comes about as a result of the Bill C-474 discussions, including Mr. Atamanenko's motion, and in part as a result of the discussions that we're currently undertaking on biotechnology, for which a number of us have travelled across the country.

Given the U.S. decision on genetically modified alfalfa and allowing it to be commercialized, following that decision, Secretary Vilsack has come out and laid down some pretty tough conditions after the fact. I believe they got the cart before the horse.

So there is a need for this, no question. There's a need for the federal government to ensure that genetically modified organisms such as GE alfalfa do what it is claimed and not what should not be permitted, namely, to cross-contaminate. There is a lot at risk there. We've heard this from many witnesses. The foundation of the organic industry in livestock production is alfalfa. That could be undermined by cross-contamination. So we're worried about that. That's why we need some of the safeguards.

At this time in Canada, the provisions to prevent cross-contamination from occurring have not been demonstrated to be in place. I'll not go through the things that have been happening in the U.S. to prove that. To save time, I'll just make the point that the federal government should ensure that the relevant questions and concerns are addressed prior to approval—not afterwards, as was done in the United States.

This is a moratorium, not a ban. I want to underline that. It is not a ban. The reason for it is to give the Government of Canada the opportunity to ensure that there are no negative consequences from the commercialization of GE alfalfa. Clearly the United States administration is of the opinion that there are reasons to be concerned—thus the call for studies and the development of mitigating provisions.

The course of this action in Canada would be the reverse of what it is in the United States. We believe the studies and the development of mitigating provisions must be in place prior to the approval being granted.

This motion implements a moratorium on the basis of the necessity to address the science involved. It's motivated by a need for scientific information that has yet to be presented. There are a lot of economic concerns and we realize those. Should GE alfalfa contaminate alfalfa, we could lose European markets, undermining the organic industry. And the list goes on.

So there are lots of economic considerations. But what I'm basically saying in the thrust of the motion is let's do the sound science. These studies would be at, and should be at, the government's expense, not the industry's.

The last point I'd like to make that shows the seriousness, I think, of the issue is that according to testimony presented to a committee in the United States, data from GE alfalfa trials in the United States show that 11 of 15 plots were contaminated, despite a 900-metre buffer being obeyed. And some of those plots were 2.5 kilometres away. So some of the buffers we're talking about that would supposedly allow safety have been proven not to in the United States.

In a submission to the USDA last year, the National Organic Coalition cited studies from the USDA itself, which found that “...honey bees can cross-pollinate at distances over 6 miles. Alkali bees cross-pollinate at 4-5 miles. All of those distances are much further than those included in Monsanto's 'best practices.'” That's what was determined in U.S. hearings.

I think that for us as a committee, and for the Government of Canada, it's important that we err on the side of caution and ensure that the federal government addresses these matters prior to, not subsequent to, any approval.

I would go back to 1994. In April of that year, this committee recommended unanimously that the federal government of the day, which was a Liberal government, impose a moratorium on the approval of Monsanto's recombinant bovine growth hormone, bovine somatotropin--or rBST, as it was more commonly known. Health Canada had been posed to grant approval of this product, and it was only after the intervention of this committee that the federal government granted a moratorium on the approval, with the expectation that the concerns raised with respect to that biotech product would be responded to by Monsanto. To date, rBGH has not been approved for use in this country.

I believe this committee did its job in 1994 with one particular genetically modified product. I believe it was the right decision then. And I believe if we were to support this motion today and ensure that these criteria were met, it would be the right decision for this committee to make. It would be the right decision for the Government of Canada to err on the side of caution.

We've heard lots of concerns from the organic industry, and I think we should respect those concerns. Therefore, I ask you to support this motion.

Thank you.

March 10th, 2011 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

I mean, this is absolutely ridiculous. As I said on Bill C-474 in the beginning, we wanted to see it go to debate. I made it very clear in the beginning that we didn't support the bill, but said let's have the debate and discussion. And in fact it's out of that debate and discussion that this motion comes forward. We have seen the seriousness of the issue.

I'm getting a little tired of the attack here, but let's get down to business.

March 10th, 2011 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Yes, Bill C-474; I'm sorry.

We have ample opportunity now to look at the content of this motion as part of our study and as part of our report.

But the other opportunity that we had, Chair, was when we were studying Mr. Atamanenko's bill, Bill C-474. That was a look at GM products, GM agricultural crops. We had debate on it, and Mr. Easter sent out extremely confusing signals. He supported Mr. Atamanenko's bill every step of the way. He did it in the House, he did it in committee, he did it on motions, on debate. When it came time to vote, he voted in favour of Mr. Atamanenko's bill at every single step except the last step. At the last step, he sent a confusing signal to the agricultural community, because he had been going along with Bill C-474, sowing confusion and dissent, and—

March 10th, 2011 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Larry Miller

I presume you meant Bill C-474.

March 1st, 2011 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

I want to thank all of you for taking time out of your day to come to speak to us today.

Peter, I want to thank you for your comments about the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee. My question will be about that.

One of the reasons Mr. Hoback and I brought this motion to have this discussion was that Bill C-474 brought us an opportunity and a realization that issues were unaddressed and that we have to address them.

My question to you, and frankly to Mr. Zettel, is this: will reconstitution of that committee bring the parties together in an equitable, fair way--because there are a lot of stakeholders who should be around that table--that will honour the principles Mr. Zettel has enunciated on behalf of the organic industry so that there can truly be coexistence of organic and non-organic standards?

I am wondering if you talk about low-level presence as one of the possibilities, or not, of compromise. Can you talk about growing distances between GMO and non-GMO crops as one of the possible solutions, or is that unrealistic?

Could I hear from both of you on that issue?

February 15th, 2011 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Thank you all for being here today. I think there's a good degree of balance on the panel today, and that's certainly appreciated.

In that vein, I would say that certainly there's no question in my mind that there are opportunities for those who grow GMOs, non-GMOs, and those who grow organics. I think there are markets out there and there are opportunities, and I think there's a place for everyone here at the table. That's why it's great to see the balance we have here today.

Here in Canada and elsewhere there's an increased demand among some consumers for more local products, to see more local food. There is also a place for the new technologies, the biotechnology aspect of it with GMs, and ways we can reduce input costs for farmers through the technology that's available and ways we can create greater yields, etc.

I think there's a place for both. That's democracy at its finest. It's a choice for the producers to decide how they want to manage their operation, and the freedom to be able to choose what they want to put in and what they want to get out of it. That's really what we're hearing today.

It's all about freedom of choice. That's the same reason I believe there's a need to have dual marketing for wheat and barley in western Canada with the Wheat Board. There needs to be that choice. Farmers should have that opportunity to choose how they market their product and should also have the opportunity to decide what goes into their field.

It comes back again to things like Bill C-474 as well. The best I've ever heard it put was by Richard Phillips, who is at the back of the room here today, who said that Bill C-474 was not much more than an attempt to end all new technologies, in fact all GM technologies in Canada.

That was a very unfortunate piece of legislation, one that did seek to end the choice. So today I'm glad to hear a lot of talk about the idea of the farmers having the option to choose what they want to put into their fields and what they want to take out.

I think I was hearing from Ms. McMullen and Mr. Gowland and Mr. Van Tassel as well that you believe there needs to be choice and that there is a market for both types of growing. Is that correct? Is that what I've heard? Just a quick yes or no on that one.

February 15th, 2011 / noon
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Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Thank you for coming up. I have four or five questions that I will include in this statement.

One of the things about Bill C-474 that made me think this investigation was necessary was that it didn't deal with the issues of corporatization and monopoly. It didn't deal with the right to maintain and own your seed.

Frankly, what I thought about during that discussion and this one was that if at some point Europe okays a low-level presence of 0.5% or 1%, what would happen to the organic industry? Then the analysis that's being done will take that into consideration and will say “Okay, this could be released to a certain degree because they're accepting a low-level presence now”. I'm concerned, because I believe that the organic and the GMO need to co-exist. I don't know how we'll do that.

What would happen if there were an acceptance of low-level presence? I would ask that of Jodi.

The second question would also be for Jodi. You talked about the organics people having a conversation about low-level presence, and it seems that you're conflicted within your own industry. I'd like to know why there is a conflict within your own industry. Are some saying they can accept the low-level presence? Are others saying they won't accept it because they need to be 100% GMO-free at all times?

My third question is with respect to the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee. I'm hearing wonderful suggestions. Jodi, I heard the suggestions that you made at the end of your presentation, most of which I agree with. I've heard suggestions from others.

Last week Manish N. Raizada, who presented in Guelph, came up and gave me and the clerk a number of regulations. In the first prescription, it says that a company that applies for a licence to sell GMO must also agree to sell the exact same crop without any GMO transgenes in order to give real choice to farmers and consumers. Then it addresses different levels of acceptance, depending on risk.

My third question is, when are you guys going to come together? What does it take? Will it take Minister Ritz to put you in a room and tell you to start talking and having these discussions? Will it take a member of Parliament or two to try to gather you together to have these conversations so that you can self-regulate? You talked about self-regulations, Jim, but I don't see it happening.

Can you address those three issues? Jodi, please go first.

February 15th, 2011 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

One of the big concerns, and we heard it in the debate on Bill C-474, is the huge concern about cross-contamination. Our wheat markets especially would have a problem if GM wheat entered that marketplace. Alfalfa is also an immediate concern. It would certainly affect the organic industry.

I believe, Jodi, you said that the producers of GM crops should be responsible for any damage done. What's the view of the others on cross-contamination? Who should be responsible?

Seeds Regulation ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2011 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions on the motions at report stage of Bill C-474 under private members' business.

The question is on Motion No. 1.