Mr. Speaker, this exchange tonight has to do with genetically modified wheat.
On February 4 I asked the Minister of International Trade what he would do to prevent the loss of access for grain producers to premium foreign markets in view of the importance of non-genetically modified wheat given by prospective buyers abroad.
Unfortunately, the minister's response dealt only with the scientific aspect of the question, deferring the decision to Health Canada and its approval process. However, the decision to allow genetically modified wheat to be produced in Canada is made by the government as a whole and has widespread economic, ecological and political implications.
The question is, why should Canada take precautions with genetically modified grain? I submit that, increasingly, farmers in western Canada are urged by potential customers abroad to produce genetically modified free wheat. I am told that some 87% of all customers request a non-genetically modified guarantee. We are talking of an industry that is worth some $45 million which exports grain to 70 countries, including Japan, China, Mexico, the U.K., Italy, Indonesia and even the United States.
The Canadian Wheat Board is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world and has repeatedly called on the federal government, first, to include a cost benefit analysis throughout the wheat value chain, placing particular emphasis on farmer income. Second, prior to unconfined release of genetically modified wheat and barley in Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board urges the government to examine market acceptance and tolerance levels of genetically modified products so as to ensure benefit to Canadian farmers.
Finally, because there are no genetically modified varieties of wheat and barley approved or registered for commercial production in Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board, in order to ensure the interests of farmers and customers, also calls for an effective segregation process that labels traditional varieties from genetically modified varieties should genetically modified products be released into the marketplace. Thus, accordingly to both the international market and the Canadian wheat producers alike, the introduction of genetically modified wheat poses substantial concern, ecologically and economically.
Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade please tell us why the government seems to be proceeding with letting genetically modified wheat into Canada and why it is indifferent to the requests made so far by farmers and the Canadian Wheat Board?