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Flax, facts, and Bill C-474

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Written by Darren Moore

On March 17th, Parliament debated a Private Members Bill regarding the regulation of Genetically Engineered (GE) seeds from further damaging Canada's export opportunities, after genetic contamination was recently discovered in Canadian-originated flax.

Bill C-474 was introduced by Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior, NDP), in an attempt to protect Canadian farmers and their livelihood by creating more strict guidelines before the sale of any new GE seed is permitted. If the bill is passed, economic considerations will also have to be taken into consideration before authorizing distribution and use of new GE strains.

The problem stems from the fact that recently, Canadian flax has been discovered to be contaminated with genetically modified genes.

The strain in question is known as Triffid, and it has caused the European Union to halt Canadian imports until the problem can be dealt with.

altThe story is a frightening one for those who oppose Genetically Modified Organisms, (GMO's). In the mid-90's, the University of fda approved viagra sales Saskatchewan developed the GE flax strain, inserting genes from a common weed into at least three types of flax, which once added allowed it to grow in soil contaminated by herbicides.

After the National Farmers Union raised concerns regarding the potential damage to Canadian export markets should the GE flax enter into the system, the in-field crop and all strains were destroyed in 2001. Everyone assumed the problem had been dealt with, that the GE flax had been monitored and contained.

But now the modified Triffid strain has turned up in exported Canadian flax in over 39 countries around the globe. Testing is being done to determine how and when fields of non-modified flax were contaminated with gene strains that were supposed to have been destroyed years ago, but the supplements truth is, we may never discover the origin. Large amounts of seeds and famer's inventories may need to be destroyed to ensure the Triffid strain has left the system.  And to convince our export markets that our flax is not a GE product. With concerns mounting that more nations will begin mirroring the EU's response - turning away ships containing Canadian flax, the $320 million dollar Canadian flax industry could be in severe jeopardy. And that has people, including NDP MP Alex Atamanenko, very concerned; hence the creation of Bill C-474.

alt Atamenko had this to say in the House of Commons, "Already, the federal government has committed up to $1.9 million tohelp the click now flax industry with testing and to build back good trading relations with Europe. This is a small indication of the costs of unexpected GE contamination that can affect trade. This $1.9 million did not compensate farmers for the added testing costs or loss of market."

During the ensuing debate in the House, it became apparent that the Conservatives were intending to vote against the Bill. David Anderson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and cialis suppliers in uk for the Canadian Wheat Board, claimed the Bill was further proof of how the we choice NDP are against GMOs, and that bring up the 'flax issue' was nothing more than a scare tactic. He also accused the proposed legislation as distinctly, 'anti-farmer'.

However, in a press release from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which represents over 200,000 farmers across Canada, the President of the Federation made their stance very clear.

“The varying levels of acceptance of GM-crops by key export markets is a reality Canadian farmers face”, said Laurent Pellerin, President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, in the press release. “Ensuring that these markets are not closed to us because of the technology we adapt should be a government priority as they work to develop more export opportunities for Canadian farmers.”

altThe Bill will face a vote on April 14. The Liberals support the Bill, but have some concerns regarding it's wording. Atamanenko has already suggested - and  Liberal Agriculture Critic, Wayne Easter, spoke in favour of - sending Bill C-474 to the Agriculture Committee for a transparent debate.

As Atamanenko said in the House of Commons on March 29, "We have to decide whom we want to help: the biotech industry or farmers."
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