Date: 8 December 2000
GREENPEACE WELCOMES NFU CANADA CALL FOR MORATORIUM ON GM CROPS
Thursday 7 December, 2000.
Greenpeace Welcomes Canadian Farmers Call for GM Moratorium.
Greenpeace today welcomed a call by the National Farmers Union of Canada for "a moratorium on the production, importation, distribution, and sale of GM food".
Charlie Kronick, Greenpeace GM Campaigner said, "For the last 4 years, politicians and the NFU in the UK have said that if we fail to adopt GM crops that we'll lose out to our North American rivals. As the Canadian NFU has so clearly identified the environmental and economic drawbacks of GM, their call for a ban on GM foods sets exactly the kind of example that farmers, food producers and politicians should follow in this country".
At their Annual Convention, NFU delegates representing members across Canada passed a new NFU policy on genetically modified food. The policy calls for "a moratorium on the production, importation, distribution, and sale of GM food". The policy is reprinted below:
NFU Policy on Genetically Modified (GM) Foods - Preamble:
The NFU believes that all Canadians--farmers and non-farmers alike must engage in an informed debate on the genetic modification of food. Citizens must examine genetically modified (GM) food in the largest possible social, historical, environmental, economic, and ethical context. After that debate, citizens - not the corporations that promote these products - must decide whether to accept or reject GM food.
Squeezed by falling incomes, farmers look to technologies that claim higher returns or reduced costs. Over the past decades, however, farmers have embraced a wide range of technologies, only to watch net farm incomes fall.
Between 1974 and 2000, gross farm income tripled. Net farm income, however, fell. Input suppliers were able to capture 100% of farmers' increased gross returns. Because fertilizers, chemicals, and other technologies failed to fulfill their promises of farm profitability, many farmers rightly question the economic benefits of genetically modifying crops and livestock.
While the benefits are questionable, risks and costs are real. Consumers are rejecting GM foods. Markets in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere are closing and domestic markets are likewise threatened. This is driving prices down.
Closing markets and falling prices threaten to overwhelm any small, short-term economic benefits that GM crops or livestock may offer. Further, the proliferation of some GM crops has effectively deprived many organic farmers of the option to grow those crops.
Further, GM seeds and livestock give corporations increased control over family farms. Any initial economic benefits will be quickly outweighed as farmers are drawn further under corporate control. More than any previous technology--such as fertilizers or tractors--patented seeds sold through contract and multi-page technology use agreements clearly erode farmers' autonomy.
Turning to human health, there has not been a systematic, scientific
investigation of the health effects of GM foods. The unscientific assumption
of "substantial equivalence" is insufficient reason to forgo
comprehensive, independent health testing.
There are also many unanswered questions about the environmental risks of GM crops and livestock. Genetic modification threatens to unbalance the biosphere, create "super-weeds," endanger beneficial insects, and erode bio-diversity. Bio-diversity is a vital source of raw materials for agriculture and an essential component of environmental well-being.
The NFU policy on GM foods recognizes that almost all of the questions surrounding this technology remain unanswered. The policy attempts to introduce precaution and prudence into a process of GM food proliferation driven by profit. Because this technology has the potential to threaten the environment, human health, and the economic wellbeing of farmers, Canadians should debate and study before we plant and eat.
General policy and action plan:
1. The federal government must impose a moratorium
on the production,importation, distribution,
and sale of GM food until questions regarding consumer acceptance, human health,
environmental implications, technology ownership, and farmer profitability are answered to the
satisfaction of the majority of Canadians.
2. Until the federal government respects the wishes
of the people and introduces a moratorium,
the following interim measures will help protectfarmers and other citizens.
Ownership and control of GM food technology
3. All genetic resources and GM technology must be
subject to democratic control, collective
ownership, and not-for-profit distribution.
4. Citizens through their governments, not corporations,
must control genetic research and the
development of GM products.
5. Public money directed to agricultural research
must serve the interests of Canadians. Such
money must be spent on research into sustainable systems of agriculture which improve the
nutrition and safety of food, the health of the environment, and the incomes of farmers.
6. "Terminator", "Traitor", and similar Genetic Use
Restriction technologies, along with the
WTO's Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement, restrict farmers'
right to save, trade, and reuse seed. Thus, they are unacceptable.
7. Canada must work to end the export of GM foods
and seeds to countries which lack
adequate regulation, safety, and inspection regimes to deal with such imports.
8. It is unreasonable to allow genetic modification
companies to privately reap profits and
not require that they also assume all costs. Genetic pollution is one such cost. Companies
producing genetically modified seeds admit that some plants can "outcross" in an
uncontrolled fashion. Genetic pollution seriously erodes the incomes of organic farmers and
those who do not use GM seeds. Government must hold genetic modification companies
accountable for the costs their products create for other farmers and the general public.
9. The federal government must compel companies which
own patents on GM seeds or livestock
to set up contingency funds to compensate for product liability and legislate efficient and
accessible mechanisms to enable liability claims to be effectively pursued.
Markets and consumer acceptance
10. Food products which contain GM ingredients must
be subject to clear, consistent,
11. Labelling, information, and ready access to alternatives
are the three essential elements of
consumers' right to choose. Consumers and farmers must have access to non-GM food
12. The federal government must establish and enforce strict
and effective segregation programs
for cropping, transportation, storage, and marketing of GM crops.
13. No GM crops, livestock, or food products should
be licensed or introduced until major
domestic and international customers have indicated their acceptance.
14. Food--genetically-modified and non-modified alike--must
be adequately tested, regulated,
and inspected. These critical tasks must be performed by a sufficient number of
adequately-funded, independent, publicly-paid inspectors.
15. Independent scientists at publicly-funded and
operated labs under the jurisdiction of the
Federal Minister of Health must conduct exhaustive long-term human health testing on GM
foods. The assumption that GM foods are "substantially equivalent" to their non-GM analogs
16. The Precautionary Principle must be the basis
for assessing the human health effects of GM
food. Where human health and safety are concerned, mere "risk assessment" is not
17. Prior to environmental release, GM seeds, animals,
and organisms must be subject to
environmental assessment. The Precautionary Principle must form the basis for assessing
18. Given that the negative environmental effects
of GM crops--super-weeds, displacement of
species, destruction of habitat, loss of genetic diversity--may be huge, and that the existence
and magnitude of these effects are largely unknown, the Precautionary Principle clearly
indicates that we should not introduce GM plants, livestock, or other organisms into our
The NFU Convention ends Saturday.