Aprivate member’s bill seeking legislation to assess “the potent ial harm to (Canadian) export markets” from new genetically modified (GM) crops, faces a lot of hurdles.
The House of Commons was to vote this week on whether to extend the agriculture committee’s hearings on NDP MP Alex Atamanenko’s private member’s bill. Extensions are normally rubber stamped, but Atamanenko said this one might not be because the government and Liberals oppose the legislation.
If an extension is denied, the controversial bill comes back to the House of Commons for third and final reading and probable defeat.
However, an extension would result in more hearings, giving Atamanenko more time to try and win support for C-474.
“There’s always still hope,” Atamanenko said in an interview last week.
“People in support of the bill should be talking to their Liberal MPs.”
Witnesses from the biotech industry have told the committee if C-474 becomes law, it will discourage private and public research into GM crops in Canada because assessing market impact is not “science based.”
Atamanenko disagrees. He says federal civil servants, working with the farmers that will be affected, can objectively assess market impact. Even if an analysis predicts some market harm, the government would still be free to commercialize a new GM crop, Atamanenko said.
“It gives government another option and the option is there to protect farmers,” he said. “So the ultimate say is with those people who are elected, not some boardroom in Indianapolis. That’s the difference.”
The Liberals will not support C-474 because it won’t do what it’s intended to do, Liberal Agriculture Critic Wayne Easter said last week in an interview.
“We believe it (C-474) would cause a serious problem on investment in many of our biotech industries within the country,” Easter said. “If you’re going to do any analysis on GMOs it has to be done on a strictly scientific basis. This bill does not lay out in any detail how you would do what the bill claims it wants to accomplish.”
The Liberals supported getting the bill to committee to encourage discussion and debate, Easter said. The introduction of GM alfalfa and wheat will have a serious impact on both markets, he added. Most of Canada’s export alfalfa seed and wheat customers have said they don’t want GM versions of those crops.
“Some serious concerns have been raised that parliamentarians have to find a way of addressing. But this (C-474) will not address those problems in the way it is designed so we will be opposing it,” Easter said. [email protected]
“Someseriousconcerns havebeenraised thatparliamentarians havetofindawayof addressing,butthis (C-474)willnotaddress thoseproblemsinthe wayitisdesigned,so wewillbeopposingit.”
– WAYNE EASTER