Canada Pushing For Biotech Changes – for Sep. 23, 2010

Canada is pushing international organizations and trading partners to accept low level levels of genetic engineering in crop shipments and adopt science-based trading rules, says Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

Speaking to reporters from New Delhi, India, near the end of a country trade mission, he said he repeatedly raises the issue because of problems Canadian shipments have encountered in Europe and elsewhere over miniscule amounts of GE.

“There’s growing acceptance that we have to deal with the cross-contamination issue.”

In Rome, he discussed the issue with senior officials from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization as well as the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the International Treaty on Plant Genetics.

“Governments and international organizations are coming to recognize that we will need biotechnology if we’re going to feed all the people in the world. It will take a lot of ongoing discussions and education to offset some of the current attitudes.”

Stops in Turkey and India focused on building export opportunities for Canadian farmers. The minister was accompanied by Gordon Bacon, head of Pulse Canada, and Robert Hunter, vice-president of the Canola Council. Both countries are already good customers with the potential for increased shipments as their population and economies grow.

Turkey imported $160 million worth of Canadian agricultural products last year, mostly pulses, oilseeds and grains. Pulse Canada estimates that a free trade agreement that eliminates Turkey’s import duties on Canadian pulses by up to 20 per cent would strengthen the investment environment and continue to drive export growth, which has expanded by 400 per cent since 2005.

The two countries signed an MOU on co-operation on food issues and agreed to technical negotiations on market access issues. There was also discussion of a possible free trade agreement with Turkey.

Last year saw a $100-million increase in food exports to India where Canada has seven trade promotion offices, Ritz noted.

India is also hoping to gain access to Canadian food processing technology, he said. Ritz won agreement to discuss “a long-term solution which would allow pulse fumigation at Indian ports, reducing uncertainty, significant delays and costs to Canadian farmers while ensuring uninterrupted supply of pulses to India.”

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