Organic producers see danger on horizon without appropriate protection: Hughes

 OTTAWA – Consumers may have to import organic milk and beef if Canadian alfalfa becomes contaminated by genetically engineered strains claims Carol Hughes.

The defeat of Bill C-474 which sought to ensure any new genetically modified seeds were subject to market analysis before being introduced has the potential to endanger not only the organic beef and milk market, but also Canadian exports of that important feed crop, should modified alfalfa be introduced.

The bill, supported by many farmers in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, was defeated by Conservatives and Liberals Wednesday night after having been debated in a special extended session of Private Member’s Business the night before.

Speaking in the debate, Hughes raised concerns about the current model of factory farming which is fraught with dangers to the soil and fauna that exist and co-exist in a healthy farming environment.

“The company can then come in with seeds that will work best with their herbicides,” said Hughes. “The end result is a good harvest that cuts into future harvests a little bit each time. This happens because these herbicides are indiscriminate.”

Canadian flax producers suffered a huge set-back in 2009 when an illegally-modified flax seed contaminated exports and shut down 35 foreign markets for their produce. The after effects were costly as producers saw the price drop and are now subject to an onerous testing process. It is costing the federal government $1.9 million to help with testing and to repair the trading relationship with Europe.

The defeat of C-474 means that companies will continue to be able to introduce genetically modified varieties including the potential for crops pollinated by bees, such as alfalfa, which could then cross-pollinate heritage varieties; making all crops suspect and of no use to organic farmers who rely on alfalfa as feed for beef and milk cattle.

Genetically modified crops also pose a problem for bees that are in world-wide decline, according to Dr. Reese Halter, who Hughes mentioned in her speech.

“The effects of agricultural chemicals and pesticides combined with a reduction in the variety of food sources available that are at the heart of the problem we are having with bees world-wide,” said Hughes.-