Ban demanded on modified crops

Elected officials are being told not to drag their heels on genetically modified crops.

Elected officials are being told not to  drag their heels on genetically modified crops.

About 100 people crammed into the Regional District of North Okanagan office Wednesday to ask directors to oppose cultivation of genetically modified seeds and plants on local farms.

“This is really urgent. We were here in 2011 and still there’s no decision,” said Huguette Allen, with Bee SAFE, a Lumby-based organization.

“How come others (jurisdictions) have made a decision and we haven’t?”

The RDNO board has referred Bee SAFE’s request to the agricultural advisory committee for consideration.

“I look forward to a discussion about the issue – the pros and the cons,” said director Howie Cyr.

Director Juliette Cunningham doesn’t want a one-sided process.

“I want to make sure there is a balance — those for and those against,” she said.

But some board members are already taking a stand.

“I’ve had concerns about what I’m feeding my animals,” said director Rick Fairbairn, who is also a rancher.

“If I keep feeding corn to my animals, I don’t have the ability to not purchase GM corn.”

Allen says three GM crops are already grown in region, with corn leading the pack.

“The next one to be accepted in Canada is the GM apple,” she said.

Bee SAFE is concerned genetically modified plants will lead to cross-pollination of non-GM plants and jeopardize organic certification among farmers.

“Many export markets have been lost due to contamination,” said Allen.

Other concerns for Allen are the potential destruction of bio-diversity, increased chemical use, and possibly undermining family farms and local food security.

Allen admits the request for a ban has some limitations.

“The resolution is not binding and it doesn’t mean you can stop anyone. But it means you can work towards sustainable agriculture and begin discussing a transition plan with GM farmers,” she told RDNO directors.

“If you don’t make a decision, you are making a decision. You are leading us towards industrial agriculture.”