Board adopts GMO statement

RDNO OCP changes in Cherryville and rural Lumby states residents do not support the introduction, use, cultivation or propagation of GMOs

Two North Okanagan jurisdictions will take a stand against genetically modified crops but there is nothing that can be done to officially stop them.

The Regional District of North Okanagan board adopted changes Wednesday to the official community plan in Cherryville and rural Lumby that states residents do not support the introduction, use, cultivation or propagation of genetically engineered (GE) organisms. Producers will be urged to adopt a GE-free policy.

“It’s a motherhood statement,” said Rick Fairbairn, rural Lumby director, clarifying that RDNO does not have the legal ability to ban the use of GMO products by local farmers.

The OCP change originally only included Cherryville, but some residents were upset that rural Lumby was not mentioned.

“Rick, what do you have to lose by doing your job and representing the community?” Carla Vierke asked of Fairbairn during a public hearing. “How did this get by when 93 per cent of residents (in a community survey) are against this and only eight families are for this?”

A rural Lumby resident questioned the process that led to the original draft of the bylaw.

“I want to know who wrote these words,” he said of the OCP amendment. “There’s gross dereliction in duty or an agenda.”

Directors were asked to put their personal opinions about GMOs aside and represent the public.

“You answer to the next generation. You have a chance to be heroes. Make the right choice,” said resident Michelle Saurette.

Fairbairn admits he was reluctant to include rural Lumby in the OCP change because the regional district has no mandate over GMOs.

“The matter is not within the jurisdiction of local government,” he said.

Fairbairn ultimately agreed to include rural Lumby after the public presentations.

“I have an obligation to respect the wishes of constituents and hear and listen to their concerns,” he said.