Many residents have expressed concern about genetically modified organisms in the North Okanagan.

Many residents have expressed concern about genetically modified organisms in the North Okanagan.

Regional politicians won’t speak out against GMOs

Ottawa will be asked to regulate, test and assess the safety of genetically modified foods in Canada.

North Okanagan politicians want assurances genetically modified organisms are safe, but they won’t wade into the contentious debate of whether such products should be used.

Despite significant pressure to speak out against genetically modified crops, the Regional District of North Okanagan decided Wednesday only to ask the federal government to establish the appropriate agency to regulate, test and assess the safety of GMO foods in Canada.

“The regional district has not authority to take a stance for or against,” said director Eugene Foisy.

Director Rob Sawatzky insisted that RDNO can only ask Ottawa to take action and there is no role for local government to play.

“We don’t have the tools and we don’t have the responsibilities,” he said.

“It’s a mandate of the federal government that’s been dropped in our lap.”

The RDNO board had asked its regional agricultural advisory committee to investigate GMOs and the concerns some residents have about public health, food security and the environment.

However, the advisory committee opted not to make a recommendation and encouraged the regional board to determine any policy direction.

“It’s a political issue and many members of the RAAC are volunteers,” said director Mike Macnabb, who chairs the committee.

The closest that RDNO may come to taking a stance is  amending the official community plan in rural Lumby and Cherryville so it references genetically modified organisms. However, that won’t mean such crops are banned.

“It will only be a motherhood statement because we have no jurisdiction,” said Foisy.

Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes will be asked to represent the interests of the RDNO.