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Conservatives Shut Down Debate on Biotech Harm to Farmers

Parliamentary hearings canceled to protect biotechnology corporations

October 28, 2010, Ottawa - Today, House of Commons Agriculture Committee hearings on Private Members Bill C-474 - dealing with the issue of genetic engineering - were canceled and invited witnesses were turned away because, last night, Conservative Members of Parliament voted down a motion to extend debate on the Bill. The motion to extend the debate by 30 days was defeated by just 4 votes.

Bill C-474 would support farmers by requiring that “an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.”

“The Conservatives ended the debate in order to protect the biotech industry from any more scrutiny,” said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. “This Bill spurred the first real debate in Parliament over the negative impacts of genetically engineered crops and that’s why Conservatives shut it down.”

“The vote to extend the hearings should have been an uncontroversial procedural matter but the Conservatives made a calculated political move to save biotech corporations like Monsanto from the spotlight,” said Sharratt.

“The debate was exposing the reality that some genetically engineered crops can cause serious economic harm to farmers and the Canadian economy, and our government currently has no legislative way to stop economically harmful GE crops.” Farmers are at risk when GE crops are commercialized in Canada without also being first approved in our major export markets.

This morning’s Agriculture Committee hearings were canceled and National Farmers Union President Terry Boehm, who was invited by the Committee to testify, was turned away. Boehm traveled from Saskatchewan and planned to speak in favour of the Bill. Many more witnesses, including other farm leaders, will now not have a chance to present to the Committee. The Committee has already heard strong testimony in support of Bill C-474 from organizations representing conventional alfalfa growers. The growers are predicting that Monsanto’s GE alfalfa will harm their markets. “The debate was making it increasingly harder to justify a position against the Bill,” said Sharratt.

The final vote on the Bill could be called within weeks. The Bill was introduced by Alex Atamanenko, the NDP Agriculture Critic and MP for British Columbia Southern Interior.

For more information: Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 613 241 2267 ext 6; cell: 613 263 9511 coordinator@cban.ca

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