Genetic contamination from GM canola (OSR) in Canada is at such horrific levels that organic growers have had to abandon growing the crop and the problems for conventional farmers, like Percy Schmeiser, are known world wide. But Canada has also been exporting its problems...
From Akiko Frid in Japan:
It was on the first page of one of the farmer's paper in Canada this weekend.
"Isman said the volunteer problem is easily managed by cutting the plants down, pulling them out or spraying chemical on them". (Barb Isman, president of the Canola Council of Canada)
You know who is pulling them out? It is done by worried citizens in Japan. They spend their own energy and time, as well as their own pocket money to go out and pull them up. Because they are extremely worried, whatever the government's "safety assessment" says. Polluter must pay, and Canada should stop exporting GMO contamination to Japan!
Spread of genetically engineered canola contamination confirmed across Japan Canadian GE canola the culprit
Japanese rethinking GM canola
This document web posted: Wednesday June 8, 2005 20050609p1
By Sean Pratt
A country that regularly buys half of Canada's canola seed exports is contemplating whether it will continue to accept shipments containing genetically modified product.
Japan is re-evaluating the regulatory approval of GM canola through a new law intended to ensure the smooth implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an international agreement governing the movement of GMOs.
"If it is not reapproved, GM canola will not be in the Japanese market," said Chie Yoshitomi, third secretary for the Japanese Embassy in Canada. That would be a huge blow to the canola industry, which regularly ships 1.7 million tonnes of seed to that destination. But according to the embassy's agricultural attache the word out of Tokyo is that since GM canola was approved under the old guidelines it is "unlikely" there will be any problem meeting the new requirements. "This will probably be approved, but it's not for sure," said Yoshitomi.
However, the uncertainty over the new Japanese legislation is creating anxiety in canola circles.
"The whole issue of gene technology has become so sensitized that there really is no such thing as a rubber stamp when it comes to the product," said Barb Isman, president of the Canola Council of Canada. "This stuff is studied and tested and mulled over probably more than any technology in the history of food production."
The council has kept a close eye on the progress of the legislation since it was enacted in June 2003, but there have been few developments and Japanese officials are reluctant to divulge when public hearings will wrap up. "That was one of the questions we asked and we were told, 'when it ends,' " said Isman.
GM varieties are currently accepted under a temporary transitional measure but a spokesperson for the Japanese ministry of agriculture was recently quoted as saying a new food and feed safety assessment based on the Cartagena protocol will be conducted in the near future.
Greenpeace Canada campaigner Eric Darier said that review could spell disaster for prairie canola growers. "It could mean that Canadian farmers would be facing another problem in terms of exporting Canadian commodities abroad."
One thing that won't help their cause is the recent discovery of GM canola volunteers growing near a number of Japanese ports.
In February the Japanese Institute for Environmental Studies published the findings of its investigation that found herbicide-resistant canola growing around five of the six ports where samples were collected. Japan's ministry of agriculture has stated there is no need to worry about the environmental impact of the escaped GM seeds, but it has recommended the Japan Oilseed Processors Association clean up the unwanted plants.
The canola council has also been working with the Japanese crushing industry because Canada provides about 80 percent of Japan's seed imports. However, Isman pointed out that the extent of contamination amounted to about 700 plants. "I took 700 seeds and that represents a tablespoon. And we ship them between 1.5 and 1.8 million tonnes per year."
Darier said the incident is galvanizing opposition to GM canola in a country that consumes domestically grown rapeseed, mustards and other related crops. "This GE contamination in Japan is potentially very, very bad news for Canadian farmers who are growing canola."
Isman said the volunteer problem is easily managed by cutting the plants down, pulling them out or spraying chemical on them. However, she remains a little nervous about the broader reapproval process because of its potentially disastrous ramifications and how long it seems to be dragging out. "If you look at this from a scientific perspective we have nothing but confidence. If you look at this from a political perspective I don't know. I can't gauge that," said Isman.