Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for April 10, 2013

‘There’s no way there will be zero contamination’

About 25 Yukoners gathered outside MP Ryan Leef’s office at noon Tuesday, joining a national movement against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – specifically, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa.

About 25 Yukoners gathered outside MP Ryan Leef’s office at noon Tuesday, joining a national movement against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – specifically, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa.

Alfalfa is a common crop in the territory, and the genetically modified version is expected to be released in eastern Canada this spring.

“We’re standing in solidarity with farmers across the country today, that are in the same position as we’re in, to try to prevent the release and the registration of genetically modified alfalfa,” said Joanne Jackson Johnson, a spokesperson for Growers of Organic Food Yukon.

Organic farmer Graham Rudge noted that for many, allowing genetically modified seeds into the territory is a matter of wanting unrestricted choice.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is if you take in the GMO seed, you’re taking all of the organic farmers’ choice away. There’s no way there will be zero contamination. Absolutely no way,” Rudge said.

“I’m a second-generation farmer, and the idea is to keep on farming after the folks are gone, and I really hope to keep on doing it as an organic farmer, but if it comes in, I might not be able to do that.

“It just might not be possible, and it’s sad to have that choice taken away,” Rudge said.

Leef, who was at the protest, agreed that Rudge has a valid point.

“The choice to do something should also include the choice not to do something,” the MP said.

Leef met earlier this week with members of Growers of Organic Food Yukon to hear members’ concerns about the release of genetically modified alfalfa to the market.

“The government has said it’s not a political decision; it’s a choice for farmers to make,” the MP said.

“We may find that in the Yukon, there is a lot of support for having the Yukon be an organic zone, or perhaps that farmers aren’t interested in having the chance to have genetically modified alfalfa crops in the territory, and in that case, there’s not a whole lot of compromise that’s required,” Leef added.

“We can just talk about how we move forward to put our stake in the ground that Yukon is a location that’s free of genetic modified crops,” he said.

Leef noted that many of the concerns raised about GM crops need to be considered seriously. They include worries about cross-contamination, the impact on organic farming, and the effects of pesticides on waterways.

But, the Conservative MP still wants to hear from the other side.

“I appreciate their need to want to be able to offer organic crops in the territory and not have anything else imposed upon them, but I also have to open my mind and the door for any other side of the debate as well,” Leef said.

“We all have the same goal here, which is to have a positive agricultural community and a vibrant agricultural community in the Yukon and one that supports sustainability and a healthy environment.”

Following the noon-hour protest, two Yukon MLAs went head-to-head on the issue of genetically modified organisms during question period in the legislature.

Jim Tredger, the NDP’s Energy, Mines and Resources critic, asked Brad Cathers, the portfolio’s minister, to temporarily ban the importation and planting of genetically modified alfalfa in the territory.

“As I stated last week, the last time this topic was an issue of significant debate in the Yukon’s farming community, that debate was quite heated and resulted in the farming community being very divided on the issue,” Cathers responded.

“As I committed to last week, we believe the appropriate action at this time is for government to facilitate dialogue involving groups representing Yukon farmers.”

Tredger argued that the minister’s “inaction is an implicit endorsement of the genetically engineered crops.”

Cathers countered that the NDP MLA’s “rhetoric” does nothing to help debate on the subject.

“We understand that there are very strong feelings on this issue and real concerns from some within the farming community as well as consumers about the impact the potential growth of genetically modified alfalfa and other crops in the Yukon could have,” the minister said.

“That’s why the government committed last week to facilitate a discussion involving these groups in the broader farming community to discuss this issue again.”

Cathers told the Star today his government will consider imposing a temporary ban on GM products, an idea proposed to him last week during a meeting with the Growers of Organic Food Yukon, while discussion gets underway on whether the Yukon wants genetically engineered crops.

The minister noted that the agricultural branch will play a leading role facilitating discussion amongst the farming community. But the finer details of how this conversation will play out remain unclear.

Cathers noted the last time GMOs were raised as a concern in the Yukon, it was considered more a hypothetical concern, as it was generally accepted there weren’t any GM products that were viable for use North of 60.

Now, however, with the expected release of Roundup Ready Alfalfa, the government sees it could be a more time-sensitive question.

Cathers’ department is attempting to obtain more information from the federal government about the potential release of the GM alfalfa but has not received word yet.

CommentsAdd a comment

Denise G

Apr 10, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Since the very beginning GMO products have been forced down our throats.  If there was nothing objectionable about them why did the GMO agri-corps fight so hard to prevent food labels from giving us the full information and letting US decide. 

I would like to see organic and heritage products in the Yukon.  Letting these GMO alien species in will end that possibility.

Jackie Ward

Apr 11, 2013 at 9:19 am

The majority of people could care less about GMO’s. Instead of having a logical debate like an adult would, they will just hurl personal insults at a person who dares question the safety of GMO’s. You see it’s easier on their little brain that way. People’s first clue should be manufacture’s refusing to label their products GMO’s. Why? You shove it down our throats that they are soooo safe. What are you scared of? An informed consumer? Just look south of the border. Everyone’s hero, Obama just signed the Monsanto Protection Act. This provides legal immunity against them if it’s determined GMO’s cause any bad health effects. Why? GMO’s are sooooo safe. Right? Enjoy your sickness and cancer people.

Arn Anderson

Apr 12, 2013 at 10:08 am

Anyone with a forebrain can obviously see GMO companies are playing the same game as the tobacco companies did in the 30s. In Europe they have GMO labelled products, also chemicals and products that have been banned in most of Europe, Russia, Austrailia, Taiwan, Japan, China sometimes, S.Korea, pretty much most of the developed world are totally legal to use in the US and Canada. Stuff that won’t even be used in cleaning products in these said nations we use in our FOOD on a daily basis. But hey, North America has been going downhill for 40 years now and the people here continue to support the same system that threw them overboard about 35 years ago. Keep dilly dallying with the new gizmos, junk-phones and expensive objects that actually prevent you from the magical concepts of critical thinking and questioning.

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