Ottawa, Monday 20 July 2009. The announcement that Canada has agreed to end its World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with Europe over genetically modified (GM) foods is being greeted as a step forward by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. The agreement between Canada and Europe could lead to a much needed, comprehensive overhaul of Canada`s policies on GM food including implementing the precautionary principle, ratifying the Biosafety Protocol, and establishing mandatory GM food labeling.
Canada and Europe have signed a final bilateral settlement which now leaves the US and Argentina alone in their WTO dispute with Europe over GM food. Canada’s actions indicate a clear crack in the pro-GM front for the first time.
“It seems Canada saw no future in further pursuing the WTO dispute with Europe and has instead agreed to hold bi-annual meetings with the European Commission to discuss GM issues,” said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, a coalition of 18 groups, “Its about time our government began looking towards Europe as a model for reforming Canada`s dangerously inadequate regulations of GM crops and foods.”
The Canadian Government is trying to spin this new agreement as improving market access for GM crops in Europe, but this access already exists and the obstacle for Canadian food exports to Europe is continued consumer rejection. According to Monsanto, by March of this year, the European Commission had already approved all of the GM seeds currently used in Canada. There is no market for GE foods in Europe, including canola, and it is wishful thinking on the part of the Harper Government that Europe will accept biodiesel made from canola — nearly 100% genetically modified — in view of the growing worldwide controversy over biofuels.
“Canada has a great deal to learn from Europe, especially from countries that continue to apply the precautionary principle by refusing GM crops, like France and Germany,” said Eric Darier of Greenpeace, “With new bilateral talks between Canada and Europe on GM, we can only expect that the Canadian Government will rapidly adopt mandatory GM food labeling, as over 80% of Canadian consumers demand the labeling that European consumers already enjoy.”
“By authorizing GM canola rapidly, the Canadian government failed to protect Canadian farmers’ interests like organic farming as well as overseas markets,” says Arnold Taylor of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate.
“This agreement gives nothing concrete to Canada. It has less to do with getting an immediate result on GMOs and more to do with Canada’s agenda for a trade pact with Europe.” said Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians.
For more information: Eric Darier cell 514 605-6497; Lucy Sharratt, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 613 241 2267 ext.6; Arnold Taylor, Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, cell: 306-241-6126 or 306-252-2783; Stuart Trew, Council of Canadians, cell 647-222-9782.