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Low Federal Support for Organic Farming

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On March 29, 2001, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed a caucus Liberal Task Force on Future Opportunities in Farmin.

On March 29, 2001, Prime Minister Jean Chr?en appointed a caucus Liberal Task Force on Future Opportunities in Farming. The 13-member task force has 10 MPs and three senators and is chaired by MP Bob Speller (Halimand-Norfolk-Brandt). Six of the members are farmers, but not one is certified organic.

During the week of September 3 to 7 they had an unpublicized fact-finding tour of Eastern Canada and another one of the prairie provinces the week of September 10 to 14. Finally, on short notice, we persuaded them to visit our organic research and demonstration farm in Davidson, Sask. They came to my home on September 11 and gave us half an hour for four presentations by myself; Arnold Taylor, president of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate; Debbie Miller, president of the Organic Crop Improvement Association of Nebraska; and Merv Ermel, president of both the Canadian Organic Certification Co-operative and our Back To The Farm Research Foundation.

Space does not permit reporting on all presentations; however, the following question and statement had the support of all groups: "Does the Liberal government support the family farm as a basic unit of agricultural production, or will they continue to support the trend to corporate farming? We support the family farm!"

Plant Breeders' Rights

If the government supported the family farm, it would immediately rescind the Plant Breeders' Rights legislation so farmers could regain control of both the family farm and their seed. The legislation was promoted by the Trudeau government and passed by the Mulroney government in 1991. As a result Canadians lost political control of agriculture and farmers lost an excellent plant-breeding system that was previously carried out by government and university researchers.

Why rescind the legislation? There is a war going on between certified organic producers, who are all family farmers, and the transnational corporations who are rapidly taking control of the family farm. Let's be honest. Genetically modified GM plant breeding has nothing to do with feeding world hunger or the improvement of agriculture: Monsanto developed GM canola so it could promote the sale of a stronger herbicide. The previous canola herbicide was not working so the company needed a stronger one.

If certified organic farmers win this war, we will have a cleaner environment, unpolluted water (without pesticides) and nutritious, unpolluted food. If the transnational corporations win, the use of pesticides will increase and so will the pollution of water, food and air. To date it is obvious that most governments are on the side of corporations.

Roundup Really Wrong

The main weapon of war at this time is Roundup Ready GM canola and, more recently, GM wheat. Monsanto has employed Robinson Security of Saskatoon to enforce its contracts and collect a $15 per acre royalty from farmers in Canada. Pinkertons is doing the same in the United States. Security staff are entering farmers' fields without permission to check crops and are flying over farmers' fields dropping herbicide bombs to test for GM canola.

Ironically, Monsanto has no control over its own product. Bees, wind and, recently in Manitoba, a tornado, carried the GM pollen for miles, polluting farmers' fields. This whole procedure is a violation of farmers' rights. One young certified organic farmer told me recently that he would never grow canola again because he didn't want to get involved in the war. Let's be perfectly frank again: Don Robertson, vice president of our research foundation, and I are both World War II veterans, and this is not the kind of freedom we fought for.

Possible Class Action

There are about 1,000 certified organic farmers in Saskatchewan who are farming about one million acres of land. Fortunately, at the last session of the Saskatchewan legislature, legislation was passed that will provide the opportunity to take class action against transnational corporations starting Jan. 2, 2002. Certified organic farmers will have little choice but to take legal action to push for control of their family farm and seed. It is to be hoped that politicians and consumers will understand and support these issues.

There are some positive things on our side. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the right of communities to ban pesticides within their jurisdictions. Halifax has passed a bylaw phasing out pesticides and Toronto has one under consideration. As these large population centres decide to ban pesticides, hopefully the next thing they'll demand is support for a political party that leads the way to a clean environment and an abundance of certified organic food.

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