We say NO to GMO apples in BC!  

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In just two weeks, over two thousand people have signed the following petition:

To the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, in Legislature Assembled:

1. We, the undersigned petitioners, do hereby register our opposition to the unconfined environmental release of genetically modified apples in British Columbia.

2. We join with the BC Fruit Tree Association to oppose the commercial release of the “Arctic Apple”, which has been genetically modified to prevent its flesh from browning.

3. We respectfully request that the BC Minister of Agriculture take all steps possible to prevent the commercial planting of this crop.

Thank you to everyone who signed!

Today I will deliver this petition to the BC Legislature, as well as directly to the Minister of Agriculture. I’ve also formally submitted a redacted version (names removed for privacy) to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Over fifteen hundred of those signatories also left comments, many of them very thoughtful and passionate explanations of why they oppose genetically engineered apples. I’ve included a few examples below and you can read them all here.

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I own a certified organic farm and I know the introduction of GMO crops puts organic farmers at risk from contamination. There is substantial, growing opposition to all GM crops and products. Health risks to humans, animals and the environment are also a major concern. GM industries know a growing number of people don't want to eat GMO, so they refuse to label their products. BC will destroy its markets for non-GMO apples, as well as the organic apple industry. There will be no benefits that can outweigh the damage you will do to your apple industry, if you allow the introduction of GM apples.
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The position of the tree fruit sector should be respected.
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There are serious consequences to GMO and we have no proof of the safety for future generations with these tampered with foods. Keep them out of our agriculture at all costs!!
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There are apples varieties which do not brown so there is no need to use a GMO apple for this reason.
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They claim there is little chance of genetic drift. Even a little chance is too much. Apples are pollinated by bees and bees have about a four mile foraging range, so there is the potential for cross-pollination to occur with any orchards planted within four miles of Arctic Apples. Unlikely, maybe. Impossible, no. What is impossible is removing genetic pollution once it's out there. There is no recalling genetically modified organisms once they've made they're way into the gene pool. Apples are awesome. Why mess with them?

I will continue to press the BC Minister of Agriculture to show leadership on this issue and do all I can in opposition. Thank you very much for your support.

Lana

Lana Popham
MLA Saanich South and Opposition Critic for Agriculture

Public Outrage led to demise of flawed "Animal Health Act"  

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Breaking News!

Public outrage over the proposed “Animal Health Act” has forced the BC Liberals to shelve the Bill.

Over the last few weeks, the Minister of Agriculture and the BC Liberals received a very public dressing-down because of this flawed legislation and I hope they learn a few lessons.

First, British Columbians refuse to turn a blind eye to government attempts to rush through deeply-flawed legislation.

Second, British Columbians are very concerned about potential animal disease outbreaks and how the government responds to them.

Third, British Columbians expect their government to follow our Freedom of Information law, and not to try and hide animal disease information from the public.

Fourth, British Columbians prize free speech and will not accept attempts to muzzle journalists and independent scientists.

Our success in stopping Bill 37 is a victory for those who spoke out against its draconian powers and indeed for everyone who values free speech and open government.
 
Lana

Lana Popham
MLA Saanich South and Opposition Critic for Agriculture

'Animal Health Act' should not become law  

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Screen-shot of amendment proposed
by the Minister of Agriculture on May 29, 2012
Two weeks ago the BC Minister of Agriculture called me “alarmist” when I said his Animal Health Act contained a gag clause that would prevent journalists, independent scientists and indeed all “persons” from communicating information about animal disease outbreaks. 

I was the first person to raise this issue and I suppose the Minister thought my concerns could simply be dismissed.

Fortunately, I was not alone. Today, after hundreds of letters from outraged citizens and dozens of highly-critical media stories, the Minister finally backed down and agreed to amend this clause.

Animal Health Act amendment to clarify who is meant by 'a person'  

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By Andrew MacLeod May 29, 2012 10:13 am

Non-browning Arctic Apple gets chilly reception from B.C. fruit growers  

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The Arctic Apple, a GMO Fruit that has a trait
preventing the fruit from browning when cut.
Okanagan Specialty Fruit photo
VANCOUVER— Globe and Mail Update

Neal Carter was recently at a party in which cut-up apples were served. The problem? The apples sat out for too long and turned brown.
The orchardist and president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. has proposed a solution to this dilemma.
The Summerland-based company has filed an application with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that could see the introduction of genetically modified apples that don’t turn brown.


It will be months, if not years, before a decision on the so-called Arctic Apples is made. However, the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association is already voicing its concern that the genetically modified apples will hurt the market.

Animal Health Act  

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The BC Liberals are in the middle of rushing through a new Bill called the Animal Health Act.

This Bill would create fundamental changes to how BC responds to animal disease outbreaks.

In my view the Animal Health Act fails to strike the appropriate balance between empowering the Chief Veterinarian to take the extreme actions that may be necessary in an emergency, with societal obligations to protect the public interest, ensure due process and be transparent and open with information.

With respect to that last point, it is worth emphasizing that the BC Liberals have promised an "open government".

Genetically modified apples grown in BC?  

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The BC Minister of Agriculture will not speak out against an application to commercially plant genetically modified apple trees in BC. Here is a clip from Question Period today in the BC Legislature



Help me change his mind! Take 30 seconds to sign this petition. Thank you!

Gov't Moving to Keep Farm Disease Outbreaks Secret  

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Changes to Animal Health Act, said to protect public, slammed by NDP, privacy commissioner. 
By Andrew MacLeod, Tyee, May 15, 2012


Making information about diseases on British Columbia farms secret will better protect the public, said Agriculture Minister Don McRae.
 The NDP's critic on the file, Lana Popham, said that approach is unfair to consumers and to other farmers.


"We want the producers to make sure they are submitting samples voluntarily," McRae said in a May 10 interview. "We'd hate to have a scenario where farmers are fearful that the data they give government would be used in a way that's out of their control."
 The measures are included in the Animal Health Act, which got second reading in the Legislature on May 2 and is expected to pass by the end of the month.


Farmers may choose to hide disease outbreaks if they believe the information will become public, McRae said. "The reality is we don't want a scenario where farmers are going to take a potentially ill animal, deal with it themselves, and not make sure we have that information for the safety of the general public and the safety of animals in British Columbia."

I'd want to know: Popham
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act already includes sections that allow the government to keep information secret if its release could harm a businesses interests, said the NDP's Popham.

Rushed 'Animal Health Act' is seriously flawed  

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What a week in the Legislature! Just in the last few days the BC Liberals began rushing through eight different pieces of legislation.

The problem with such haste is that legislators don't have time to do their job properly.

Take, for example, the "Animal Health" Bill introduced and pushed through to second reading just this week. This is an important piece of Legislation that is in my sights as the Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture.

This large and complex bill repeals or replaces four existing Acts. It's primary purpose is to give the Chief Veterinarian extraordinary powers in times of animal disease outbreaks or related emergencies.

I'm sure we can all agree that the government requires wide-ranging powers during such a crisis.

However, in rushing this bill through the Liberals are creating a set of new problems.

One of those is created by this Bill's provisions to exempt animal disease reporting from Freedom of Information requests.

It is very important that the media, scientists and other concerned individuals have access to information about animal disease outbreaks in this province. British Columbians have a right to know - our own health is at stake. And of course there are serious concerns for the welfare of animals, the economic impact of disease outbreak and food security.

And yet, the Liberals have explicitly excluded the information collected through the authority of the Chief Vet from the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act.

For a government that claims to put openness and accountability at the forefront, it is outrageous that they would unnecessarily embed language that is specifically designed to override FIPPA.

And don't just take my word for it. Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham today released a long and scathing letter making exactly this point.

The government will argue that commercial interests require this gag clause. But FIPPA already accommodates the legitimate requests of private business to limit the release of commercially damaging information.

And I'd be the first person to come forward and defend the rights of farmers, but this legislation gives the government sweeping powers to shirk the public interest, and that’s way over the line.

As my colleague and Opposition House Leader John Horgan has noted, the spring legislative session has seen 28 bills tabled to date, including eight this week. To quote MLA Horgan: "the Liberals are showing once again they have a total disrespect for the legislative process.”

There are a number of other significant problems with the Animal Health Bill.  I look forward to challenging the Liberal MLAs on their flawed process of developing legislation and the flawed legislation that is the result.

BC deserves better.

Lana Popham
MLA Saanich South and Opposition Critic for Agriculture