Smithers activist Josette Wier demanded actions from the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) board last week in regard to genetically modified crops (GMOs) being grown in the region.
On April 18, 2013, the RDBN board passed a resolution saying the RDBN “does not support the use of GMOs for agricultural purposes within the region.”
However, it is not clear what that resolution really entails.
“It was a very general resolution,” admitted Bill Miller, RDBN Chair, during last week’s board meeting. “Mostly because we don’t have the regulatory authority to change any of that.”
Wier has collected over 400 signatures of residents concerned about GMO crops being tested and grown in the region.
“The large number of signatories speaks for itself and it cannot be ignored,” said Wier. “I’m asking the regional district to stand by its resolution.”
Wier believes current acceptance of GMOs and the pesticides used with GMOs can be compared to smoking in the 1960s.
“You remember the days where you would take a flight and there would be smokers at the back and the rest of us were supposed to be safe? It did not work,” she said. “We do not want secondhand pesticide droplets in the air, in the rain, in our streams or in our bodies. [Pesticides are] like secondhand smoke.”
However, not everyone agrees with Wier.
The Bulkley Valley Dairymen’s Association recently wrote a letter to the RDBN board saying they do not support a ban on GMOs.
“We believe that the agriculture employed citizens of our community should be free to choose or not choose GMO seeds, whether or not to farm organically, and whether they do or do not use conventional modern farming techniques,” says the letter.
Health Canada’s website states that Health Canada is not aware of any published scientific evidence demonstrating that GMOs are any less safe than traditional foods.
RDBN Area A director Mark Fisher says both genetically modified seeds of canola and corn are being introduced into the Bulkley Valley.
“There is no stipulation where people have to register or inform anybody about [the use of GMOs],” said Fisher. “It is a legal product so it is not like they are needing to let other people know what they are doing.”
Wier disagrees, and borrowed a quote from the Prime Minister’s recent remarks concerning pipeline projects.
“This is the party line and the justification for doing nothing,” she said. “I quote Justin Trudeau, ‘Governments grant permits, communities grant permission.’”
Last week, Weird urged the RDBN board to take action.
“I still don’t know what is being done,” she said. “I don’t know what you’re doing [about this].”
The RDBN agriculture committee is planning an agriculture forum Nov. 9 in Burns Lake. Its theme will be the role of local government in agriculture. The invitation-only event will be attended mostly by local government and provincial representatives.
Wier asked that concerned citizens be a part of the forum.
– With files from Catherine Matheson