Saanich chews over genetically modified foods

After weighing in on oil tanker traffic and shark fin soup, Saanich has now set its crosshairs on genetically modified food.

After weighing in on such global issues as oil tanker traffic, plastic water bottles and shark fin soup, Saanich has now set its crosshairs on genetically modified food.

The Healthy Saanich advisory committee will host a public meeting next month to gather input from residents, members of the industry and people involved in food production on issues surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and seed crops.

“Healthy Saanich has a keen interest in local food, but it doesn’t have a particular expertise in the food industry. So we turned (the discussion) over to the Peninsula Agricultural Commission,” said Coun. Dean Murdock, chair of Healthy Saanich. “They came back with a recommendation that Saanich introduce a ban on GMO seed crops.”

While a ban is what the commission recommended, Murdock says actions taken could include a resolution that simply states Saanich doesn’t support genetically modified crops, a municipal education campaign or writing to the federal ministers in charge of agriculture and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

“Exercising the precautionary principle is how PAC arrived at its recommendation for a ban,” Murdock said.

From the advisory committee’s perspective, the unknown health effects of consuming genetically engineered food is worrying.

“There’s too much unknown about the implications. And a few studies in the last year suggested there may be some risk. … But there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence either way to suggest there is or isn’t a risk,” Murdock said. “The flip side of this, through genetic modification and genetic engineering, in some cases food has become cheaper, more accessible, and easier to produce.”

Earlier this year councillors in the City of Richmond endorsed a resolution opposing the cultivation of genetically engineered plants and trees. Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie told the Richmond Review that municipal governments don’t have much jurisdiction on the matter.

“The city does not have the enforcement powers here. So it is a statement of our intention of our consideration of the matter,” Brodie said.

Murdock acknowledged Saanich would be in the same position, should it support a ban. He added, however, that local government has a say.

“We’re simply saying, ‘this is an issue our residents have expressed concerns about,’” he said. “It’s not our intention to step into an arena where we have no authority.”

Anyone interested speaking prior to Saanich making a decision is invited to the Oct. 10, 7 p.m. meeting at Saanich council chambers, 730 Vernon Ave. Speakers are asked to register in advance by calling 250-475-1775 or emailing clerksec@saanich.ca. Written comments can be sent to the same email address.

– With files from the Richmond Review

kslavin@saanichnews.com

 

 

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