Bill C-474 Defeated
Private Member’s Bill C-474, which proposed to alter the way crops derived from genetic modification are regulated, was defeated in the House of Commons by a 178 to 98 vote. The bill, brought forward by NDP agriculture critic Alex Atamanenko last year, has been the subject of a lengthy debate. The Bill would have introduced market acceptance criteria to the introduction of a new genetically modified seed. Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says it is critical that our system remain based firmly in science, not in politics. He said it was “troubling that the Liberals and NDP would not stand unanimously with farmers against this short-sighted bill.”
The Canadian canola industry applauded the defeat, saying it is good news for canola farmers who rely on the advancement of new varieties to keep them competitive in the global oilseed market. “The changes proposed in Bill C-474 would have only added ambiguity and uncertainty to our seed system with the end result being a loss of innovation and competitiveness for farmers,” says Ed Schafer, president of the Canadian Canola Growers’ Association. “Most of the canola we grow in Canada is from varieties that benefit from traits created with biotechnology. With over 80 per cent of Canada’s canola products destined for export markets, we’ve always been mindful of meeting export market demands.”
Pioneer Receives Canadian Approval on Insect Protection Trait
Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, has received approval of Optimum Intrasect insect protection designed to allow corn growers in Canada to significantly reduce their structured above-ground refuge. Optimum Intrasect insect protection offers dual mode above-ground insect protection and reduced refuge requirements. Reduced above-ground refuge is a key step toward Pioneer’s next generation single-bag refuge solutions. Pioneer-brand hybrids with the Optimum Intrasect insect protection trait combination of Herculex I and YieldGard Corn Borer were approved after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency accepted an amendment to reduce structured refuge from 20 per cent to five per cent in Canada. In addition to reduced refuge, hybrids with Optimum Intrasect insect protection offer Canadian corn growers protection from key above-ground insects including the European corn borer, western bean cutworm and black cutworm. For 2011, Pioneer will have wide-scale, on-farm demonstrations of Optimum Intrasect hybrids across North America. Growers will have the opportunity to experience first-hand product performance and the benefits of reduced, structured refuge.
Monsanto Seeks Approval for New Bean
Monsanto Canada is seeking approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada for unconfined environmental release for commercial planting purposes and livestock feed and food use of a soybean line designated as MON 87708, which has been genetically modified to tolerate the herbicide dicamba. The submission received is in accordance with CFIA guidelines for assessment of plants with novel traits for unconfined release and for assessment of novel feeds from plant sources, as well as Health Canada guidelines for assessment of novel foods.
USDA Finds RR Alfalfa Safe
On January 27, 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced its decision to grant non-regulated status for alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to be resistant to Roundup. “After a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement APHIS has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa,” says agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack. After releasing a final environmental impact statement in December 2010, USDA took another step to ensure this issue received the broadest examination before making its final decision. USDA brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss feasible strategies for coexistence between genetically engineered, organic and other non-GE stakeholders. The stakeholders helped to identify areas of consensus; issues where the group disagreed and opportunities for further dialogue exist; and areas where the USDA could—or should—play an important role. The USDA decision comes in time for spring planting.
Turkey to Import GM Animal Feed
The Turkish Biosafety Commission has permitted the use of three types of genetically modified soybeans in animal feed, according to the Turkish Animal Feed Producer’s Union. Turkey currently imports soybeans from the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, however, Turkey’s soybean production is insufficient to meet increasing demand. Due to the recent issuing of a biosafety law, importing GM soy products was banned in Turkey. Now, for the first time, the commission has permitted GM soybeans to be used in animal feed.
GM Crops May Be Allowed into Britain
Genetically modified crops may be allowed to enter the United Kingdom’s food chain without the need for regulatory clearance for the first time under controversial plans expected to be approved this month. According to recent reports, the U.K. intends to back European Union plans permitting the import of animal feed containing traces of unauthorized GM crops. Importing animal feed containing traces of GM crops must, at present, be authorized by European regulators. But a recent vote in favour of the scheme put forward by the EU’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health would overturn the EU’s zero-tolerance policy towards the import of unauthorized GM crops.
EFSA Publishes Guidance of Impact of GM Plants
The European Food Safety Authority has published updated guidance for the environmental risk assessment of genetically modified plants. Scientific experts on EFSA’s GMO panel have updated and further developed guidance for the environmental assessment of GM applications submitted for authorization in the EU, with respect to data generation, collection and analysis. In the guidance, EFSA reviewed and updated seven specific areas that needed to be addressed when assessing the environmental impact of a GM plant. These include: the persistence and invasiveness of the GM plant, taking into account possible plant-to-plant gene transfer; the likelihood and consequences of gene transfer from the plant to microorganisms; the potential evolution of resistance in target organisms; the potential effects on non-target organisms; the biogeochemical processes, such as changes in soil composition and the potential impact of the cultivation, management, and harvesting techniques of the GM plant.
EC Clears Syngenta’s Purchase of Sunflower Seed Business
The European Commission has cleared, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of the global sunflower seed business of Monsanto Company by Syngenta of Switzerland. The notified transaction combines two leading sunflower seed suppliers in Europe, with significant breeding activities. The decision is conditional upon the divestment of Monsanto’s sunflower hybrids, commercialized or under official trial in Spain and Hungary, as well as the parental lines used in the creation of those hybrids or currently under development for the creation of hybrids for Spain and Hungary. The EC concluded the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the internal market or any substantial part of it.