Okanagan politicians call for B.C. ban on GMOs

B.C. Agriculture Minister Don McRae explains the new $2 million replant program to a mixed group of growers and politictians in an Oliver orchard. - Steve Kidd/Western News
B.C. Agriculture Minister Don McRae explains the new $2 million replant program to a mixed group of growers and politictians in an Oliver orchard.
— image credit: Steve Kidd/Western News

Investigating a ban on genetically modified fruit in the Okanagan is best left to people in higher places, local politicians agreed Thursday.

Directors of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen voted unanimously to refer the issue to a municipal government umbrella group, which it’s hoped will add some heft before it’s sent along to the B.C. government.

“Really, the provincial and federal governments should be considering the consequences of allowing genetically engineered fruit to be grown,” said Allan Patton, the rural Oliver director.

Two weeks ago, he successfully lobbied his colleagues to have the RDOS study the possibility of creating a GMO-free zone in the Okanagan, despite it not having the authority to enforce such a policy. But after learning this week that it would cost upwards of $20,000 to assemble an expert panel to weigh in on it, directors rescinded that motion.

The board then agreed to a new motion calling on the B.C. government to introduce a provincewide ban on the presence of all fruit and plant material that contains genetically engineered DNA constructs. That request will have to first be ratified by the Union of B.C. Municipalities when it meets in October. It’s hoped the motion will then be passed up to the federal level.

Patton is worried that genetically modified fruits will cross-pollinate with more natural varieties and destroy B.C.’s commercial and organic industries. The only way to prevent that, he said, is to ban GMOs entirely.

Cawston director George Bush said higher levels of government should have already jumped on the issue.

However, board chair Dan Ashton said senior government officials don’t usually take notice “until it happens to you or your next-door neighbour. Then the red flags go up.”

The third part of Patton’s motion from two weeks ago, which opposed commercial growing of the genetically engineered Arctic Apple, is still alive.

At that meeting, the RDOS board agreed to write a letter to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requesting it deny an application to put the non-browning apple into production.

Arctic Apple developer Neal Carter, president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, said after the meeting that Patton’s presentation was packed with misinformation, and that “decisions are being carried by fear, not science or real data.”


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