WINNIPEG, Dec 4 (Reuters) - A major Canadian farm organization has called for a national moratorium on producing, importing and distributing genetically modified foods. "We need to pull back the reins and try to get some common sense and a good strong footing on the potential problems with this technology," Cory Ollikka, president of the National Farmers Union told CBC radio on Monday.
The NFU, which represents 10,000 farmers in seven of the nation's 10 provinces, has demanded a federal moratorium on genetically modified (GM) foods until questions regarding consumer acceptance, health, the environment and ownership of the technology can be addressed. The NFU requested the moratorium following its annual convention in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on the weekend. Many Canadian farmers are doubtful of the economic benefits of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and are disconcerted by the push toward biotechnology, Ollikka told CBC radio in Winnipeg.
He said farmers are particularly concerned about the possibility of GM crops being rejected by food companies and importers, and they are also alarmed by the potential of genetic pollution. "We see a lot of these types of products systematically shutting us out of markets in the world," said Ollikka, citing the examples of Japan and parts of Europe where there is growing skepticism about GMOs and a rising government resistance to importing them. In May of this year, Canadian-grown canola was embroiled in a scandal after genetically modified seeds, banned within the European Community, were discovered in seed stocks during routine inspections in Germany.
Advanta Seeds, the British company that produced the seeds, said the most likely source of contamination was pollen blown from GM canola crops grown in Canadian fields. The NFU is asking the Canadian government to launch a formal commission of inquiry, or at least initiate broad public debate, over the merits and risks of producing genetically modified foods. An August survey of 1,000 people by the Canadian Health Food Association found 95 percent believed they should have the right to choose whether or not they buy foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
The government said it continues to work on the issue of producing and labeling GM products. "Canada must continue to assure that the products and processes of biotechnology are subject to the highest standards of scientific testing for health, safety, and environmental impact," the government stated in a recent report. (C) Reuters Limited 2000. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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