Say NO to Genetic Engineering

P.O. Box 20228
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 7A2

Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to table a response to Petition No. 07-1-4 regarding a 10-year moratorium on the seeding of genetically engineered crops in the Yukon, which was received by this House on November 26, 2007.

I would like to thank all those who signed the petition and brought this issue to our attention. This is a very complex subject of national significance with the consideration not only to our environment, as noted by the petitioners, but also to economic and human health.

Genetically engineered crops are plants that have DNA that contain genetic material from another organism. Within the last 30 years, scientists have gained the unprecedented ability to genetically engineer plants to grow with specific characteristics.

Research on the use and impact of genetically engineered crops has been ongoing for over a decade in southern Canada, and we depend upon the research of our federal and provincial colleagues to understand the impact of this technology on human and environmental health.

To date, neither Health Canada nor the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, nor Environment Canada, have seen any reason to ban this technology.
Genetically engineered crops have been on our store shelves for over a decade and Health Canada has not raised any concerns.

There has been concern about the spread of the pollen from genetically engineered crops to the same conventional crop. Pollen flow has occurred over short distances and this continues to be studied.

Yukon farmers have not planted any genetically engineered seed to date, simply because no genetically engineered crops are suitable for Yukon's growing conditions or marketplace. A genetically engineered-free zone might provide a niche market for Yukon agricultural exports. Concerns raised about genetically engineered crops may provide an opportunity to sell non-genetically engineered products to a specific market.

On the other hand, this may limit our crop options in the future. Most of the research being conducted on crop yields and management in Canada now focuses on genetically engineered crops. New plant development will likely come from this technology. No other North American jurisdiction has taken the steps of recommendation of this petition. In fact, no one, to our knowledge, had definitely determined that genetically engineered crops, once planted, would cause irreversible harm to the natural ecosystem.

Given this information, we will continue to gather more information before any decisions regarding a moratorium or other limitations are made. We will work with our federal counterparts to learn more about this technology. We will work with our agricultural industry to explore producer-led solutions for local agricultural regions to implement genetically engineered seed-free zones. We will explore the possibility of the distinct labelling of genetically engineered-free products on our store shelves so that consumers can make informed decisions about whether or not to buy genetically engineered products.

In making any further decision we will take into account the views and interests of Yukon farmers and consumers and the public when considering the potential implications on our economy, environment and public health.

We support our agricultural industry and we support an industry that supplies local foods, contributes to community well-being, drives the economy and is environmentally sustainable.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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