It’s Time to Make PEI a GMO-Free Island


Back in 2005, there was a growing hope that our provincial government would take a courageous and progressive step and make PEI a GMO-Free Island.

Surprisingly, due to market considerations, both Cavendish Farms and McCains had decided they would not accept any genetically-engineered potatoes in 1999 – which were beginning to gain a foothold in PEI – and no GM potatoes have been grown commercially in PEI since 2000.

But there was an increasing number of acres of genetically-engineered grains, canola, soybean and corn being grown, creating an increasingly polarized environment with both consumers and farmers, especially between so-called “conventional” farmers and “organic” farmers who were raising legitimate concerns about the increasing likelihood of the GM contamination of their organic seed and crops from farmers growing GM crops.

In the Fall, 2004 sitting of the PEI Legislature, Conservative Premier Pat Binns introduced Motion 30 to the PEI Legislature, which, in part stated:

AND WHEREAS there may be a market advantage in producing products that are GMO-free;

AND WHEREAS Prince Edward Island is seeking ways to differentiate its agricultural,
fisheries and aquacultural food products in the marketplace;

AND WHEREAS there are passionate opinions on both sides of this question;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island refer this question to the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Environment and to direct said committee to seek public input on this issue;

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Standing Committee submit a progress report back to the Legislative Assembly during the spring session of 2005.

There was an overwhelming number of presentations (162 in total) – far beyond what was expected – and hearings had to be extended.  At the time, I assisted the NFU in researching, writing and presenting a brief to a standing committee holding hearings on the issue of GMOs, and I also made a presentation on my own behalf. The following is from the Interim Report of the committee delivered to the Legislative Assembly in May, 2005:

Public response to the advertisements placed in provincial daily and weekly newspapers in January 2005 was strong and immediate, and originated from Prince Edward Island, other provinces across the country, the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, People’s Republic of China, and Japan. Your Committee reports that this issue triggered the largest response it has ever received to a call for input, and included interest from many private citizens, universities, religious groups, political organizations, industry groups, environmental and social activists, organic and conventional producers, agricultural organizations, and others. Members of your Committee, and the office of the Clerk of Committees received hundreds of telephone calls, letters, emails, faxes, and personal contacts on the issue. In addition, there was a great deal of media interest, both local and national, in the work of your Committee. For example, the CBC television program “Land and Sea” filmed a portion of your Committee’s meeting of March 2,
2005, for a recent broadcast.

In the end, the Final Report submitted in December, 2005 failed to recommend the government establish PEI as a GMO-free zone, saying:

Your Committee supports the development of new crop technology, as well as existing production methods of both conventional and organic producers. Therefore, your Committee recommends a co-existence model be adopted.

With the dawning of a new political era – we hope – where provincial politicians may no longer be so beholden to corporate agri-business; where the federal government continues to refuse to label GMOs (the PEI committee did call for GMOs to be labeled, although it is a federal responsibility); continued expansion of organic farming in PEI; and growing concerns about food safety from consumers; perhaps it’s time to revisit this question of establishing PEI as a GMO-free province.  Perhaps it’s time to revisit the excellent presentations made to government in 2005 – the overwhelming number of which were in favour of making PEI a GMO-free Island – and rekindle this important issue. I am convinced it would bring major environmental, economic and health benefits to Prince Edward Island if we were to do so. With that in mind, I’m posting the verbatim transcript of the presentation I made to the committee back in 2005.

Below is the presentation I made to the Standing Committee on my own behalf as a agricultural policy researcher and social ethicist.

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              Part V – Dr. Kevin Arsenault

Wilbur MacDonald (PC) (Chair): Okay, so our next presenter is Kevin Arsenault.

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Good afternoon.

Wilbur MacDonald (PC) (Chair): Kevin how are you? Would you give us a little bit
of a background where you’re from and so on and than you can make your presentation.

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Yes, perhaps I’ll start by saying that I was born on Prince Edward
Island and I grew up on a potato and grain farm in Maple Plains, and we ended up losing
our farm and I guess that spurred an interest from a very early age in being involved with the agricultural community. So although I ended up getting my doctorate at McGill
University in ethics and religious studies and I teach part time as a Adjunct professor at
UPEI and as you know from my presentation last week, I work full time with a
settlement agency on Prince Edward Island working with immigrants and refugees.

I have for many years been directly involved with doing research, professional research
in agricultural issues. I’ve initiated and participated in numerous agricultural research
projects over the years including research into the infamous PVYN crisis of the early
90’s on the island as well as the potato wart crisis of the late 90’s. You might be
interested to know that next week is the last week of many, many, many years of fighting
a case in New Brunswick on behalf 177 potato farmers who are suing the federal
government  – so there’ll be an outcome on that decision by next fall and I’ve been
a principal consultant on that case.

As well, I’ve had the privilege of serving as the Executive Secretary for the National
Farmers Union in the early 90’s for two years. And since 1994, I’ve undertaken various
agricultural research projects under the auspices of my business Rural Information
Services. I also want to mention that I am a member of the Cooper Institute, a
development education organization on Prince Edward Island which has already made
a presentation to this committee.

But I’m here today in my capacity as a professional researcher on agricultural matters
and also with my background in ethics, because my main area was social ethics and
within that really, quite an interest in terms of rural and agricultural social policies. So
I really feel from the comments you made, Andy, earlier about the margins that farmers
are facing in terms of survival, and some of you may remember that I accompanied
members of the National Farmers Union at an earlier presentation to this Standing
Committee and there was a more broad based, I think it was called the preferred road for
Island agriculture and that was some research that I was commissioned by the National
Farmers Union to undertake, of course, in consultation with the membership of the
National Farmers Union.

So I would start by saying that certainly this issue is one of many and in my mind, an
equally important issue, and I think something that the committee had heard time
and time again from that earlier set of presentations is in fact, the corporate control of
the food system in terms of farmers not getting an adequate share of the food dollar and
that’s the situation that isn’t going to be settled solely on this issue. I do agree with the
previous presenter though that there are – and I’ll get into some of the specifics in my
presentation, distinct advantages – comparative advantageous – that we are facing
as opportunities on this issue.

I guess I’d start by saying, as a professional researcher, that while there may be two sides
to every story, in the case of the use of genetically-modified or genetically-engineered
organisms in agriculture, those who support and promote the use of GMO’s continually
make public claims which are simply not supported by the facts or scientific study. This
is one of the reasons why I’ve entered into this public debate, because it troubles me
when I see public claims being made without any justification.

For example, I believe that if legislators are confronted with two competing points of
view, namely yourselves, the two opposite sets of claims, they will continue to waffle
in making key decisions insisting that more studies are required unless you really get to
the bottom of – is there a substantive bases for the claims. So I’d really encourage – you
know the members of the committee  – not to leave this process confused, because there
is no reason – the information is out there for anyone who is willing to do an honest
assessment of it.

Proponents of GMO’s know that in the absence of moratoriums or bans on the use of
GMO’s, their campaign to have GMO’s established will be successful and they are
correct. Once enough of these genetically-altered seeds and crops are released into the
environment, it will not be possible to take them back. And you’ve heard that, I’m sure,
from previous presenters including the presenter just before myself.

That’s why I call upon this committee to do the work, to sift through all the competing
claims to get to the facts and I’m sure that if you do this work and then take action on
what you discover, you will decide that it is in PEI’s best interest to ban GMO’s. Until
that work is done however, I also believe that immediate action should be taken on the
bases of what our own federal government has already declared to be a preferable and
sound regulatory approach, with respect to allowing potentially dangerous substances to
impact human health and the environment. Or declare it at least in principle, I mean
we’re about to sign the Cartegena Protocol that establishes this precautionary principle.
I don’t think it’s been ratified but we certainly have signed onto it as a process.

If you go for example onto the federal government’s website, looking at the
Canada-Chile Agreement on Environmental Cooperation and this is a direct quote, “ the
precautionary principle is a distinctive approach within science-based risk management
and recognizes that the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason
to postpone decisions when faced with the threat or serious threat of possible irreversible harm”. So I mean nothing will be lost if we take some time to make a decision. Something very well may be lost indefinitely if we fail to do that.

So decisive and ethical leadership in this issue would mean that a temporary or interim
ban be declared to prevent the planting of GMO crops this spring. Certainly, this is how
our civil litigation court processing in our country works. If there is reason to suspect
that a certain development project or whatever will negatively impact someone else than the court can entertain basic information just to answer that question – is this a
possibility, and they may declare a moratorium until the full issue, both sides, the
plaintiffs and the defendants have a chance to make their case. I don’t think it’s any
different in this case, especially given the fact that it’s not something that can be taken
back. In the short time remaining, I wish to draw your attention to three key points and
I’m leaving some recent scientific studies and news articles with you in support of what
I’m about to say in the form of a tab binder of documents.

First of all whereas GMO promoters claim that GE crops, genetically-engineered crops
reduce the use of pesticides, the facts indicate that exactly the opposite is true over time.

Secondly whereas GMO promoters claim that genetically engineered crops did not
contaminate non-GE crops, the facts clearly indicate again that this is false. And finally
whereas GMO promoters claim that genetically-engineered crops will lead to increased
financial returns to farmers, all market indications and trends indicate that PEI will
capitalize on growing markets that are now insisting on GE-free status, notwithstanding
the fact that there are some initial and perhaps for a number of years, short-term
financial gains at the farm gate level.

So my first claim – genetically engineered crops do not reduce pesticide use over time.
GMO promoters claim that the use of genetically-engineered plants significantly reduce
the needs for and the use of pesticides. Not surprisingly the same companies, which
have developed genetically-altered seeds to withstand the ill effects of certain herbicides
also produce and sell those same poisons.

As you are all aware, for example, Monsanto sells RoundUp, a herbicide along with a
number of genetically-engineered grains which are specifically engineered to resist
RoundUp. Now the claim is made that genetically-engineered resistance to herbicides
allows farmers to spray poisons after the crops have emerged to kill weeds, which is
true, without damaging the plants and as a result, use less chemical.

Now I’m sure this committee has already heard this claim from GMO proponents.
However, it is a claim that is simply not supported by the available scientific
evidence over time. Now I’m leaving a copy of a study undertaken by Charles
Benbrook, titled Genetically-Engineered Crops and Pesticide Use in the United
States, The First Nine Years. Now, this definitive study proves that industry claims
that GMO crops lead to pesticide reduction are both misleading and unfounded.

The report draws on official United States Department of Agriculture data on acreage
planted the GE crop varieties from 1996 through 2004 and it’s coupled with USDA data
on the volume of pesticides applied to corn, soybeans and cotton. Now although it is
true that there was a net reduction in the use of pesticides in the initial three years of
widespread GE commercial cropping from 1996 to 1999, in the last six years of the study
there’s been a steady increase in the use of pesticides for the total acreage of GE crops
in the United States.

As you can see from the data in this report – the uncontested conclusion is that and
this is a quote from the report, “GE corn, soybeans and cotton have led to 122 million
pound increase in pesticide use since 1996. Now why did this happen? Various
factors are given in the report, but essentially the main reason given is because the
ecological adaptations predicated by scientists have been occurring in the case of
RoundUp Ready crops for the past three or four years and appear to be accelerating
and certainly this is the evidence from another study, the same institute has done on
the rapid change in the overall environment in Argentina. In other words, pests are
developing immunity to the poisons as predicted.

My second claim – genetically engineered seeds and crops invariably pollute non
genetically engineered crops. Now this past summer, I wrote a letter to the editor of The
Guardian newspaper challenging claims made public by the former president of the
Federation of Agriculture, Robert MacDonald, both through The Guardian newspaper
and CBC radio. Now I waited about a week and there was no counter view so I felt really
obligated that I respond. And the reason being, the evidence that was communicated both through the airwaves and through the media, written media were so persuasive. He
claimed that a three-year trial had proven unequivocally that there was no cross
contamination of GE crops with non-GE crops and this study had been undertaken in
England and that they were able to grow side by side.

Well I was aware of this study and the study did not in fact, test for this. So it would be
like me feeding poison, say if I was to feed arsenic to animals, cats and than turn around
and make the claim that the study showed that no dogs died from arsenic
poisoning. I mean that would have to be corrected.

The question is not whether contamination occurs but rather how much contamination
occurs and how soon. Given the close proximity of crops with one another on PEI, the
absence of natural barriers, such as mountains, along with the windy conditions during
the growing season and the plentiful insect vectors transmitting pollen, it is fair to say
that contamination of non-GE crops will happen at a more rapid rate on PEI than many
other regions where there may be less conducive conditions for spray.

Recent studies have shown that contamination in fields during the growing season is
only one part of the problem. There are often other transfer mechanisms at play with
contamination of seeds being perhaps an even bigger concern.

So I want to leave this study, which was just published last year. Gone to Seed –
Transgenic Contamination in the Traditional Seed Supply and this is actually produced
by the Union of Concerned Scientists in the United States. And it indicates the extent
of the problem of GE contamination of the seed sources. This extensive research relied
on tests conducted by two respected commercial laboratories in the United States using
duplicate samples of seeds of six traditional varieties each of corn, soybeans and canola
in the United States.

One laboratory detected transgenetically derived DNA in 50 per cent of the corn, 50 per
cent of the soybean and 100 per cent of the traditionally canola varieties tested. The other laboratory detected transgenetically-derived [seed] in 83 per cent of the traditional varieties of each of the three crops. The study concluded that seeds of traditional varieties bought from the same retailers used by US farmers are pervasively contaminated with low levels of DNA sequences originating in genetically-engineered varieties of those crops.

Last April, The Wall Street Journal tested 20 food products labeled GMO-free and found
that 16 of them contained at least traces of genetically-modified ingredients, five had
significant amounts.

Agriculture Canada and AgriFood is well aware of the negative trade impacts that have
already visited and will continue to visit Canadian farmers as a result of transgenic
material contaminating our food exports. An internal Agriculture Canada document
originally marked ‘secret’ which was acquired by Ken Ruben through an Access to
Information request states that Canada’s food regulatory system {quote} “ has not evolved to reflect the new degree of public scrutiny that GE products and technologies are facing adding that the production of GE canola is currently adversely affecting the value of non-genetically engineered canola in some markets” {end quote}.

Now the briefing paper notes that many countries have – or are proposing – systems to
distinguish genetically-engineered food products, but Canada does not have the capacity
to keep them separate. I’m also leaving a copy of an excellent article for your
consideration “Confronting Contamination: 5 Reasons to Reject Coexistence.”

This leaves me to my third and final claim – that market indications and worldwide food
trends indicate clearly that PEI can capitalize on existing and emerging foreign market
opportunities by growing crops with genetically-engineered free status, and conversely,
that we will be shut out of these premium-priced markets if we allow GMO crops to be
grown on the Island. resulting in the contamination of our food supply. I agree with the
previous presenter who said it really is a win-win situation right now, but if we don’t act
quickly, it could quite quickly be a lose situation.

Now there is no shortage of information available to anyone willing to go looking to
substantiate the claim that there is a decisive advantage afforded to any country, region
or Island which is able to meet the GE-free food demands of a growing number of food
corporations as well as countries. Someone mentioned 30 countries earlier, but the
biggest trend that I’m noticing isn’t actually at the political level but it’s at the market
level, responding to consumers. Corporations are not – because of labeling regiments that
are being put into place – are not willing to label their food as having genetically-engineered product.

So I’ve  put a few news reports and articles together in this tab binder offering just a tiny
sampling of some of these opportunities and trends. For example, Canadian exports of
soybeans to Norway peaked at 159,000 metric tonnes in 1997-98. The last year we were
actually able to export soybeans to Norway due to the ban on genetically-engineered
product and Canada’s inability to meet those new requirements due to contamination.

These Norwegian markets have since been captured by the Netherlands and other
countries able to guarantee non-GM product. A law was just passed in Italy’s lower
house in January of this year making it more difficult for genetically-modified crops to
be grown in Italy. There’s an article on this as well. A report dated a little over
a month ago indicates that China, potentially one of the most promising markets for
genetically-modified crops, is now stalling the adoption of transgenic plant cultivation
and “…the import and export of GM product is not permitted.”  So, as that border
opens up and opportunities afford themselves, we risk losing that large market if we
don’t move quickly.

Another report indicates that trading for non-GMO soybean meal is currently soaring in
Europe and companies are vigorously seeking suppliers who can meet their stringent
GMO-free demands.

Now I want to just point out, the question has been raised about organic, genetically
engineered-free, pesticide-free. There’s another trend that’s kind of overriding all of that,
and it has to do with the response to the consumer and I subscribe to a report titled the
Food Traceability Report weekly.

Reading this report from week to week makes it abundantly clear that for the foreseeable future, the three most important concerns and requirements for the successful international trade of food will be: 1 – the ability to ensure the preservation of food identity; 2 – the ability to ensure food traceability – that is, be able to document the
movement of food from the farm gate to the processor to the consumer; and 3 – the
ability to ensure that the specifications on food labels with respect to genetically-
engineered or non-genetically engineered status can be demonstrated.

As more and more corporate food processors in countries impose either outright bans on
genetically-engineered foods or specify very minimum tolerances for genetically-
engineered material, also referred to as adventitious transgenic material, the onus is
increasingly being placed on farmers and food exporters to demonstrate their claims
regarding the GMO-free status of raw food exports and even food ingredients.

As a recent edition of the non-GMO report states, and that’s again available free of
charge online and it gives up-to-date market trends with respect to emerging and
existing markets for non-genetically engineered products, and I would suggest the
committee take a look at some of the most recent editions of that to get just a sense of
how rapidly that market is growing.

Anyhow, as the non-GMO report states: As a result of food scares and the need to allay
consumer fears, Europe’s regulators have extended traceability to GM food and feed.
European consumers want GM food labeled and traced and major food retailers such as
Tesco and ASDA based in the United Kingdom and Carrefour based in France, are
responding. These companies have eliminated GM ingredients from their house-brand
foods and are requiring meat suppliers to raise animals on non-GM feed.

So you can find a discussion paper as well in here on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada’s website on the problem of adventitious presence, a copy of which I’ve included
here in the binder.

Let me quote one statement from that paper: “Canadian exports have valued in the range of $8 billion to $10 billion annually. A number of Canadian agri-food stakeholder
organizations have expressed concern that adventitious presence holds significant
potential to impair future trade performance and to erode commodity values in some
markets” {end quote}.

The paper goes on to say that some of these Canadian organizations have aligned with
their counterparts in other countries to promote global adoption of adventitious presence, tolerances and best practices intended to mitigate the potential adverse trade implications of a wide range of regulatory and policy responses to adventitious transgenic presence that are emerging in importing countries.

I would suggest to this committee that the battle lines have been drawn between North
America food processors and traders who are trying to market contaminated foods, and
consumers in foreign countries who don’t want them and have the support of regulatory
systems in place to actually label and identify them.

Clearly the prudent route for PEI in this context would be to declare a ban of GMOs so
we would be able to meet the demands of food processors, retailers and consumers in
these major markets worldwide rather than contaminating our food supply and then
attempting to pressure government in other jurisdictions to loosen the requirements to
allow genetically-engineered pollution.

If anything, we can expect requirements to become more stringent with respect to
genetically engineered contamination, not less. Last week’s Food Traceability Report,
for example, contained a lead article titled “European Union says adventitious transgenic material in seeds must be labeled,” making it clear that even trace quantities of  technically-unavoidable transgenic material among conventional seed lots must be
labeled as genetically-modified organisms for trade in the European Union.

I’ll just conclude by saying that AgriWest Food Services based in eastern PEI here sells
potato granules here worldwide. If you check out its web page, you’ll notice that it offers
a list of 13 key services on their product and services page, and the very first item on that
list is GMO-free.

For PEI farmers to be able to market products as GMO or genetically-engineered-free
would be, without question, a definite advantage, an advantage which farmers in many
other jurisdictions in North America – perhaps most – no longer have available to them.

Unless we move quickly to secure PEI as a GMO-free zone, we too may lose this
opportunity. It is clearly time for our government to show decisive leadership on this
important issue affecting our future and indeed, our children’s future, and I pray that you have the courage to exercise such leadership. Thank you.

Wilbur MacDonald (PC) (Chair): Thank you very much, Kevin. I just want to inform
the committee that a judge in Montana has granted a temporary injunction to stop the
United States government from re-opening the border next week to Canadian cattle, and
he’s looking for a date to discuss the merits of a permanent injunction, so that’s not very
good news for the cattle industry. So I noticed that there was a number put up their
hands. I guess Ron, followed by

Ron MacKinley (L): If AgraWest is selling geneticall- modified free potatoes, we could
do that now. We could just put it on the bag, could we not?

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Yes, except the question of whether or not there is any
contamination, the onus is on us to prove that, so you wouldn’t want a shipment going
into the European Union right now, and even if it had a 0.1 per cent detection rate, it
could cause some real problems, given the regulatory regime that’s just been put in place

Ron MacKinley (L): No, but you’d have to have cross-pollination or something
between your genetically modified free potatoes and your regular potatoes, so if you
didn’t have any within a 10kilometer, you’d be all right. I’m looking at the Toronto
market, anyway.

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Sure, yeah.

Ron MacKinley (L): I never thought of that, but it’s an angle we could now because
there are very few genetically-modified potatoes grown here. There were a few up west,
I think. Basically the government here grew some.

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: I just want to respond to a question raised earlier about policing.
If you were to, in fact, impose even a moratorium until a fuller discussion could be had
and a final decision made, I don’t know that it would be that difficult because we’re
really only talking about a very select number of companies, all of which require legal
documents to be signed by the growers, so there is a mechanism there whereby you
could simply insist that companies coming to the Island would have to vet through a
government Department of Agriculture office.

They would have to get approval and therefore if they tried to get approval to sell seeds
and sign these contracts, then that would be a way of gatekeeping that. You wouldn’t
have to go to the farmers and ask them to test their fields and everything else.

I mean, I suppose farmers might try and – why would they want to try and do it on the
sly because I think they [would] quickly realize the advantages to everyone by being able to advertise GMO-free status.

Andy Mooney (PC): Just a couple of quick questions. I appreciate your presentation.
You put a lot of work into it, no doubt. Hypothetically speaking, Prince Edward Island
bans GMOs. We live on an Island, so you would think it should be easier to keep us free
of contaminants, but yet with potatoes, we had A2 blight that was going across North
America. We were completely A2 free, and then there was a hurricane – that basically
was just a force of nature – brought A2 blight to Prince Edward Island. They could be
charged from where it hit in a straight line which fields were infected and we’ve had it
ever since.

If we have a GMO-free province and there is such a thing as a hurricane or something
that takes pollen in from a neighbouring province and you have a contamination on a
farm, what happens to the farm?

And I’ll go a step farther. Even with the AgraWest that’s in my own community, they
do a test for GMO in their potatoes that come in. It’s called ELISA test, which the
ELISA test should be a flag that shows that maybe these potatoes should go to further
testing. They’ve tested potatoes that show positive for GMO, but yet there was no GMO
potatoes grown here.

Basically, the farm went back with two or three samples, and each sample went back, the
ELISA tests were showing GMO, so they split the potatoes and gave half the potatoes
to – and actually split the individual potatoes, gave half to AgraWest that were tested and
half went to another laboratory, which proved them to be not genetically-modified.

If we had a GMO-free province by the time – if someone heard that you tested positive
for GMO, your year could be completely lost. Do you know what I mean? I’m just
wondering what happens with a farm that, even if it’s buying in seed, that inadvertently
takes in seed and there’s contamination?

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Well, I suppose it’s a good question. I guess what I’d do is flip
it around and say like with there being a very slight or minimum chance of minor or very minimal contamination from pollen-born spread from across the waters. I suppose to certain spread and fairly rapid spread from millions of blossoms that our local insect
population are transmitting because, I mean, the reality is there is a significant amount
of genetically-engineered product out there, certainly in North America, and I think in
time, over time, we will likely see jurisdictions have to have minimal tolerances rather
than a zero-tolerance policy, but we’re going to be at the forefront of being able to meet
those tolerances, for example, when they’re established as opposed to a lot of
jurisdictions where you just can’t grow anything now because there’s just been so much

I don’t think people appreciate just how much the North American crops that are
identified in that study have, in fact, been mixed up with traditional seed sources. I guess
that’s the other thing I didn’t say. I feel personally that there is an – and I have no
marketing data to support this – but just because of the trends and because of the cry
coming from farmers who want to grow non-GMO or even organic, they are having real
trouble getting certified GE-free status seed for their own crops.

PEI, as a GE-free zone, could become, I think, a key seed supplier – clean seed supplier
– to the North American market, notwithstanding all the potential for actual crops in
other foreign markets such as Europe, Japan, Sri Lanka. There’s so many countries right
now that are, in fact, not accepting GE crops or food products.

I mean, the big issue is they’ve been saying that for a while, but they haven’t really been
testing or able to test them because there hasn’t been any real strong regulatory regime
in place. Companies haven’t really taken it upon themselves to ensure, but now that’s
changing, and so once the food processors and traders and retailers start insisting and
you play ball with those decisions. You don’t send it hoping that no one tests it because
there’s not going to be a door to slip through once that happens, and it’s happened
already in Europe.

Andy Mooney (PC): Well, back to my initial question, though. If we have a
GMO-free province and our farm inadvertently either buys seed that had a few
potatoes in it or basically there’s a test that shows well, maybe there was a GMO
found on that farm. If they say you had some of it in your product, where does the
farm go? Bankrupt in year one.

That’s where my concern lies because right now, even with the virus levels in the
potatoes, we have been buying seed off-Island and even if Prince Edward Island bans
GMO, we’re still sourcing seed and basically if we buy seed off-province, you get a
certificate from the federal government basically that has been certified for certain virus
levels and the whole issue. They don’t presently test for GMO in any of the federal

Ron MacKinley (L): If we put that on imports coming into PEI, we could make them
test. Like they’d have to have a certificate GMO-free potatoes before you plant them.

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: That would be simple. There’s a very, very simple test now
because they’re marker genes, so they’re not expensive tests, to my knowledge, to test
for genetically-engineered presence in the DNA structure, and I would think that there
could be anomalies happen

I mean, even now – but I think we’re pretty clean here. We’ve grown a few thousand
acres of crop or whatever and that, but I mean, some crops are more likely to
contaminate at a more rapid rate than others.

Andy Mooney (PC): But what happens to the poor devil that has the anomaly? That’s
where my question lies.

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: I guess I would think that that is a very forward-thinking and
compassionate consideration on your part, and I would think that if the government was
to go that route, in the one or two cases that might actually come up in a year, crop
insurance through the provincial government or something would make allowance for
that kind of anomaly. Something like that shouldn’t be used as a basis to say that it’s a
house of cards, it’s going to crumble. Just the opposite.

Ron MacKinley (L): Well, would we not be able to sell them? Just not be, like Nova
Scotia and New Brunswick and Ontario and Quebec’s not going to go GMO-free, so if
we went GMO-free and somebody had contamination that showed up, would they just
sell them out as regular potatoes?

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Yeah, exactly. I mean, what the actual losses would be there in
terms of…

Ron MacKinley (L): But you wouldn’t be able to use GMO-free bags?

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: They might lose a premium or something like that, but…

Wilbur MacDonald (PC) (Chair): Wayne?

Wayne Collins (PC): Yeah, I’m glad to hear you say that the genie’s not out of the
bottle yet. There is a chance to – pardon me? Oh, I’m sorry, Richard. Go ahead.

Richard Brown (L): No, no. You go ahead.

Wayne Collins (PC): All right. I’m glad to hear you say that. I could Google for this
one, but the non-GMO report, there is a website out there, right, that you check regularly?

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Yes.

Wayne Collins (PC): Okay. You talked about Norway and China and other places like
that as emerging markets and that, but I mean, our bread and butter crop is potatoes.

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Yes.

Wayne Collins (PC): And I don’t know how many shipments of potatoes we’ve sent
to Norway or China, you know? The USA, Central Canada, the way I understand it, and
those are our markets for our major crop, so I’m wondering when you say that, you’re
obviously looking ahead to other crops being grown here under that GMO-free status.

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Well, as was outlined in the National Farmer’s Union brief and
the research there that one of the key – I think one of two key recommendations in that
report was that Prince Edward Island actually get involved in terms of organizing a
marketing strategy on behalf of Island farmers, so I think if I don’t know the answer, but
the question, Wayne, may be how much work has been done in an attempt to see whether or not there is a potential for a potato product in GE-free consumer zones, let’s put it that way, like the European Union.

Ron MacKinley (L): Well both Cavendish and McCains won’t process.

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Well, exactly. They saw the writing on the wall very early, so I
think – and obviously AgraWest sees the writing on the wall and our farmers, as a result,
have to fall in line, but maybe we could do – again, I really think that diversification of
our crops in terms of the number of acreages, I mean, when you’re taking them out and
destroying perfectly healthy potatoes simply as a marketing strategy, then I think that
tells us volumes about the need for us to grow less and grow more varieties of different

Ron MacKinley (L): (Indistinct) throw them out.

Wayne Collins (PC): Kevin, just a last question here. Did I understand you right in
early on in your presentation? Were you advocating that there should be a temporary
interim ban as early as this spring?

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: If we were to follow the ethical principle that has been adopted
already in principle by our federal government, by our Department of the Environment,
in terms of the negotiations that are currently going on between Canada and other
countries in terms of developing and signing on to protocols with respect to
environmental safety, we would say definitely yes.

And it makes perfect sense because, I mean, this is one situation where if the cat does get
out of the bag, then we can’t put it back and I mean, for how many generations and what
are the real implications, then, in terms of transformation of our weed species. I mean,
everyday, if you take a look, just anyone takes a look – and types in a few key search
words, you don’t have to be a professional researcher to come up with another story that
just happened yesterday that really does point to serious unforeseen consequence that
people are now grappling with in terms of the implications for a whole range of things,
not always human health, but very often ecological stability.

Wilbur MacDonald (PC) (Chair): Richard?

Richard Brown (L): Thank you. Kevin, a pleasure.

Like always, a great report you did. Now I know why you have a PhD. You came up
with that policing issue pretty fast for us there.

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Well, I’m willing to contract it on the side here to supplement
the income.

Ron MacKinley (L): He lives out in North River.

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Yeah, that’s right.

Richard Brown (L): Just one quick question – EU or the European Union, are they
banned or are they going to go with labeling or what are they doing?

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: There’s a big struggle going on within the European Union
because, I mean, quite honestly, some of the governments are pushing to lift the ban, and they have established a, I think, a 1 per cent tolerance of genetically engineered at this point.

However, what’s happening – again, I reiterate but even though governments may be
waffling a little bit in terms of – are they going to have a complete zero tolerance.
What’s happening is the consumers are not going along with it and so the retailers and
the big supermarkets and consequently the processors and the packagers and right
down the line are saying: Look, whatever the government does, if we’re going to corner
this market, we’re going to have to be able to demonstrate with the labeling – because
there is required labeling legislation – then we’re going to have to be able to demonstrate
that our claims on the labeling are, in fact, the case, and that means no GE products.

This business of adventitious is a real concern among the inside people within our
government. What are we going to do about this? Because they already know the extent
to which adventitious material has been promogated throughout our country, except for
Prince Edward Island.

Richard Brown (L): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Wilbur MacDonald (PC) (Chair): Well, thank you very much, Kevin. You leave all
that information. You have a lot of information with you, and we’ll try and get it

Dr. Kevin Arsenault: Are you going to read that tonight, Richard?

Richard Brown (L): (Indistinct)

Wilbur MacDonald (PC) (Chair): I’d like the general public to know we’re going to
take five minutes and we want to go into camera, which means we go in by ourselves,
if you don’t mind. We’ll take five minutes.

Unidentified: We have to have a motion.

Wilbur MacDonald (PC) (Chair): Oh, we have to have a motion? Can we go into
camera? So moved. Seconded.

Richard Brown (L): We’re not losing any money, are we? Fourteen million.




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