A committee of SaskOrganics
1. To prevent the loss of the ability to grow, certify, and sell organic crops due to the release of genetically engineered organisms (commonly known as GMO’s) into the environment and the resulting contamination this release causes.
2. To pursue a strategy to ensure all existing genetically engineered organisms causing health risks to the public and/or economic harm to organic growers are ultimately removed from the environment by those responsible for their release
3. To halt the release of genetically engineered crops into the environment by means of advocacy and court injunctions or other legal instruments satisfactory to the long-term interests of certified organic farmers and the consumers of organic food.
4. To actively build a broad alliance of individuals and organizations that support our initiatives, our goals, and our agenda; and to maintain and promote public awareness of our achievements and goals.
5. To engage people willing to help; to facilitate and co-ordinate their efforts, and to set up a liaison between them and the OAPF Committee to ensure their talents are best put to use, and that the integrity of our position and message are respected.
6. To proceed with the knowledge that OAPF initiatives have the potential to raise general public awareness on issues crucial to the wellbeing of organic farmers, the public and the environment.
7. To lobby all levels of government against the introduction of genetically engineered crops or any genetically engineered substance prohibited by certified organic standards.
8. To raise money for these actions, as well as for the expenses of administration and fundraising.
In October 2001, SOD (now SaskOrganics) launched the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund (SOD OAPF) to pay the expenses for the Class Action lawsuit on behalf of all certified organic grain farmers in Saskatchewan against Monsanto and Aventis, which was seeking compensation for damages caused by their genetically engineered (GE or genetically modified) canola and to get an injunction to prevent Monsanto from introducing GE wheat in Saskatchewan. This was the beginning of many other important actions taken by the Committee and their dedicated and passionate members over the years. We encourage you to read a complete history of the OAPF’s work by clicking here.
WHERE WE ARE TODAY
May 20, 2022
On May 18, Health Canada published their new regulatory guidance on novel foods which removes government oversight of many new gene-edited foods and abandons transparency for the public, by not establishing a mandatory system for reporting these new foods.
Arnold Taylor, Chair of the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund (OAPF) Committee of SaskOrganics, in response to the announcement said, “Gene-edited foods are genetically modified, and as such, should be regulated by the federal government as novel foods. The federal government also regulates the Canada Organic Standard which prohibits GMO’s, including those created using gene-editing, therefore they have a duty of care to protect the integrity of the organic standard and organic food and farming for all Canadians”.
Taylor went on to say, “2022 marks twenty years since the OAPF Committee launched a class action lawsuit against Monsanto and Bayer for damages due to the introduction of GM Canola, as well as to get an injunction to prevent the introduction of GM wheat. Organic farmers will continue our fight for the right to farm GM-free and the right to eat GM-free.”
SaskOrganics, the farmer led provincial organization representing all certified organic operations in the province, responded to the announcement in the following media release:
For Immediate Release
May 19, 2022, Regina – Yesterday, Health Canada published their new regulatory guidance for novel foods which removes government oversight of many new gene-edited foods and abandons transparency for the public, by not establishing a mandatory system for reporting these new foods. This decision has raised the concern of organic groups who have been asking the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food to reject a similar proposal on the regulation of gene edited seeds from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
“SaskOrganics is disappointed by Health Canada’s release of new regulatory guidance which relies on private companies for safety assessments and will create new uncertainty about gene edited foods for consumers,” said Garry Johnson, SaskOrganics President. “We appeal to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food to reject a similar proposal that could end government safety assessments of gene edited seeds. Minister Bibeau needs to ensure continued regulation of gene edited seeds to ensure safety as well as transparency for farmers.”
Health Canada’s decision means that companies can release some new gene-edited food without any third-party assessments, and without any notification to the public, consumers and farmers.
“Organic farmers will continue to produce high quality, nutritious food that conforms to the Canada Organic Standard which prohibits gene edited and other genetically engineered products. Health Canada’s decision will increase uncertainty for consumers but Canadians can turn to organic food. The regulation of the organic sector builds and maintain public trust.” said Johnson.
SaskOrganics will continue to advocate on behalf of the organic sector in Saskatchewan and work with our colleagues across the country to help ensure Health Canada and the CFIA addresses the concerns the sector has about the potential impact the new guidance will have on public trust and organic markets.
For more information:
Garry Johnson, President, SaskOrganics
cell: 306-741-2433 e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marla Carlson, Executive Director, SaskOrganics
cell: 306-535-2710 e: email@example.com
SaskOrganics is a farmer led, membership non-profit organization. We serve all certified organic operations throughout the value chain in Saskatchewan by advocating for a sustainable and thriving organic community through leadership in research, market development and communications.
To learn more about SaskOrganics visit www.saskorganics.org
(1) CBAN Press Release, May 18, 2022 “Federal government abandons safety assessments and transparency for new gene-edited foods”
The OAPF will continue to advocate on behalf of the organic sector and organic consumers, and work with our allies and colleagues accross the country to help ensure Health Canada and the CFIA address the concerns the sector has about the potential impacts this decision will have on public trust and the organic sector.
The OAPF has worked with the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network to produce a report on GM Contamination, which will be a key tool in our effort to build public awareness on this important issue. The report called “GM Contamination in Canada: The failure to contain living modified organisms – Incidents and impacts” will be promoted nationally and is available here www.cban.ca.
The report highlights the environmental and economic consequences, including the cost to Canadian farmers, of escape incidents with GM Canola, GM Flax, GM Wheat, and GM Pigs. The report concludes that co-existence of GM and non-GM crops is not possible and that “the only way to prevent contamination from certain GMOs is to stop their release”. The report is a key tool in our effort to build public awareness and educate decision-makers.
Gene Editing 101 – the science and its consequences for organic farmers
There is a lot of excitement in research communities and the media about using gene editing for “plant breeding”. The techniques are being widely described as precise and, in some cases, as non-GMO, neither is correct. To help producers better understand the science and its consequences, the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) published a new report: “Genome Editing in Food and Farming: Risks and Unexpected Consequences”, as well as a factsheet, “Introduction-Genome Editing in Food & Farming”.
The report provides vital information about the new genetic engineering techniques of “gene editing” or genome editing and the risks they pose. The CBAN report is very timely. It was published just as Health Canada announced its intention to change how it assesses the risks of GMOs, and as the biotech industry’s PR machine speculates about a future for organics that includes gene-edited crops and animals.
Organic producers’ participation in this discussion is essential. SaskOrganics’ Organic Agriculture Protection Fund, in collaboration with CBAN, will be providing regular updates on this issue. To get the latest news and updates, sign up for our newsletter!
The OAPF supports the scientists who call for gene editing technologies to be strictly regulated.
The work we are doing in cooperation with CBAN to research and raise awareness about the implications of gene
editing is more and more important. The biotech lobby has started using the climate crisis as a way to try to gain
public acceptance and keep governments from regulating the technology – they are now making claims that gene
editing can create new climate-friendly crops. The biotech lobby is spending millions of dollars on public relations strategies designed to get people to doubt themselves and believe the corporations instead. The critical research and awareness-raising work we support is an important way to undermine the biotech companies’ PR strategy and instead create the political will for our government to make the right regulatory decisions for our farms and our food.
Public response to our efforts to stop GM alfalfa shows clearly that the battle against GMOs in our food supply continues and can still be won. The OAPF is advocating on behalf of organic farmers, consumers of organic food and other concerned citizens, to keep GMOs out of our farms and out of the food supply.
[ 1 ] The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, www.cban.ca/ContaminationReport2019 , GM Contamination in Canada: The Failure to Contain Living Modified Organisms: Incidents and Impacts, 2019 .
The OAPF is currently comprised of the following members:
Arnold Taylor: Committee Chair
Marla Carlson: Staff
Deb Tuchelt: Staff
In order to continue to do the work we do, we rely on the generous support of our supporters. The funds collected are contributing to the work of CBAN and their creation of reports, public awareness, and political lobbying. We will continue to support this and other important efforts with your generous donations.
Donations can be accepted by:
** SaskOrganics does not have charitable status. The OAPF is a committee of SaskOrganics, therefore, donations are not eligible for a tax receipt. If you wish to claim your donation as a business expense please obtain advice from a tax professional. We thank you for your support.
SaskOrganics Organic Agriculture Protection Fund
#311-845 Broad Street
Regina, SK S4R 8G9
*Other resources coming soon