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
The OAPF continues raising awareness about GM alfalfa releases, as well as the problem of contamination from GM crops. We support the important work being done by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, and our two groups frequently coordinate efforts to build a stronger movement. “The OAPF is an important voice for organic farmers on GM issues”, says Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN).
Although GM alfalfa has not yet been marketed in Western Canada, Forage Genetics has reported that 2000 acres of GM alfalfa were grown in Quebec in 2017 and more than 8000 acres in Ontario. (1) The OAPF continues to raise public awareness on this important issue.
On June 14, the CFIA announced an incident of unapproved GM wheat in Alberta. Several GM wheat plants were found growing beside a rural road, and neither the Canadian government nor Monsanto were able to explain how they got there. No GM wheat has ever been approved for production or consumption anywhere in the world, including Canada. The GM trait found growing in Alberta was field tested by Monsanto in Alberta almost 20 years ago. This incident highlights the unpredictable and uncontainable nature of GM crops.
The OAPF is currently working 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 will be promoted nationally and will also be available on this page and www.cban.ca.
We are also keeping an eye on the development of new ‘gene-editing’ GE techniques such CRISPR and their applications such as the gene drive system known as CRISPR-Cas9. Normally, GE plants released into the wild would pass on their GE traits to about half of their offspring. Gene drives are designed to pass on GE traits to all or most of the offspring. Gene drives are designed to spread GE traits into wild populations and become dominant over a few generations, intentionally altering a species for purposes including extinction. (2) The OAPF supports the scientists and civil society groups who call for a ban on gene drives.
Bill-C291, a Private Member’s Bill that would have required mandatory labelling of GM foods, was defeated in the House of Commons in May 2017. This reinforced our commitment to preventing the introduction and planting of GM crops. While labelling is an issue we will monitor, we continue to focus our energy on our top priorities:
• Stopping the introduction of GM alfalfa in Western Canada and stopping further sales in Eastern Canada
• Educating consumers about the benefits of organic farming
• Mobilizing against new GM crops and GM crops that have yet to be introduced, such as GM wheat
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.
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 in 2018 are contributing to the work of CBAN and their creation of a GM Contamination Report, 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 Organic Agriculture Protection Fund
845 Broad Street, Unit #311
*Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN).
*Other resources coming soon