Vancouver municipal candidates’ views on GE

Vancouver 2014 candidates speak out about GE crops in responses to two questions (responses in no particular order):

  1. What is your position on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops, and why?
  2. What are you prepared to do to increase public awareness about genetically engineered crops, as well as herbicide and pesticide use, including neonicotinoids?

Mercedes Wong: 1. I think all of us need to be as informed as possible when it comes to genetically engineered crops – crops with modified DNA to make them pest and drought resistant. In Canada, much of our corn, canola and soy crops are genetically modified. I have read that 60% of processed food sold in Canada has genetically modified ingredients. Although Vancouver Coastal Health has publicly stated that genetically modified crops pose no health risk, many scientists disagree. We are told the benefits of genetically engineered crops include disease and drought resistant crops that can be grown on smaller parcels of land. What we do know is that the hazards are not fully known and these crops could be harmful to our health. In 2012, the City of Richmond Council unanimously passed a motion banning genetically modified plants and crops from being grown in Richmond. Saltspring Island, Kaslo, Nelson, Powell River and Rossland have passed similar motions.
However, their jurisdiction is limited because genetically engineered crops are federally regulated. The concern is if genetically modified crops are dangerous, then wind could carry pollen to organically grown crops, contaminating them.   I think until we have more information, I support labeling of all genetically engineered crops and I would lobby the federal government for labeling. Within the City of Vancouver, I would advocate for banning of the planting and growing of genetically engineered crops.

  1. I think that providing information using print, online and in-person is the key when it comes to keeping residents aware of the dangers of genetically engineered crops, herbicides and pesticides. We need to provide easy-to-understand facts about the alternatives available. For example, residents may be unaware of low-cost alternatives to harmful pesticide use such as pouring boiling water on driveway weeds. Residents may not know that spraying insecticides harms bees and that they could instead encourage bats (which eat insects) by putting up bat houses which is far simpler and doesn’t harm our environment. How do we get the word out? The City could provide more press releases that will be picked up by local newspapers, we could provide links to City information using social media, we could include pamphlets in mail outs to residents, and we could provide demos at Farmers Markets, for example, on bees and pollination. This could go a long way towards educating residents. We could also provide incentives such as contests – for example – Keeping Marpole Green naturally – what are your ideas? We need to ask neighbourhoods what they see as the solutions and we have to listen to their responses. In 2012, Richmond enacted a pesticide use control bylaw, which has proven to be very successful. We could also consider a similar bylaw.

Abraham Deocera: My position on this subject matter is not pro or against. I believe that we have to do more research and testing before we draw a conclusion for the question “Which is beneficial the GE food or food lace with pesticides?” They are both not favorable for human health but the reality is people need to eat and farmers have to produce a huge quantity of food to meet the demands of the population. And there lie the dilemma. It’s a goliath undertaking, we need scientists to make a study to help us draw an intelligent conclusion. But as of now, I am drawn to the concept of organic foods. I am excited about Vancouver’s residents effort to plant their own organic fruits and vegetables. They can sell some thru farmers market or keep some.

Vision Vancouver (Tim Stevenson, Andrea Reimer): 1. Vision Vancouver is opposed to the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. We have concerns regarding dangers to human health and to the environment.

  1. Vision Vancouver has been working through our resident-led advisory committee, the Vancouver Food Policy Council, to increase public awareness on these issues. This year we partnered with them for a GE Awareness Week in October. If we are re-elected, we look forward to doing it again in 2015. At the Park Board, a motion was passed in October banning neonicotinoids.

Jeff Hill: Great question, I support the labeling of genetically modified products and I personally buy as many products as I can with the Non-GMO Project or organic labels. I do not believe in most cases there has been enough in the way of long term testing on such products and we do not know what effects they could have on people over their lifetime. I will do everything I can to support organic farmers here in BC.

Lena Ling: 1. Personally, I oppose genetically modified/engineered foods and am proud that most of the food available in Canada is currently GMO free. As a former figure skater and someone who has always been quite health-conscious, I believe that we need to be cognizant of the things we put into our bodies. Genetically modified organisms have not been around long enough for humans to fully understand and comprehend their long-term effects.

  1. One of the issues that has been a concern of mine recently is the decimation of bee colonies due to the use of herbicides and pesticides. For the past few years, I have tended to my own fruit and vegetable garden, encouraging my children to appreciate truly fresh, organic produce grown in our own backyard. If elected into office, I would like to advocate for residential gardeners and encourage all Vancouverites to learn about ways they can grow sustainable produce responsibly.

Ted Copeland: in case you may have overlooked this very important fact I will tell you, this is a municipal election, you know for Mayors, Councilors, Parks board & school board, none of these positions has any power or say in what goes into or doesn’t go into our food, that would be a FEDERAL or PROVINCIAL concern. If I were ever to run in one of those races I could give you answers to these questions in a more educated way. That being said I am against GMOs and their use in the food chain, but those folks have some pretty deep pockets and it seems the ear of the FEDS, especially MONSANTO. I don’t like messing with MOTHER NATURE because she has a way of sneaking up and biting you on the ass. I think before foisting these frankenfoods on the public there should be far more testing and safeguards. We need to know what is in our food at all times.

Rather than spew half truths here I will just say that I am always asking how something is done or made or what is being sprayed and why, I believe in the City the PARKS BOARD has rigid regulations concerning all pesticide use.

Mae Reid: 1. I am opposed to the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. I believe that we have health issues in humans that have not even been diagnosed as being caused by these substances. I believe that the animals that we use for food and that have been fed these foods also contribute to a breakdown in our body’s immune system and functions. I firmly believe that research will show in perhaps a decade or so, the actual issues that we are creating.

  1. I am a Director at Metro Vancouver as well as a City Councilor and I am quite vocal about my feelings. I am not an expert at all on herbicide and pesticides but do not use them myself.

Jeremy Gustafson (Cedar Party): In a perfect world I think genetically engineered crops could feed the starving. However the current model practiced by Monsanto is far from perfect and I am opposed to it. I believe the Parks Board recently banned neonicotinoids. I would like to further that to provide information to help household consumers avoid using them as well.

Charlene Gunn (Cedar Party): 1. I am strongly against the cultivation of genetically engineered crops because:

1) GMO crops perpetuate monoculture which reduces bio-diversity. This is dangerous because if we have millions of acres of a few specific crops, a single disease could wipe out that crop and we would be faced with famine. An example in history would be Ireland. The potato blight destroyed the single food crop of potatoes which caused a million deaths.

2) GMO crops are engineered to withstand the toxic herbicide called “Roundup”. Roundup is toxic and we don’t know the harm it can cause when we ingest this.

3) GMO crops are controlled by multinationals and they are only interested in making profits for their shareholders and care little of the suffering they may cause. (Ex. In the past decade, GMO crops (cotton) have been linked to 250,000 farmers’ suicides in India.)

4) GMO multinationals are doing/creating things that work against the small farmer. They make profits from GMO seeds which they hold patents. They require farmers to buy their patented seeds every year and are not allowed to save their own seeds.

5) Health Problems. GMO crops are fed to our farm animals such as cattle, hogs, chickens, etc. Studies have shown that these animals get sick when fed GMO crops. No independent safety tests (that I know of) have been done on humans on the long-term health consequences of eating GMO crops.

6) Famine. GMO crops were promised to be able to feed the world. This has not happened in the two decades they have been around. There are still starving people in the world.

7) Bees dying. GMO crops have the Bt gene inserted into the GMO plants that are supposed to kill harmful insects. But if the plant is toxic to one insect, then it could also be toxic to beneficial insects such as Bees. We are now faced with massive deaths of bees called Bee colony collapse disorder. Bees pollinate over 30% of the fruits and vegetables we buy in the supermarket. No bees mean no crops mean little or no fruits and vegetables at the supermarket. We would be faced with a global problem with the continuation of this process.

  1. I support the public awareness of GMO crops. I personally think that there is more harm than benefits to mankind and nature with GMO crops. I would support GMO labeling of ingredients in all our food so the public has the CHOICE on whether or not they wish to buy and consume GMO crops or other products. We need transparency and openness across the board. Both in City hall and in something as important as food. I feel we are slowly having our democratic rights removed; from having citizen’s concerns of the City falling on deaf ears to the public not being completely informed on the food products that we consume.

Over 64 countries require GMO labeling (all food labels must show if any ingredient used in the product is from a GMO crop). Even China and Russia requires GMO labeling. I don’t see why Canada and the USA should not require GMO labeling.

With regards to herbicide and pesticides, I think we should ban the class of pesticides that are called neonicotinoids because they are linked to bee deaths. I believe that we can still grow enough organic food if we practice working with Mother Nature and using good agriculture concepts such as permaculture.

We need to stop making decisions that affect all but only benefit a select few. We need to stop running the City, the world, based on dollars and cents and start making decisions that are best for its citizens and the betterment of people. I hear a lot of talk around green initiatives and sustainability but I don’t see anyone working on more long term plans to create the change that is needed to stop this destructive path. The unfortunate thing is, we can foresee the future based on our current trends but not enough effort or importance is being placed on these issues.

Adriane Carr: 1. I have opposed GE crops and promoted organic agriculture for decades. I believe GE crops are a threat to human and environmental health and the sustainability agriculture as well as species and ecosystem biodiversity. 2. I participated in the push to create Canada’s first GE-free zone in Powell River, incorporated GE-free and toxic-free goals into the Green Party of BC 2001 and 2005 election platforms and the Green Party of Canada election platforms in 2008 and 2011, issued media releases and spoken at public events about these issues. More recently, I moved a motion as a Vancouver City Councilor to create a GE-free Vancouver. My motion included concerns about neonicotinoids and, in particular, threats to bee populations.

Mike Hansen: 1. ge and gmo crops are for one thing and one thing only. The corporate control of food and the $$$ and power controlling it.

  1. As a former bee keeper I am very well aware of the dangers these corporate poisons and will stand strong against them.

Rick Orser: 1. I believe whether we like it or not, GE crops are here to stay, if not in our community than certainly in others. Feeding the growing population of the world it not going to be possible without them.

  1. I would support labeling of GE crops as being GE so that buyers can make informed decisions and not buy them if they do not want to. I also like the idea that some GE crops can be grown without harmful chemicals.
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