Richmond council has passed a motion banning genetically modified plants and crops from being grown in the city, the first predominantly agricultural jurisdiction in B.C. to enact such a ban.
The motion passed unanimously by council Tuesday night was considerably stronger than the action recommended by city staff, who suggested lobbying senior levels of government for mandatory labelling of foods that contain ingredients from genetically engineered crops.
Under the motions passed, Richmond will seek stronger labelling requirements and integrate education about consumer choice and awareness of the issues raised by genetically modified organisms — known as GMOs or
GE crops — into the city’s public outreach programs.
Because GE crops are federally regulated, Richmond is limited in its ability to enforce the ban, but
proponents of the motion are delighted with the message it sends.
“It’s a pretty awesome outcome,” said Arzeena Hamir of the Richmond Food Security Society. Hamir and representatives of the anti-GMO group GE Free BC first approached council two years ago to seek a ban on genetically engineered plants.
Hamir presented council with a petition in support of the ban, containing more than 1,000 names.
“I think this ban yersslot.org is more than symbolic,” said Hamir. “To me just asking for labelling would have been the more meaningless gesture.”
Only three farms in Richmond are known to be growing genetically engineered crops, according to Coun. Harold Steves, who is also a Richmond farmer. Those farms will be allowed to continue using GE corn.
Steves said the danger of pollen drift from GE crops — which carries modified genetic material on the wind to other fields — could deter farmers from trying to grow certified organic crops in Richmond.
Opponents of GMOs claim that GE crops give rise to novel proteins that are not recognizable to human and animal digestive systems and that engineered genetic material may have unknown consequences when it is released into the environment.
Rossland, Kaslo, Nelson, Powell River and Saltspring Island have also passed motions opposing genetically modified organisms within their boundaries.
GE crops are created by taking genetic material from one living thing and pasting it into another, often to provide resistance to pests or chemical pesticides.
Most of the major commodity crops — maize (corn), soy, canola and cotton — grown in Canada and the U.S. are GE, and more than 80 per cent of packaged foods contain the products of those crops. Neither Canada nor the U.S. requires foods with GMOs to be labelled, though many European countries do.