Fellow CV residents:
As both the Echo and Record reported last week, the Courtenay council is divided about implementing a GE Free Purchase Polciy.
The Staff Report recommended to stay the status quo, not because of cost but because it did not want to add another layer to the purchase process.THe report is a credit to their research skill however it did not fully address the main purpose of finding the economic impact of such a policy on the City’s budget. Luckily their recommendation was voted down so our request is still on the table.
I wrote this letter to expand on some of the points discussed at the Oct 5th Council meeeting. The video of the meeting is now on the City of Courtenay archive for meetings and after watching it,if you are so moved ,please write to Council to share your thoughts.
Good day Mayor and Councillors,
Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving Weekend.
I would like to bring 2 items to your attention : Golden rice background and GE trees coming to the NW.
Just to refresh the purpose of our discussion: The initial GE Free Purchase Policy request was
That a) City Hall will abstain from purchasing genetically engineered plants , trees and seeds to grow within the city
b) City Hall will refrain from purchasing genetically engineered foods (where reasonable, as in Duncan’s policy) for catering and vending .
As the staff report stated , the economic cost to the city administration is minimal. However the gesture of being more health conscious and supporting our local growing organic community will make City Hall a leader in the eyes of its citizens,showing that you are aware that the people of Courtenay want cleaner and healthier living .
Both Comox and Cumberland have joined the Blue Dot project. Courtenay should lead this one.
You remember that 85% at the UBCM in 2013 voted for a GE Free Vancouver Island ! This will be going with the new wave.
A: Golden Rice
During the Oct 5th Council meeting, golden rice was mentioned several times, so I thought it is worth researching and sharing this information. Below are 4 points which are central to why even today golden rice is not generally accepted in SE Asia.
1) Rice is daily food for half of the world’s population. Yet no GM rice is grown commercially anywhere in the world.
In September 2011, the Chinese government stated it was suspending the commercialisation of genetically engineered rice. The future of GM rice in China remains uncertain.
In June 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture in Thailand laid a policy (“Rice Strategy”) that committed to non-GM rice as part of strengthening the nation’s rice production while promoting farmers’ livelihoods and consumer confidence. The policy is supported by Thailand’s Rice Exporters Association.
2)”Golden Rice” GM Vitamin-A Rice (CBAN Factsheet, January 2014)
“Golden Rice” is the name of a rice that has been genetically modified (GM, or genetically engineered) to produce beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A. This beta-carotene gives the rice grains the yellowish colour that has inspired its name. Its’ developers claim that it is needed to address vitamin-A deficiency, or VAD. However, Golden Rice does not address the real problem. VAD is not an isolated issue; it is a symptom of malnutrition, which is caused by food insecurity and poverty.
Golden Rice has not yet been tested for safety, and has not been adequately tested for its ability to make vitamin A available to the human body. For example, vitamin A can only be absorbed by the body when eaten with fat, but fat is rarely present in the diets of people who suffer from malnutrition.
Golden Rice is still being field-tested and despite several years and millions of dollars, it is still not ready for commercial release anywhere in the world. The resources spent to develop Golden Rice could have been used to expand existing, proven approaches to addressing VAD – such as supplementation, food fortification, breastfeeding programs and diet diversification – and implementing them for communities around the world that urgently need them.
golden-rice-factsheet-cban-web.pdf 241.85 kB
In February 2013, the International Rice Research Institute which is a partner in developing Golden Rice stated, “It has not yet been determined whether daily consumption of Golden Rice does improve the vitamin A status of people who are vitamin A deficient and could therefore reduce related conditions such as night blindness.”
The first Golden Rice variety did not produce enough beta carotene (Provitamin A) – it produced only 1.6 micro g/gm of carotenoids. A child would have had to eat more than 10 kilograms per day to get a sufficient dose. The industry says they have now solved this problem with a better variety of the rice. The rice is called “Golden Rice” because of its colour but the beta-carotene that makes the rice yellow was an unexpected effect.
3) Alternative remedies:
Vitamin A supplementation and food fortification in the Philippines (began in 1999) has already reduced vitamin A deficiency in preschool age children from 40% in 2003 to 15.2% in 2008 (the World Health Organization considers 15% to be the cutoff for when deficiency is considered a public health problem).
Other solutions to vitamin-A deficiency are available, such as delivering vitamin A supplements and fortifying vitamin A in staple foods, and are better targeted and more cost efficient. Furthermore, many conventionally bred plants show a high carotinoid content. Vitamin-A deficiency is a symptom of malnutrition and hunger due to severe poverty.
4) Presence of Retinoic:
A recent discussion by renowned Indian scientist Dr Tusher Chakraborty cautioned that the controversial rice poses a serious threat to human health and rice itself. – See more at: http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2015/oct/11/indian-scientist-warns-golden-rice-impact#sthash.Fwum0Fsc.dpuf
He noted that the basic safety concern over “Golden Rice” is the presence of retinoic acid, which is a metabolite of vitamin A.The retinoic acid is a teratogen linked to causing defects of the fetus.
B) GE Trees
It was with deep concern that GE Free CV brought in the request for a GE Free Purchase policy for planting and beautification of Courtenay. As you are aware GE apple was approved early 2015. But more incidious is the potential GE tree farms with uncontrolled GE pollen in the air. Since Courtenay is a garden city,surrounded by beautiful flowers and trees, we really need pro-active measures to protect ourselves.
“GE trees pose a greater threat of contamination than seen with GE crops, largely because trees live for decades, have so many nearby wild relatives and their pollen travels hundreds of miles. The scenario of contamination from trees genetically engineered to be insect resistance via Bt (as in recent government field trials in Quebec), for example, warns of serious biodiversity impacts as Bt targets lepidoptera, a main food source for many birds.
In April 2014 the University of British Columbia announced they have created genetically engineered (GE) poplar trees for paper and biofuel production, opening the prospect of growing these GE trees like an agricultural crop in the future. 
The poplars were genetically engineered for altered lignin composition to supposedly make them easier to process into paper and biofuels. Groups, however, warn that manipulation of lignin, and the potential contamination of wild poplars with the GE trait, could be extremely dangerous. 
Lignin is a key structural component of plant cell walls and a major component of soils.  It is also the product of millions of years of natural selection favoring sturdy, healthy and resilient plants. Contamination from GE poplars with altered lignin could have devastating effects on forests, ecosystems, human communities and biodiversity.”
Source: http://www.cban.ca/resources/ge trees/ press release April 9,2014(Genetically Engineering Poplars for Paper and Biofuels)
If you have any further questions on Golden rice & GE trees please feel free to contact me.
GE Free CV.