Summary of Courtenay Council Debating the decision to adopt the Staff Report on a GE Free Purchase Policy by the City of Courtenay.(Oct 5th 2015).
7 GE free activists plus one interested person sat thru from 4pm to 5.45pm. Our patience and presence might have proven that the issue will not be washed away as easily as City Hall hopes.
(The full Staff report is on the City of Courtenay website. Also the video of the meeting will be on the web site:http://www.courtenay.ca/EN/main/city-hall/mayor-council/council-meeting-agendas-minutes-videos/2015.html}
GE Free CV presented Council in April 2015, a request for a GE Free Purchase Policy for City Hall. Council voted to ask staff to report on the economic impact of such a policy.
The staff did a full background research on GE food giving references and contacted the Town of Duncan`s administration. Their research is commendable. Their conclusions is that due to lack of labeling, staff needs expertise to handle the purchase of GE free products, secondly, organic food is more costly and the thirdly, the shelf life is shorter. These 3 reasons would “increase the City’ food procurement costs and time and complexity of the screening process.”
At present they only have 2 criteria : Cost and Value. A 3rd criterion will be too burdensome.
The motion to accept the staff’s recommendation to maintain the current buying policy was tabled and discussed.
Bob Wells was absent due to work. So there were only 5 Councillors plus the Mayor. ( 6 voting persons).
Erikson moved to adopt the motion. Hillian seconded but wanted to amend it to give non GMO a preferential status rather than an absolute GE Free.
The Mayor insisted that they need to hear Robert Wager speak. Wager was there in the front row. Without being on the agenda, the Mayor was pushing that he should have the floor. Luckily the other Councillors said they have to leave to listen to the Federal debate. and would not extend the meeting.
There was a vote on the motion. A tie vote:
For: Manno Theos, Eric Erikson, Mayor Jangular,
Against: Doug Hillian, David Frisch and Rebecca Lennox.
A tie means the staff motion dies. No decision on our initial motion. This is good news!!
Excerpts of some comments during the melee:
Erikson: GE crops has helped to increase yield by 30%. Lots of farmers in the world cannot do without GE crops. There is no proof that GE food will harm people’s health. “There has to be some kind of good in GMO”
Larry Jangular, Mayor
“Golden Rice saved so many people.”( visit golden-rice-factsheet-cban-web.pdf 241.85 kB to debunk this myth)
“GMO and organic are not the same thing.” He said that several times and he told Manno that before letting him speak and Manno answered I know.
“This new Council has not heard the other side so Mr Wager is here to speak to that.”( Not on the agenda)
Rebecca Lennox: “We do not need Mr Wager ‘s presentation as I do my own research”.
She asked to defer Wager to the next meeting. (very smart move!)
David Allan (Chief Administrative Officer):
Duncan’s policy only extend to catering. ( I checked this with the Duncan group and the adopted policy and it certainly included plants and trees)
“Staff can carve out whatever scope council instruct them”. Vancouver was mentioned twice as a model because of its size and that it going GE Free.
The gist of his statements is that Council must Decide and the staff will implement whatever Council wants. However he repeated that he wanted to know the level of involvement citizens needed in accordance with the internal Spectrum of Public Participation Goal Guidelines. This guideline is found at the bottom of each Staff Report.
Frisch: He asked the CAO a question then Jangular quickly nailed him about giving Wager a chance to speak. David wrangled out by saying sure anytime later.
Theos: He would buy organic personally but due to the fact that there is no labeling and GE is practically in all foods, it will be impossible to administer for the City.
Hillian: He reminded Council that AVICC (Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities) and UBCM( Union of BC Municipalities) all voted for a GE Free island/BC meaning there is very strong public support to go this way.
Comments from GE Free CV members:
We were surprised to see Robert Wager, Monsanto’s rep in western Canada, coming to this meeting from Nanaimo. We only found out about this meeting around 10am that morning. Now we know that the Mayor might have more surprises for us. At the exit, the mayor is overheard to be inviting Wager to speak on Oct 13,Tues. Who else might be coming?
To the credit of our friendly Councillors, they were able to navigate this to another date and save our original request from being squashed. We are up against a well positioned old boys club. Our only power is people and patience because logic and science will not sway people who, at this level, have to be reminded that GMO and organic are not the same.
We plan to send info to Council on the Golden Rice, and to remind them that the public already weighed in thru our petition, with over 640 signatures in 2 1/2 months, letters of supports from 44 businesses & organisations and over 100 postcards sent to City Hall.
We will be vigilant in monitoring the progress of our motion for a GE Free Purchase Policy for Courtenay City Hall. Please come to attend the City Hall meetings whenever our motion is discussed. These meetings are informative, entertaining and full of suspense. Better value than a movie !!