Nature's Path's Comments on Seed Modernization Regulation Proposal

Dear organic friends,
The CFIA has invited comments on their website to the Seed Modernization Regulatory Framework renewal proposal.
Nature's Path has prepared lengthy comments to the online questionnaire. Please see attached to this e-mail.
I personally, and Nature's Path, encourages all organic, environmental and sustainably minded individuals, farmers, market gardeners, home gardeners, seed cleaners, processors and consumers to go online and fill in and submit comments to this proposal. Feel free to reference the Nature's Path comments, and indicate if you agree with them.

Don't be daunted by the seeming complexity of the questions. 
We'd like to share with you what we think the potential effects on organic and sustainable agriculture will be if the proposal stands:

The proposed changes to the Seed Registration system will make it easier for bio technology and GMO producing companies to register the "novel" seeds they want to monopolize the seed market with. This in turn will pave the way for further trademarking of the same seeds. The Seed Registration system as it stands now does not fully support their seed marketing plan, therefore they are hampered from entering the markets with GMO, GURT, and Bio Pharm seeds.

It is very important that organic and sustainable farmers and concerned citizens speak up and record their views on this issue, otherwise the feedback that CFIA will be getting is that Canadians want biotech interests to be the new way of agriculture in Canada.

We have answered a big fat NO (Do not support) to questions 7 to 21 as we feel they propose to make it easier to introduce GMOs, GURT's and Bio Pharm seeds.

We have answered that we strongly support question 22 and 25 as they propose strengthening the CFIA oversight, monitoring and enforcement of seed registration.

We urge you to take some time to go to the site, and fill in the form. Even if you just answer to the scale: Do not support -------- Strongly support. And if you like you can state that you support the answers provided in Nature's Path's comments. It has taken our team over 12 hours to study the report and seek to fully understand the complex format of the questions, and formulate our answers based on seeking to protect the organic food industry from the very serious threat that genetic engineering presents.

This may be the single most important act you do this year to safeguard agriculture, for our children and their children and their children.

CFIA website with links to proposal and guides:
http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/plaveg/variet/revetu/consule.shtml 
PDF version of the full questions in the online survey. (This will be useful to follow along with Nature's Path's answers)

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/plaveg/variet/revetu/consule.pdf
CBAN's website with comments from National Farmers Union (NFU):http://www.banterminator.org/take_action/national_campaigns/canadian_campaign/have_your_say/an_analysis_of_the_canadian_food_inspection_agency_s_proposal_to_facilitate_the_modernization_of_the_seed_regulatory_framework

SOD's position paper on the Seed Variety Registration in Canada:
http://www.saskorganic.com/pdf/SOD-Position-Paper-Seed-Variety.pdf
The full CFIA proposal for renewal of the Seed Modernization Regulatory Framework (long and complex)
http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/plaveg/variet/revetu/prepo06e.shtml
Thank you for helping to save the organic supply of grains and other foods from being contaminated with genetic modification, so we can continue to supply healthy organic cereals and other products to everyone.

Feel free to pass this on to local organic and sustainable farming groups.
Sincerely
Dag Falck, Organic Program Manager
Nature's Path Foods Inc.
Ph: 250 379 2244
dfalck@naturespath.com
Nurturing People, Nature & Spirit
www.naturespath.com

Seed Modernization Regulation comments

From Nature’s Path Foods Inc.

Dag Falck, Organic Program Manager

Date: 26 March, 2007

Nature’s Path’s answers to the questions are in dark red.
Question 1:
Are the views expressed your own, that of a Corporation,
Association or other?

    • My Own
    • Corporation
    • Association
    • Other, please specify

1. Submitted on behalf of Natures Path Foods Inc.
Question 2:
What is your primary business or professional focus?
Please select all that apply.

    • agricultural producer
    • pedigreed seed grower
    • public plant breeder
    • private plant breeder
    • seed company
    • seed analyst
    • crop marketer or handler
    • processor or end user
    • federal government
    • provincial government
    • municipal government
    • farm organization
    • industry association
    • general public
    • other, please specify (for example: Corporation ‘X’)

Question 3:
Where do you reside?
If representing a corporation or association,
where are your Canadian headquarters?

    • British Columbia
    • Alberta
    • Saskatchewan
    • Manitoba
    • Ontario
    • Quebec
    • New Brunswick
    • Nova Scotia
    • Prince Edward Island
    • Newfoundland and Labrador
    • Northwest territories
    • Nunavut
    • Yukon
    • Other, please specify

Question 4:
If applicable, where do you do business? (check all that apply)

    • Not applicable
    • British Columbia
    • Alberta
    • Saskatchewan
    • Manitoba
    • Ontario
    • Quebec
    • New Brunswick
    • Nova Scotia
    • Prince Edward Island
    • Newfoundland and Labrador
    • Northwest territories
    • Nunavut
    • Yukon
    • United States of America
    • Europe
    • Asia
    • Latin America
    • Australia
    • Africa
    • Other, please specify

Question 5: Identification of respondents
First Name: Dag
Last Name: Falck
Organization or Association (if applicable): Nature’s Path Foods Inc.
Address: 9100 Van Horne Way
City: Richmond
Province / State: BC
Postal Code / Zip: V6X 1W3
Country: Canada
E-mail address: dfalck@naturespath.com
Question 6: Contact List
Your participation in this on-line consultation indicates your interest in seed
policies and regulations. Please indicate if you would like the CFIA to add
your contact information to a list of stakeholders for further communication
on this and other CFIA Seed Program related issues.
6. Contact list – yes
Question 7:
Please rate your degree of support for the CFIA Proposal to introduce provisions that would allow it to recognize a National Stakeholder Forum as part of the official CFIA Seed Program Consultative Framework:

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 I Don’t Know
Do not support ---------------------------------------------------------- strongly support
7. -1- Do not support
Question 8:
Please explain the rationale for the rating provided.
8. We are concerned that the CFIA National Stakeholder Forum may not involve the right balance of stakeholders that would ensure the safety and biodiversity of Canadian seed supply. If the CFIA Seed Program is heavily biased in favour of the Bio-tech seed industry, the integrity and safety of our national seed supply would be put at risk. The Organic industry must have balanced representation in the Forum.

Question 9:
Briefly describe the issues that the CFIA should take into consideration with respect to implementation of this particular aspect of the proposal.

9. The goals of the CFIA proposal need to be more clearly articulated. As it stands, the proposal lacks clear guiding principles, leaving the reader to guess at the intrinsic import. If the guiding idea is to ease the seed registration process for monopolistic seed producers to register and maintain control over their own patented varieties, this would be strongly opposed by the organic industry and environmental interests.

Does seed registration assist or hamper protection of valuable seed biodiversity needed for future seed and crop development? Any proposal for “modernization” of a seed regulatory framework that does not address this question seems worthless, and can only lead to poor decisions down the road. We would strongly support a proposal that has as its priority the preservation and development of healthy seed and plant biodiversity for all Canadians. We urge CFIA to place this as the primary goal of the project, and spell it out in its proposal.

Question 10:
Please rate your degree of support for the CFIA Proposal to introduce
provisions that would allow it to recognize Crop Specific Consultative
Groups as part of the official CFIA Seed Program Consultative Framework:
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 I Don’t Know
Do not support ---------------------------------------------------------- strongly support
10. -1- Do not support
Question 11: Please explain the rationale for the rating provided.
11. By listing the CSGC’s potential membership by category, and alluding to a process of consensus-seeking, does not inform us that the process will ensure the protection of agricultural and food security issues for all Canadians. Given the proposed Crop Specific Consultative Group makeup, the question arises whether or not independent organic and sustainable farmers, processors, and end-users will have the opportunity to participate equally in the consultative process.

If the needs of the organic industry are not included in a balanced format, we are concerned that the Seed Forum stakeholders will be selected based on interests that will be detrimental to the environment, farmers, and our export markets.

Canada has already lost hundreds of millions of dollars in export trade due to the fact that the government supported Monsanto and others in developing genetically engineered Canola. The unfortunate result was that the majority of countries did not want Canada’s GE Canola. GMO Canola quickly became the dominant Canola species, and contaminated non-GMO fields. This has caused a lot of economic hardship to many Canadian farmers. Imagine the ecological and financial disaster if Monsanto is allowed to develop and promote GE transgenic wheat in Canada! We want to ensure that the Forum is not there to serve the narrow interests of the biotech industry, most of whom are foreign-owned and totally monopolistic.

Question 12: Briefly describe the issues that the CFIA should take into consideration with respect to implementation of this particular aspect of the proposal.

12.
a) The Goals of the proposed seed regulatory framework are stated in vague language.
b) The purpose of the Seed Regulatory Framework needs to be inclusive of not just the interests of seed developers, but must also accommodate the organic food industry. As it stands, the SRF is unsupportable by the organic industry. The protection and enhancement of genetic diversity for all agriculture in Canada must be considered and written into code. Making it easier to register seeds, in most cases, directly opposes bio– and genetic diversity, therefore we strongly do not support question 10.

Question 13: Please rate your degree of support for the changes proposed to the
current registration model (Tier I):
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 I Don’t Know
Do not support ---------------------------------------------------------- strongly support
13. -1- Do not support
Question 14: Please explain the rationale for the rating provided.
14. The current Tier I is inappropriate, for it does not take into account many seed quality factors that are valued in organic farming. Rather than introducing positive changes, the new proposal simply weakens the existing system. It appears that it will only serve to protect and enhance the interests of seed developers and marketers, and does not focus on issues of food and feed nutritional value. There are credible studies that illustrate that the past 50+ years of agricultural policies have resulted in serious depletion of nutrient value of our agricultural crops. http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/full/23/6/669

The proposed change to Tier I doesn’t address nutritional content of crops from seeds that have been bred and selected for increasing quantity, while decreasing nutritional quality. We are not talking about single vitamins or nutritional features being genetically engineered into seed, but a holistic, naturally occurring balanced nutrition being naturally improved through breeding programs and soil health. Additionally, it does not address negative environmental impacts by the design of certain seeds that encourage (or require) the use of herbicides or pesticides. These same herbicides and pesticides have known carcinogenic and mutagenic effects on humans and livestock. They also inflict documented long-term environmental damage. Without the nutritional value of crops and environmental impacts being addressed and considered in the registration process, it is unsupportable for Canadians.

Organic agriculture is the fastest growing, and most vibrant segment of the food industry. Over the past 30 years, the organic movement has grown from a few million dollars in sales to over $30 billion annually worldwide. Canada is a significant producer and exporter of organic grain and seeds. The current level of Canada’s organic production could be multiplied manifold, with proper support and marketing from the government. The CFIA has recognized this in embracing the system by regulating it with the new National Organic Regulation. A basic component for organics is to focus attention on the nutritional value of seed, as well as the enhancement of soil fertility. Organic agriculture is a regulated process that minimizes and preferably eliminates all detrimental environmental impacts from use of seed with undesirable traits. Since we are supported by the growing number of consumers who vote for organic products through their purchasing dollars, we feel justified in requesting that our input to the Seed Regulatory Framework (which reflects the organic philosophy), be considered on par with pre-existing policy.

Question 15: Briefly describe the issues that the CFIA should take into
consideration with respect to implementation of this particular aspect
of the proposal.
15. Develop and state clear goals of the proposal. Then, amend the proposal in a manner that supports those goals. It is our belief that those goals should include ensuring increased, rather than decreased, nutritional value of crops grown from seed, and minimizing, rather than increasing detrimental environmental impacts (increased use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fossil fuel fertilizers) that result from the use of transgenic or nutritionally inferior seeds in agriculture.

Question 16:
Please rate your degree of support for the establishment of a variety listing option
(Tier II):
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 I Don’t Know
Do not support ---------------------------------------------------------- strongly support
16. -1- Do not Support
Question 17:
Please explain the rationale for the rating provided.
17. Tier II relaxes requirements for seed registration. Our main concerns are not addressed by an easier process of seed registration. It is obvious that seed developers and marketers would be the primary beneficiaries of said relaxation. CFIA seems to be proposing support for the interests of an infinitesimal minority of Canadian enterprise and stakeholders. If Tier II won’t help Canadians to achieve nutritionally superior food and healthier agriculture, then the question begs asking; why does a branch of our government spend resources developing and supporting such a plan?

Question 18:
Briefly describe the issues that the CFIA should take into consideration with respect to implementation of this particular aspect of the proposal.

18. Tier II should be eliminated altogether.
Question 19:
Please rate your degree of support for a strengthened contract registration
system to support the introduction of value-added varieties:
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 I Don’t Know
Do not support ---------------------------------------------------------- strongly support
19. -1- Do not support
Question 20: Please explain the rationale for the rating provided.
20. Some aspects of a strengthened seed regulation system would appear to support our concerns about spread of GMO seeds into the environment and the inevitable contamination of both organic and conventional crops. However, we cannot support the introduction of suspected “value-added varieties”, unless we know with absolute certainty that these are not transgenic seeds.

What is needed is a strengthening of the contract registration system to address concerns about contamination of organic seed with GE seeds. (Who pays for the damage caused by GMO contamination? Who should pay? Those who caused the contamination! That, sadly has not been the case so far.) Concern remains at high level regarding Monsanto’s GE seeds which have built in pesticides and/or that are resistant to their Roundup herbicide. Tell us clearly that “Terminator Seed Technology” which has been banned around the globe, will not be allowed into Canada’s seed supply. Based on formidable international research, we believe such built-in seed traits go against the goals of developing nutrition and protecting the environment. We propose that such protections be written into the Seed Regulatory Framework.

Question 21: Briefly describe the issues that the CFIA should take into
consideration with respect to implementation of this particular
aspect of the proposal.
21. We do not support implementing this part of the proposal.
Question 22: Please rate your degree of support for strengthening the CFIA’s
authority with respect to enforcement and compliance for contract registration.
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 I Don’t Know
Do not support ---------------------------------------------------------- strongly support
22. -6- Strongly support
Question 23: Please explain the rationale for the rating provided.
23. We strongly support the CFIA in establishing stronger regulatory authority over seed registration, to ensure that compliance can be monitored, enforced, suspended or cancelled when necessary. If only this single part of the proposal (excluding all other parts) is implemented and acted upon by the CFIA, it will go a long way to convincing us and the citizens of Canada that the CFIA is not favouring the biotechnology sector over the organic or any other sector.

Question 24: Briefly describe the issues that the CFIA should take into consideration with respect to implementation of this particular aspect of the proposal.

24. We believe a serious mistake has already been made by allowing genetically engineered seed to enter our agriculture and natural lands, which we all depend on. To mitigate what we consider a mistake, the proposal to strengthen the contract registration system’s ability to monitor and enforce contamination (‘leaks’, in your words), would be a very big step in the right direction. Consider the biggest and most costly product recalls in history in the US, with GE contaminated corn and rice.

Question 25: Please rate your degree of support for strengthening the monitoring
capacity for contract registration:
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 I Don’t Know
Do not support ---------------------------------------------------------- strongly support
25. -6- Strongly support
Question 26: Please explain the rationale for the rating provided.
26. We only support 3rd party monitoring and auditing on the following conditions:

        • 3rd party auditors must not have any vested interest in Biotech industries - this includes not having done research for biotech, holding any contracts, nor having expressed opinions for or against biotechnology in agriculture.
        • 3rd party monitoring and auditing should only be viewed as a means of repairing the damage done by the “mistake” referred to in answer 24, not as a vehicle for allowing further genetically engineered seed registrations.

Question 27: Briefly describe the issues that the CFIA should take into consideration with respect to implementation of this particular aspect of the proposal.

27. Same as bullets in answer 26.
Question 28: Please briefly identify any other areas within the Seed
Program that you feel could be improved and provide a
brief explanation of why improvement is needed.
28. The seed regulatory framework has evolved over a great period of time, as explained in the background to this question. Its goals and principles need to be clarified and updated. The current proposal should be scrapped. Public consultation about the goals for a seed regulatory framework needs to be undertaken. Some serious thought has to be put into who the stakeholder groups and their interests, prior to undertaking a consultation on a proposed change. The long-term consequences of the proposed Seed Forum are just too great not to look at the larger picture and to future generations.

In summary:

    • Identify stakeholders based on interests. Reserve consultation for those who do not have financial profit as a primary motive.
    • Develop goals for the seed regulatory framework that are relevant to today’s challenges of human nutrition and environmental health, fossil fuel shortage, greenhouse gases, agricultural genetic diversity, and healthy sustainable farming communities. Ensure that all stakeholders have easy access to a healthy variety of un-contaminated, non-GMO seeds – seeds which have been the tools of agricultural trade since the dawning of civilization.
    • Develop an “Enlightened Seed Regulatory Framework” proposal.
    • Go through consultation on the proposal with stakeholders (selected based on interests as explained above).

Question 29: Last Word about the Proposal you just helped to review.
Please provide any additional comments or advice about the Proposal itself
(up to 250 words).
29. Even though we have many concerns, we welcome the opportunity to participate and comment. We see the organic industry (that we are a part of) as having been marginalized by the current seed regulatory framework, and potentially further marginalized by the proposed changes. We believe that the organic food and production sector, the fastest growing food sector in North America, should have open and secure access to pure, non-transgenic seeds – a right that must be protected. The organic industry is facing many economic challenges as a result of genetic engineered organisms contaminating Canadian organic land, seed and food. While contamination is being caused by the biotech giants like Monsanto, Bayer Crop Science, Aventis, etc., the organic sector is left to pay a high price for segregation, testing for GMO’s, and even the rejection of contaminated lots. This is hardly justice, despite having been assured by the CFIA that there are rules and monitoring in place to prevent such contamination. This is why it may seem that the organic industry is not very trusting of further promises of safe regulation of the biotech industry, while the old promises are still not satisfactorily addressed.

We are opposed to a seed regulatory framework that allows further release of GE and or GURTS (“Terminator”) seeds, as contamination cannot be 100% contained. Furthermore, we are very concerned that the costs involved in protecting organic land and food from GE contamination is not being borne by the polluter. It is of great concern that a branch of our government appears to be protecting, if not championing certain monopolistic, monolithic transgenic seed companies (not Canadian companies, by the way), while the interests of legitimate businesses owned and run by Canadians are unfairly impacted. We are hoping, now that the CFIA also regulates organic (which Nature’s Path has actively supported from the get-go), that much effort will be put into correcting the past apparent favouritism of transgenic and agri-chemical agriculture.

The research and findings of scientists and agricultural experts with a deep interest in plant bio-diversity, ecology and sustainability must be taken into consideration. Writings and scientific studies from leading environmental scientists, thinkers, activists and geneticists - including Drs Ignacio Chapela, Miguel Altieri, Arpad Pustzai, Vandana Shiva and David Suzuki, need to be seriously considered before any final course is taken. We strongly recommend that models for effective maintenance of plant biodiversity already existing be studied and a full comparative publication be made, highlighting the benefits and drawbacks of each system. The best and most balanced system should be used as a model for Canada, and serve as a beacon for the rest of the world.

We hope that our comments will be heard as constructive and we look forward to remaining engaged with issues that affect our organic business (Nature’s Path employs 311 people, and operates two certified organic breakfast food plants in Canada, and a third in Blaine, WA).

Question 30: Quick Evaluation
Please take a minute to tell us about your experience using this “e-Workbook”.
Indicate your level of agreement or disagreement with the following statements,
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 I Don’t Know
disagreement ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------strong agreement.

a) I found the workbook well laid out and easy to follow:
-1- disagree
The questions seemed relevant to the interests of large, foreign-owned biotechnology companies that are involved in the development and monopolistic control of the world’s supply of seed. It did not seem that questions were soliciting information or feedback on what the commenter thought about the issues of control of seed, and who this control should appropriately rest with (farmers, seed developers, government, etc.).

b) I found the questions straight-forward and easy to understand:
-1- disagree
We felt the questions were complex and not clear about what information was sought. In fact it was so complex and round-about that we doubt that ordinary folks and farmers will have the patience or inclination to even complete the form. Without a thorough study of the subject and the proposal, it would be impossible to even understand the questions. It took us considerably more than 30-60 minutes to develop the answers, more in the range of 14 hours.

c) I feel that I was able to express my opinions through this type of format:
-1- disagree
It was very difficult to relay the information and answers that we felt were important. It seemed that the questions were not soliciting opinion, but rather aimed at soliciting agreement. It also seemed that the conclusion of strengthening seed registration had already been made, and the only question left was if the method was approved.

d) CFIA should consider using this approach again in the future:
-1- disagree
No, an open format should be used where participants are invited to comment on the issues that are important to them. The current approach is much too structured and does not invite comment, but rather directs or misdirects answers.

Thank You
PART 7 — Workbook Evaluation
The CFIA appreciates your time and effort toward improving the Canadian Seed
Regulatory Framework. Responses received during the consultation period ending on
March 31st, 2007 will be reviewed and considered in finalizing the proposed changes
to modernize the Seed Regulatory Framework and introduce any required regulatory
amendments. Please note, however, that due to the volume of responses anticipated, it
will not be possible to respond individually to any comments received. A summary report
of the consultation results will be published on the CFIA website after the consultation is
completed.