Richmond passes ban on genetically engineered crops
By Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun May 22, 2012
Richmond council has passed a motion banning genetically modified shrubs, plants and food crops from being grown in the city.
Rossland, Kaslo, Nelson, Powell River and Saltspring Island have passed motions opposing genetically modified organisms with their boundaries, but Richmond is the first predominantly agricultural jurisdiction in B.C. to enact such a ban.
The motion passed unanimously by council Tuesday evening 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 and awareness of the issues raised by GMOs into the city’s public outreach programs.
Because GE crops are federally regulated, Richmond cannot legally enforce its ban, but proponents of the ban are delight with the message that 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 genentically engineered plants.
Hamir presented council with a petition in support of the ban, containing more than 1,000 names.
“I think this ban 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.
Steves said the danger of pollen drift from GE crops — in which literally carries modified genetic material on the wind to other fields —could deter farmers from trying to grown certified organic crops in Richmond.