The Politics of Food Safety

How foreign governments & eNGOs are playing politics over a handful of GM wheat kernels

In mid-June 2018, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reported that a few GM wheat plants had been detected in southern Alberta, amounting to no more than a handful of seeds. Using Canada’s science-based risk assessment system, the CFIA clearly stated, “[t]here is also no evidence that this wheat has entered the food or animal feed system, nor is it present anywhere else in the environment. Health Canada and the CFIA have performed risk assessments of this finding, and have concluded that it does not pose a food safety, animal feed, or environmental risk.”

End of story, right?

Nothing to see here folks, move along please. Sadly, this was not the case. While this appears to be one-time event, it’s important to remember that all GMOs consumed at present have been approved as safe. In spite of the scientific reassurance of this detection by the CFIA, the governments of Japan and South Korea have banned Canadian wheat imports. The blame for this can be laid directly on the doorstep of eNGOs and foreign governments playing politics with food safety and international commodity trade.

GM crops have been proven safe. Yet, for the past 20 years, eNGOs have circled the globe trumpeting the terror of GM crops and how they will cause the destruction of the world and food supplies. In spite of there never being a single food safety or environmental issue with GM crops, this has not stopped eNGO communities from perpetuating their campaigns of lies, fear and intimidation. This has contributed to foreign governments now being worried from a one-time detection when there is no reason to be worried. Governments and politicians in foreign countries have been hoodwinked by scandalous eNGOs intimidation tactics.

Playing politics

GM Wheat, International PoliticsThe foreign governments of Japan and South Korea are playing politics, announcing they’ll suspend wheat imports from Canada. Officials have seen the CFIA report and knowing Canada’s science-based risk assessment process are likely not suspending wheat out of fear of GM wheat. It is likely a convenient excuse to block Canadian wheat supply with the hope of driving down the price of Canadian wheat. Canada produces some of the worlds best milling wheat for flour and baking, so the Japanese and South Korean governments are hoping that their actions will reduce the price of Canadian wheat and then they would be able to purchase their supply at a lower price. Blatant politics affecting international trade, which is a violation of the World Trade Organizations rules.

For Japan and South Korea to have legitimately been able to claim sanitary or phytosanitary concerns about Canadian wheat exports, the GM wheat would have needed to have been detected in these exports. The CFIA stated this has not happened. Also, the GM wheat would need to have been deemed a food safety risk. Given that the 12 other food crops that have GM varieties haven’t reported a single safety issue over the past 20 years, reveals this for what it is, a political stunt by the Japanese and South Korean governments to lower the price of Canadian wheat exports. This is especially given the fact that Japan has approved 10 GM crops for cultivation and South Korea has approved 7 GM crops for import.

Placing fear where it might not belong

It’s interesting to observe the eNGO scare tactics and the foreign political tactics from the detection of a handful of GM wheat kernels. For instance, Canadian wheat export standards allow for 0.04% of ergot, which has known harmful effects, such as inconveniently causing people to die. However, eNGOs argue, that the safety of 25 million tonnes of Canadian wheat should be jeopardized over a handful of GM wheat kernels. It is disconcerting that legitimate food and feed safety issues such as the presence of ergot in wheat or mycotoxins in corn are ignored in favour of political fearmongering by eNGOs.

Given the political actions of Japan and South Korea, it’s reassuring to know that Canada has the WTO’s rules on its side in this issue. Politics often finds its way into international trade, despite not being allowed. The open rejection of safe wheat in the short term is not concerning, if it is only a short suspension to conduct safety research. However, Japan and South Korea have set a dangerous precedence in this instance, suspending trade with no evidence of harm, violating international trade laws. I sure wouldn’t want to be an exporter in either of these countries. Let’s hope this suspension is short lived and that the future of commodity trade is based on science, not politics.

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