Richmond, British Columbia, has just become the seventh GE-free zone in British Columbia, joining Powell River, Kaslo, New Denver, Nelson, Rossland, Salt Spring Island and Denman Island. Credit for steering Council’s thinking on the issue goes to the Richmond Food Security Society and the Society for a Genetically Free (GE) BC. But it’s the Richmond City Council that will take both heat and praise for the decision, so they deserve praise for taking a stand.
The day of the vote, May 22nd, the Vancouver Sun wrote:
Richmond council will consider a motion to join the grassroots campaign to convince the federal government to require mandatory labelling of foods that contain GMOs. But that position falls short of the ban on GMO shrubs, plants and crops within the city’s boundaries sought by GE Free BC.
When crunch time came, the City went much further. One after another, Council members spoke in favor of the resolution introduced by the two societies, asking Richmond to become a GE-free crop zone. Councillor Harold Steves, a third-generation farmer in the area, warned that allowing GE alfalfa would destroy a lifetime of work. Others spoke about potential economic losses to the agricultural area if GE crops were introduced and about health risks associated with eating GE foods.
Community members spoke as well, including Dag Falck from Nature’s Path, a company facing ongoing challenges in sourcing GE-free ingredients for its organic products. GE Free BC’s Tony Beck urged including farmers growing GE corn in dialogues on sustainable development.
Care2 members were there too — more than 1,000 of your signatures on the petition Arzeena Hamir, former coordinator of the Richmond Food Security Society, submitted to Council.
When the vote was taken, Council passed the resolution unanimously, choosing the stronger language proposed by the societies over the labeling-only recommendation of city staff.
Asked her reaction to the City of Richmond’s vote, Arzeena Hamir said:
I think this is totally doable in every community. Now that Richmond has hashed out the wording that its legal department is comfortable with, other communities are free to use the same wording.
I was really heartened to hear that no one on Council was comfortable with GMOs. Once that was established, and it was understood that the Federal Government was unwilling to hear the people’s wishes and the Provincial government isn’t even willing to put in a pesticide ban, it was clear that the onus is on municipalities to protect their citizens.
I know GE Free BC would love to see more communities follow suit and will probably put together a “kit” to help everyone out.
The City of Richmond is taking a risk with their willingness to become a role model in the GE-free movement. Show your support on the city’s Facebook page.
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Photo 1 from MillionsAgainstMonsanto via Flickr Creative Commons; Photo 2: Thinkstock