Richmond’s city council recently approved a motion to ban genetically-modified crops from being planted in their municipality. Richmond is likely the largest municipality in BC to pass such a ban and is one of the few with a large area of agricultural land. The motion was largely symbolic, as crop seeds are regulated federally.
Last night, the council held further hearings on the issue and by the reports from a couple skeptics who attended, the presenters were predominantly misinformed and anti-GMO. Two people spoke against the motion (in favour of GMOs), out of more than twenty. One of the pro-science advocates was a farmer, but by the reports it sounds like their pleas for rationalism fell on councillors that had already made up their mind.
Most of the anti-GMO crowd conflated their disgust at some of the extreme and unethical business practices of Monsanto with genetic engineering technology, which unfortunately disposes of all the advantages offered.
I don’t have much more to add to this story. It would have been nice to have had more warning that this issue was coming up but given the recent disarray of Centre for Inquiry Vancouver, the local skeptic movement has lost much of its organizational ability. While I strongly believe that skepticism is a vital branch of Humanism, to date the BC Humanist Association has not had much involvement in these types of campaigns. Furthermore, moving into this realm would be an expansion of our mandate, which may water down our core mandate – i.e. trying to be all things to all people.