The documents were handed over to Delta MP Carla Qualtrough, to carry it to Ottawa and hand over to Health Canada with a request to respond to the demand that the safety data on Glyphosate be made accessible to Canadians.
There has not been any further feedback, if indeed the documents were or were not handed over to Health Canada.
That silence, and absence of feedback, encouraged me to consider a second petition, this time on the House of Commons Government E-Petition platform, one that the Government presumably will not be able to stay silent on.
Creating an E-Petition on the Canadian House of Commons platform is a wholly different animal than creating one on change.org. It needed an MP as a sponsor, and five initial supporters. Luckily, Fin Donnelly , NDP, Port Moody—Coquitlam BC, agreed to sponsor the petition.
And now the petition has been accepted, translated into bilingual by the Government, and put up on line for 120 days to collect signatures. The Petition is open for signature until November 22, 2016, at 9:40 a.m. (EDT).
Our task now would be to get as many support signatures as possible for this petition, as a start. ON a second front, I am asking folks to write to their MPs, for their support to this petition on the floor on the parliament, and to make this issue, of illegal withholding of safety data from disclosure, while approving Glyphosate to enter our food system, to be a topic of a debate and a national dialog.
We have so far gone around the country, speaking about the dangers of chemical dependent agriculture, forestry and weed control in public places. We have had meetings with politicians, and joined marches against Monsanto. We have written to ministers and contacted labs about testing of Glyphosate in food.
And yet, Canada, its land, air, water, soil, flora, fauna and people are all getting systematically poisoned through introduction of batches of killer chemicals that are deemed safe by our Government, but whose safety documents are kept hidden from public scrutiny, which essentially makes the approval of these chemicals potentially illegal.
We have a petition asking Ottawa to release all hitherto hidden safety documents on Glyphosate to the people of Canada, with over 22,000 supporters. The details of this petition has been handed over to Minister Carla Qualtrough on April 27, to be hand delivered to the Minister of Health in Ottawa.
Apart from that, we have also asked Minister Qualtrough to try and arrange some public funds to start public testing local food and water in her own constituency, Delta, BC, for Glyphosate.
We have so far not achieved any measurable success. There is no response from the minister of health about disclosure of the safety documents. There is a separate access to information act application from me to the Ministry of Health asking for the same safety documents, which too are languishing, as the ministry drags its feet over the issue.
I might send her another letter, but there is no compulsion for the minister to respond to it and from the pace of follow ups, it may well be that Canadians shall not hear any feedback from the ministry, let alone disclosure of the safety documents, or a review of the approval of Glyphosate for Canadian agriculture.
As a result, I have started preparing another petition, this time not on change.org but on the Government web site using Government’s own official template. It is addressed also to the Minister of Health (Health Canada), and asks for public disclosure of safety documents for Glyphosate.
However, there are some steps that need to be taken before such a petition can be submitted. One of them is to have a sponsor, among the current Members of Parliament. I would have asked Mr. Alex Atamanenko to be the sponsor, if he was still an MP. Unfortunately he retired from politics last year. Next, I thought of asking MP Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada. However, I have written to her in the past and never received any reply, and feel unsure of her willingness to help in this cause. I should ask my own MP first, honourable minister Carla Qualtrough, and I have done so in an email. However, I do not wish to feel her pressured in an awkward situation with her colleagues in the Government, so I do not know what her response would be.
As a result, I am kind of in the hunt, for a suitable MP that might take up this cause for Canadian people.
The draft petition
I invite readers to suggest a suitable MP. More importantly, if they personally know a good MP that could be interested to sponsor it, I encourage them to check with the MP first and let me know.
I have not done such an official petition before, so do not know if the system allows more than one sponsor, but believe it might. So, if more than one MP is willing to support this cause, I shall be very keen to contact them. I am thinking of approaching some of the other party members such as NDP and CP. Any help would be appreciated.
There is one more issue at hand – which is to try and push the movement for grassroots activism for people to get their local municipalities to set aside funds and start testing local foods and water for Glyphosate and to make the results public. I shall come to that hopefully in the next blog.
My blog itself had been hacked, taken down, and access denied. But all that has thankfully been solved after many days of off-and-on struggle. Allt things finally became OK yesterday, June 7th, in the evening. Hence today I have my first update again.
I have had a series of exchanges with Health Canada on Glyphosate. These include :
1. A letter to Ms Rona Ambrose, the minster of health, hand carried by outgoing MP Alex Atamanenko to Ms Ambrose, on the issue of lack of laboratories in Canada (at the time, i.e. last year) where Canadians could test themselves (urine sample or breast milk), or their food, for presence of Glyphosate. That produced a convoluted response from the ministry, without actually covering the main issue, i.e. labs for Canadians. At the time, Canada had labs that test for Glyphosate only in soil and in water. That is all.
Things have improved since then. I do not know if it happened because of my question, and because MP Alex Atamanenko pushed it with Health Canada, or because World Health Organization re-classified Glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, or for a combination of reasons including the above two. Whatever the reason, a number of Canadian labs now offer testing of food items for presence of Glyphosate. Some will test only vegetables, or processed food. Some will test grains. Some might only test crops from the field. Some have this testing methodology and process accredited. Some claim they can get the accreditation but have not done so because it is costly and they do not know if the business will be enough to maintain this accreditation that involves high annual fees.
Some will only test target weed type plants that show visible damage due to suspected glyphosate attack, but will not test plants that show no trace of damage, such as RoundUp Ready crops.
They mostly use High Performance Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry or similar high end methods and have a lowest repeatable and verifiable detection level that is between 10 and 20 parts per billion.
Most will do such tests for any paying customer including the general public. Costs can vary from around 200 to 400, depending on various factors.
Unfortunately, testing of human body fluids such as urine, blood, or mother’s breast milk, for presence of Glyphosate, is still not possible in Canada. There is a system in the US, that allows Canadian urine to be transported safety and tested in the US, for USD 119 each – and effort in which I am personally involved. We have sent out the first batch of samples and are awaiting results. This is covered in another blog.
2. Safety test documents: Request to Health Canada, through Access To Information (ATI) act, for Health Canada to disclose to me the document, based on which it approved Glyphosate. This resulted in huge file being copied into a CD and sent to me by mail. But the document and its attached reports and links did not include direct test data conducted on animals that have been exposed to the chemical. Rather, it was a summary report comprising of visiting other scientific papers. So the issue remains unresolved, i.e. if Canadian Government of its Pest Management Review Association has at all sighted a direct safety test report with their raw data, or not. And if it has, then will it make those document(s) public. I intend to make fresh requests to Health Canada, with different wording, for disclosure of the safety test raw data.
3. Results of Canadian foods being tested for Glyphosate content. I know the Canadian Government has started testing our food for Glyphosate content. I know existing labs are scrambling to get on board, and are either developing their own technology or adopting/licensing European or American systems. I asked the Government, against under Access To Information Act, to disclose to me all such results. Unfortunately, again, I am being given selective results, involving tests of crops suspected to be clean already, such as organic plants, and not conventional, or RoundUp Ready plants. So, in my view, the Government is playing hide and seek with us on safety data on glyphosate.
4. A fresh petition: Now that we have a fresh Government to take helm, and this Government is promising to be more transparent, I intend to see if fresh engagements will help bring transparency in this field which has been opaque for too long.
This petition, which is now collecting signatories and is sort of open ended. I was thinking of closing it when it collects 500 signatures. A letter should be sent to New Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as the new Minster of Health, for them to disclose the safety documents relating to Glyphosate, and also to make the system transparent so that people do not have to run around to get an honest answer on issues of food safety.
Meanwhile, there has been some interesting sniping behind the back from some anti-GMO and anti-pesticide talking heads, who might be harbouring a desire to own the movement, or appear to be the omnipotent guru in their ivory towers.
One comment that has come back through circuitous paths is that it is not Health Canada’s duty to sight first hand safety test data and not their duty to prove to the citizens of Canada that a product it approved is safe. All Health Canada needs to do, perhaps, is copy paste whatever they get from the biotech industry.
The petition has gathered over 19,000 supporters by November 14. It also got under the skin of a Harold Ingram, who was kind enough to send me an email.
Naturally, that is not what we expect a Government to do. There are rule books and guidelines on that the approval regime under the ministry of health is supposed to follow.
I had a minute and a half talk with Dr. Shiv Chopra, and converted that into a video, for clarifications.