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Farmers would welcome policy on genetically modified seed

The Bermuda Farmers Association has called for a new policy on genetically modified seeds following the order to intercept imported seeds for local agriculture.

And the farmers have also confirmed that they will submit a combined exhibit at the Agricultural Exhibition this week, lifting the boycott they had previously threatened.

In a statement released to

The Royal Gazette, the Association claimed the recent order to intercept imported seeds was implemented without approval or any consultation.

“The said policy was implemented without the approval of the Director of the Department of Environmental Protection, or any consultation with stakeholders, namely vegetable farmers,” read a statement from the Association. “We hope you can understand why this would cause frustration within the agricultural community.”

Now that the two sides have reached an agreement, the farmers’ group thanked the Minister of the Environment Sylvan Richards and the Permanent Secretary for their help in addressing the issues.

But in the absence of a policy on genetically modified seeds they issued a list of facts on the importation of treated seeds into Bermuda.

“To be clear, treated seed are not the same thing as GMO seed. There are specific varieties that grow extremely well in our environment and are only available from a particular seed supplier. That supplier determines what seed treatment they will put on the seed.

“This is a standard practice with US and European seed companies and often we the farmers do not have an option to buy that specific variety in an untreated or raw form. This treatment is applied to the exterior of the seed,” the statement said.

“As the seed germinates, its root breaks through that seed coat and is protected from fungal and pest threats. At the most, the seedling is protected for three weeks, ensuring the farmers not having to otherwise spray an actual larger amount of insecticide or fungicide. (This reduces costs of production, results in less pesticide application and ultimately allows for higher, cleaner yields).

“We are not importing genetically modified seed and would welcome a policy on GMO seeds.”

The Association continued: “The same seed treatment that may be on our seed is also on the seed grown by our US counterparts. In other words, all the non organic imported produce that arrives on this Island is grown with seed the has been treated the same way.”

The group added that local farmers “strive to do their utmost to produce the best possible local produce” and was hopeful that the Department of Environmental Protection “can better assist” them with their concerns.

“We need a Department that understands our industry and is willing to work with the stakeholders for the betterment of the industry and agriculture as a whole on our Island,” said the Association.

Moving forward the statement said: “We look forward to continue working and consulting with the Minister, the Director and others to work through our issues which affect our ability to do a job that we take very seriously — growing healthy food as cleanly and sustainably as possible for our Island.”

On that note it concluded: “As a show of good faith we have decided to submit a combined exhibit at Agricultural Exhibition showing the very best of what we are capable of producing on Island when we all work together.

“We appreciate your continued support and welcome your questions — visit us at our farmers’ markets, get to know us and learn where your local food comes from.”

Ready for the show: Tahmeaka Thomas said her final goodbyes to her daughter's pet rabbit 'Shelly Belly' as she submitted her family pet for judging yesterday afternoon, for the 75th Annual Agricultural Exhibition, which begins tomorrow at the Botanical Gardens in Paget. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published April 17, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 17, 2013 at 12:33 am)

Farmers would welcome policy on genetically modified seed

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