P.E.I. Green Party Leader Sharon Labchuk says she's shocked at the lack of public consultation regarding an ethanol plant that has the potential for a huge effect on P.E.I. agriculture.
The project by Atlantec BioEnergy was unveiled last week. It will see a facility constructed in Cornwall to demonstrate the use of genetically modified beets for conversion to ethanol as a fuel additive.
Some 50 acres of the beets were grown this year in Savage Harbour. The plant is expected to begin producing ethanol by the end of January.
Many of the same people involved in the venture were also part of a failed bid in 2006-2007 to set up a full-scale ethanol plant on P.E.I.
"Here we go again, shades of the late 1980s, early '90s, where they increased potato crop acreage on P.E.I. by 70 per cent by subsidies with no public consultation," said Labchuk.
"They have gone ahead with this major shift in the kinds of crops that can be grown on P.E.I. without consulting the public when in this particular case we are using a crop that is very heavy on pesticides and will affect our groundwater and will affect the air we breathe.
"They think it's OK to just dump on us this project, that is subsidized with taxpayers' dollars, without consulting us, to see if that is what the people of P.E.I. would like us to do, with taxpayers' money first of all, and with our soil and with our air and with our water."
Labchuk said she is part of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network and between them they know that "there is no genetically modified sugar beet on the planet except the one that Monsanto owns. It is just a regular sugar beet that is herbicide-resistant because that is what Monsanto does," said Labchuk. "Apparently weeding beets is a nightmare."
The Council of Canadian agrees with Labchuk. It issued a news release Monday calling on government to hold off on $1.8 million in assistance until a consultation process can occur.
"Islanders need to know the impact the proposed ethanol production plant will have on converting thousands of acres of Island farmland into land for growing fuel for cars; the impact of GM beets will have on organic farming; and the impact the plant and GM beets will have on P.E.I.'s groundwater," said Leo Broderick on behalf of the council.
Both the council and Labchuk are concerned a demonstration project could later evolve into a larger-scale production facility.
"The idea that the facility is a demonstration plant is a decoy to avoid public scrutiny," said Broderick.