February 20, 2017

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Low Level Presence

Legalizing GM Food Contamination

The Canadian government wants to allow 0.2% or higher of our food to be contaminated with genetically modified (GM) foods that have not been approved by Health Canada for safe human consumption. The GM foods will contaminate imports to Canada and will have been approved for safety in at least one other country, but not yet approved as safe by our own regulators. The federal government calls this “Low Level Presence” or LLP and argues that this “low level” of contamination from unapproved GM foods is not harmful.

February 2017: The Canada European Trade Agreement (CETA) sets up a "dialogue" between Canada and Europe to discuss increased market access to GMOs, including discussing "Low Level Presence" which is contamination of our food by a percent of unapproved GMOs. Click here for more on CETA.

Updates

For a good explanation, see: Agriculture Canada to remove Health Canada from safety assessment of some GM foods, by Lucy Sharratt, CBAN Coordinator, in The Harper Record 2008-2015, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, October 2015.

Government documents:

Take Action

Click here to send your instant letter to the Minister of Health!

Or you can send your comments on the draft policy to LLP-PFC@agr.gc.ca

Background

What is “Low Level Presence”? “Low Level Presence” (LLP) is the proposal to allow our food to be contaminated by a percent of genetically engineered foods that have not been approved for safe eating by Health Canada, but that have been approved for human consumption in at least one other country. LLP would change Canada’s existing “zero-tolerance” policy for such contamination in imports to Canada. Health Canada will establish a list of trusted government regulatory systems and accept LLP contamination originating from those countries. LLP is different from “adventitious presence” which is the industry term for contamination of our food by experimental GM crops and animals that have not been approved anywhere in the world.

Which other countries have LLP? Canada would be the first country in the world to adopt LLP for GM foods. Every country has “zero-tolerance” for contamination by GM foods that they have not approved as safe. In July 2011, the European Union allowed up to 0.1 percent of animal feed could be contaminated by GM grains that are not approved in the EU.

What is the Canadian government’s rationale for LLP? LLP is a trade policy. The grain industry operating in Canada wants other countries to establish LLP so that they don't reject exports from Canada that are contaminated by GM foods they have not yet approved: “In the industry’s view, Canada could serve as a model to influence countries with trade-restrictive LLP policies by adopting alternative domestic LLP policy approaches.” (Agriculture Canada Power Point on LLP) “If trace amounts of such unapproved genetically modified product are found in import shipments, in a country where the genetically modified crop is not approved, often times these imports will be rejected...The unpredictability of rejection of such imports is a growing concern, given the potential economic impacts low-level presence will have on global trade.” (FAQp5)

Analysis

LLP is unacceptable and unjustifiable from a health and safety point of view:

  • LLP is trade policy at the expense of public health protection. The goal of LLP is to accept GM contamination in imports to Canada, by removing the restriction of Canada's own safety assessment in certain cases.
  • LLP overthrows Canada’s “science-based” regulation of GMOs because LLP assumes that certain GM foods are safe before our own government regulators assess safety.
  • LLP creates exceptions to Health Canada's safety assessment of GM foods (already highly criticized as inadequate), whereby government regulators review scientific data to determine human health safety. The introduction of LLP will further undermine our international reputation for food safety as well as the confidence of Canadians in our food system.
  • The LLP policy accepts that GM contamination will keep happening and opens our doors to such contamination.

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