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Low Level Presence

Legalizing GM Food Contamination

In 2001, the Canadian government started consultations on a proposal 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 as for safe human consumption. This will allow GM foods to contaminate imports to Canada even if they have not yet been approved as safe by Canadian regulators, but have been approved as safe in at least one other country that is deemed trustworthy by Health Canada. 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.

Updates

While Canada continues to support LLP in its discussions with other countries, current Canadian Government support for the implementation of this policy in Canada is not known.

Agriculture Canada to remove Health Canada from safety assessment of some GM foods, by Lucy Sharratt, CBAN, in The Harper Record 2008-2015, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, October 2015

Government documents:

Take Action

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. Health Canada would create a list of trusted government regulatory systems and accept LLP contamination originating from those countries. LLP would change Canada’s existing “zero-tolerance” policy for such contamination in imports to Canada. 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 allow LLP. Currently, every country has “zero-tolerance” for contamination from 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 do not 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 presentation 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)

CBAN’s 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.