October 20, 2021. Halifax. Today, seven agriculture, food, and consumer groups asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ensure transparency and continued government oversight of all genetically engineered foods and seeds (genetically modified organisms or GMOs) in response to proposals to remove regulation from some GMOs produced through gene editing.(1)
The call comes as research released today by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) found lack of transparency is a top public concern about the food system.(2)
“Public trust is a major concern for the agriculture industry yet the government is about to dramatically cut transparency on GMOs by removing regulatory oversight for many new gene edited foods,” said Lucy Sharratt of the GMO monitoring group called the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), one of the organizations that wrote to the Prime Minister, “If the proposals go ahead, not even our government will know what gene-edited GMOs may be on the market. There would be an almost total loss of transparency on GMOs in our food system.” Gene editing is a collection of new genetic engineering techniques, with very few products yet on the market.(3)
The CCFI’s public opinion report published today found that “lack of transparency” is the “one of the main reasons why respondents indicated that they feel the food system is headed in the wrong direction.”(4) When asked “What does an ideal food system look like?” the top answer from the public surveyed was “Transparent”.(5) CCFI’s mission is to build public trust in Canada’s food system and its members include the biggest biotechnology seed companies in the world: Bayer, Syngenta and Corteva.(6)
Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are proposing to exempt many GMOs produced by gene editing from regulation, allowing product developers to do their own safety assessments with no government oversight.(7) This new regulatory guidance would allow companies to sell many gene-edited GMOs without a government safety review and without reporting them to the government.
“The government is proposing to remove the approval process for many new GMOs and leave safety assessments to companies instead,” said Sharratt, “If there’s no regulation, there’s no transparency.”
The seven groups behind today’s letter are calling for government oversight of all genetically engineered foods and seeds including those produced through gene editing. In their letter they assert that, “All genetically engineered foods and seeds should be subject to government safety assessments and mandatory reporting to government” and argue that, “This proposed corporate self-regulation of genetically engineered foods and seeds jeopardizes food safety, our environment, and the livelihoods of many Canadian farmers.”
For more information: Lucy Sharratt, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 902 209 4906 firstname.lastname@example.org
1) Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), Canadian Health Food Association, Canadian Organic Trade Association, Coopérative pour l’agriculture de proximité écologique, National Farmers Union, Organic Agriculture Protection Fund of SaskOrganics, and Vigilance OGM. October 20, 2021. www.cban.ca/PMtransparencycallOct2021
2) Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, Public Trust Research 2021, Oct 20, https://www.foodintegrity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/2021-ENG-Public-Trust-Research-Report-1.pdf
3) Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Introduction to Genome Editing, www.cban.ca/GenomeEditingReport
4) Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, Public Trust Research 2021, Oct 20, https://www.foodintegrity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/2021-ENG-Public-Trust-Research-Report-1.pdf
5) Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, Public Trust Summit, October 19, 2021 (verbal report)
6) Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, https://www.foodintegrity.ca/about/members/cfi-members/
7) Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Information on the government’s regulatory guidance proposals, www.cban.ca/NoExemptions
The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) brings together 16 groups to research, monitor and raise awareness about issues relating to genetic engineering in food and farming. CBAN members include farmer associations, environmental and social justice organizations, and regional coalitions of grassroots groups. CBAN is a project of MakeWay’s shared platform.