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May 8, 2024 – The federal government has completed a trio of regulatory updates that remove government safety assessments and mandatory transparency from most seeds, foods, and livestock feed produced through the new techniques of genetic engineering (genetic modification or GM) collectively referred to as gene editing.

“These decisions are removing government oversight and transparency around new genetic engineering from every part of our food system. The government is handing responsibility for safety and transparency over to private companies,” said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN). “Farmers and consumers will have to rely on corporations to disclose information.”

This latest decision to remove government safety assessments for most gene-edited livestock feed was announced on May 3, 2024, by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). This follows a similar CFIA decision on gene-edited plants in May 2023 and a Health Canada decision on gene-edited foods in May 2022.

Specifically, the exemptions from government pre-market regulation apply to seeds that have no foreign DNA and to the food and livestock feed made from those gene-edited plants. The decisions allow product developers to assess the safety of their own GM products without any government oversight. These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will not go through any government approval process at Health Canada or the CFIA, and can be released onto the market without companies having to submit any safety data to the government. Companies can also release these GMOs without notifying the government or public.

The lack of mandatory notification means that some new genetically modified foods and seeds could be released onto the market without the knowledge of farmers and food manufacturers.

In November 2021, 105 organizations wrote to the health and agriculture ministers opposing the proposed changes, and demanding government oversight and transparency over all GMOs.

In September 2023, documents received via Access to Information showed that the biotechnology and pesticide industry lobby group CropLife Canada worked in a joint committee with federal government departments called the “Tiger Team” to design this new regulatory guidance on gene-edited products.

Gene editing is a set of new genetic engineering techniques that can make changes to the genome (DNA) of an organism without having to permanently incorporate DNA from other species.

For more information: Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 902 2029 4906, ,

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) brings together 15 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.