April 28, 2022 – The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) is renewing its call for the federal Ministers of Health and of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Jean-Yves Duclos and Marie-Claude Bibeau, to reject proposals to remove government oversight of some genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) foods and seeds, as new polling data confirms most Canadians want independent government regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). CBAN, a coalition of 15 environmental, farmer and social justice groups, also released a report “New Proposals Would Eliminate Transparency on GMOs in Canada” that describes how the changes would also remove the ability of the federal government to get information about these unregulated GMOs for Canadians, if the Ministers accept the proposals from Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
According to the opinion research conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights, a majority of Canadians (54%) are already concerned about the safety of GM foods and oppose by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 (46% to 24%) the proposals to let companies conduct their own safety assessments of some GM foods produced through gene editing (those with no foreign DNA) rather than require independent regulators at Health Canada to assess safety. Confirming a long-standing public demand for transparency on GM foods, 7 in 10 Canadians (68%) say they want the government to make it mandatory for companies to label foods that are genetically modified or contain genetically modified ingredients. Full polling results, tables, and methodology can be reviewed here.
“Allowing private companies to put new genetically modified foods and seeds onto the market without any government safety checks would be reckless,” said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of CBAN. “The evidence, and public opinion, confirm the need for federal regulation of all genetically modified foods.”
The regulatory guidance changes proposed by Health Canada and the CFIA have been pending since public consultations ended in 2021 and a final decision is expected soon. If implemented, they would allow private companies – the parties advocating for this policy – to regulate some of their own gene-edited foods and seeds if these have no foreign DNA. Gene editing is a suite of new genetic engineering techniques.
The new report published by CBAN describes how the proposals would eliminate transparency for Canadians on GM foods and seeds, with potential costly impacts on farmers. If the ministers allow the proposals to move forward, companies will be able to release some gene-edited foods and seeds onto the market and into the environment with no obligation to inform the government of their existence. The new unregulated GMOs would be secret GMOs unless companies voluntarily disclose them. Health Canada proposes to “encourage” industry transparency through a voluntary notification system called a “Transparency Initiative”.
“Farmers and Canadians from all walks of life are calling on Ministers Duclos and Bibeau to ensure safety and transparency by rejecting these proposals and committing to public, not private oversight of GM foods and seeds,” said BC organic farmer Arzeena Hamir.
For more information please contact:
Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, CBAN
Amara Farm, Courtenay, BC
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.