Sutton and Halifax, December 17, 2020: A new report released today ranks Canada’s major grocery retailers for their transparency on sales of genetically modified (GM) whole foods: fruits and vegetables, and the GM salmon. Out of Canada’s five major grocery chains, only Quebec/Ontario chain Metro provided clear answers for consumers.
“Without mandatory GM food labelling, grocery stores need to step up to provide information to customers.” said Thibault Rehn of Quebec network Vigilance OGM.
Vigilance OGM and the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) have co-published retailer responses to their questionnaire, in a report that provides other basic information for consumers about GM foods. The questionnaire focused on whole foods, asking if the major grocery chains were selling, or going to sell, the GM salmon and GM produce: GM apples, GM potatoes and GM sweetcorn. The report is “GMOs in your grocery store: Ranking company transparency”.
“Recent polls confirm that many Canadians want to know where GM foods are in their grocery stores,” said Lucy Sharratt of CBAN. All polls, for over twenty years, show over 80% of Canadians want mandatory labelling of GM foods. (1) In September 2020, four new polls found that 78% of Canadians are unwilling to eat the GM salmon (2) and 75% are unwilling to eat the GM potato.(3) The other two polls found 75% of Quebecois.es are unwilling to eat the GM apple (4) and 85% want Quebec to implement mandatory labelling.(5)
GM non-browning apples could be sold in 2021 but only as pre-sliced apples, and GM potatoes are sold in the US but not yet in Canada. In Canada, in the produce section there could already be a small amount of GM sweetcorn, papaya, and squash. The first commercial-scale “harvests” of GM Atlantic salmon will put more GM salmon on the market in the next few weeks.
Company Transparency Ranking
The transparency ranking in the report focused on the five major chains that account for around 80% of all grocery sales in Canada. “With so much control in the market, a few companies can make a big difference for many consumers,” said Rehn, “Stores have already been asking suppliers to only send non-GM sweet corn and many customers expect the same for the first GM food animal, the GM salmon.”
The report also points out that many small stores are responsive to customer’s questions, and encourages people to contact their stores directly to find more answers.
GM soy, corn, and canola are almost 100% of the all the GM food crops grown in Canada and around the world and are widespread in processed foods as well as in animal feed to produce meat and dairy products. These GMOs have been on the market for over 20 years.
Summary of report ranking
The report rates the transparency of the five top grocery chains, out of top score of 21 points, based on answers to the questionnaire:
19 points out of 21: Metro Inc., Canada’s third biggest grocery chain, and the largest in Quebec, with operations in both Quebec and Ontario, provided the clearest information in response to the questionnaire. Metro responded that they work with their suppliers to keep GM salmon, sweetcorn, apples and potatoes out of their stores.
8 points out of 21: Loblaw Company Limited, Canada’s leading grocery chain, said “we have not knowingly sourced genetically modified salmon, potatoes, apples or sweetcorn in the past, and currently have no plans to source them in the future.” Loblaw also said, “We do not support mandatory labelling of GMOs in Canada.”
5 points out of 21: Sobeys Company responded with general statements about the benefits and safety of GMOs without answering the specific questions. CBAN and Vigilance OGM responded with a letter to provide more information and some corrections.
1 point out of 21: Costco Canada did not respond to the questionnaire but has a statement on their website: “Costco does not intend to sell genetically modified salmon.’’
No points: Walmart Canada did not respond to emails or phone calls.
For More Information:
Lucy Sharratt, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 902 209 4906, firstname.lastname@example.org
Laure Mabileau, Vigilance OGM, 438 395 6121 email@example.com
(1) CBAN, List of Labelling Polls, www.cban.ca/labelling2015
(2) Leger Marketing, Study on Genetically Modified Salmon, Omnibus Canada, for Vigilance OGM, September 15, 2020.
(3) Leger Marketing, Study on Genetically Modified Potatoes, Omnibus Canada, September 15, 2020.
(4) Léger marketing. Étude sur les pommes génétiquement modifiées, Rapport no 16179-001, September 15, 2020.
(5) Léger marketing, Étude sur l’étiquetage des aliments génétiquement modifies, Rapport no 16179-001, September 15, 2020.
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 on the shared platform of the MakeWay Charitable Society. www.cban.ca
Vigilance OGM is a Quebec non-profit organization made up of groups and individuals from diverse backgrounds – farmers, environmentalists, consumers, citizens – all concerned about what we put on our plates every day and by the impact of modes agricultural production on the environment and human health. www.vigilanceogm.org