Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food responds to question about organic sector call for mandatory listing of gene edited seeds
Mr. Yves Perron, Member of Parilament:
Thank you, Chair.
Minister, I’d like to address the issue of genome editing monitoring and traceability. As you know, last year, the industry was fairly unanimous in calling for mandatory traceability, as I understand it, managed by the government. But what you announced at the beginning of the month was traceability handled by the industry. There have been several reactions from groups who are not necessarily satisfied. No one is trying to block the technology. People just want it to be monitored, particularly in the organic industry. What do you have to say to those people?
Representatives of the Union des producteurs agricoles reacted by saying, among other things, that they were disappointed that traceability was not mandatory. You can’t rely on it if it’s not compulsory. How can you reassure us on this point?
Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food: I understand that the organic sector has concerns, but the vast majority of the agricultural sector in this country is delighted with our announcement. The grain and seed sector has made giant strides. The traceability database is going to be complete and significantly more detailed. We’re going to make sure it includes all seeds that have under gone genetic manipulation, whether it’s genome editing or genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. This will be properly catalogued.
We’ve set up an advisory committee that will closely monitor the situation and make recommendations. As for the government, it will ensure monitoring. The industry is committed to having a comprehensive, regularly updated and easy-to-use database.
If you look at what’s being done in the United States or elsewhere, you’ll find that Canada offers the most transparent system. When I recently spoke to my colleagues in other countries, including Japan, Singapore and the United States, particularly in Washington, they told me they thought our system was based on common sense and they were looking at it closely. The standards will therefore be imposed by industry, as is the case for many other agricultural standards.
Mr. Yves Perron: I’m sorry to interrupt, but I don’t have much time left. You say the industry is delighted with the announcement. Certainly, but it will still be delighted if the government manages traceability. No one would be disappointed by that. How will you ensure that the database is comprehensive if the industry is in charge of it?
Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau: Representatives of the organic sector sit on the advisory committee that will do the monitoring. I think that’s a solid guarantee. If the committee discovers any flaws in the system, action will be taken. I have faith in the committee, because there are already several standards applied by the sector. The industry is committed to being transparent in this regard, and I’m sure it will be. We’ll be following this closely and taking it very seriously.