Open Letter: Groups call for transparency and government oversight
November 17, 2021: 105 groups from across Canada sent a joint letter to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food calling for transparency and government oversight of all genetically engineered foods and seeds (genetically modified organisms or GMOs). Click here to read the letter and see the 105 groups.
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November 17, 2021
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos Minister of Health and The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Call for Transparency and Government Oversight of All Genetically Engineered Foods and Seeds: No Regulatory Exemptions
We demand government oversight of all genetically engineered foods and seeds including those produced through gene editing. All genetically engineered foods and seeds should be subject to government safety assessments and mandatory reporting to government.
We call on the Ministers of Health and Agriculture and Agri-Food to commit to transparency and independent science in the regulation of all genetically engineered organisms for use in food and farming.
We oppose the sale of unregulated, unreported genetically engineered foods and seeds. We oppose the proposals from Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that would allow many gene-edited genetically engineered foods and seeds onto the market with no government oversight.
Proposed new regulatory guidance from Health Canada and the CFIA would shift some safety assessments away from government regulators to product developers themselves, with no government checks. Companies would be permitted to introduce many new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) without any independent science, and with no independent government science reviews. Companies would be allowed to release these GMOs into the environment and sell them without notifying the government and without publicly disclosing which seeds are genetically engineered.
Gene editing can make significant changes to a plant’s genome without introducing DNA from another species – by deleting genetic material, for example. Gene editing can be imprecise, and even making small changes in a DNA sequence can have big effects. Possible unintended effects need to be looked for and assessed for safety. Proposals to exempt gene-edited GMOs from regulation if they have no foreign DNA are simplistic and overlook important safety issues that can result from the process of gene editing.
The regulatory guidance proposals would result in an almost total lack of transparency over the use of genetic engineering in food and farming in Canada – the government itself would not know which genetically engineered foods and seeds may be on the market.
Canadians rely on Health Canada and the CFIA to be independent regulators of genetically engineered products, to ensure food and environmental safety. Relying on unseen corporate safety assessments and corporate science, without any government checks, would undermine public trust in both the food system and government regulation. This proposed corporate self-regulation of genetically engineered foods and seeds jeopardizes food safety, our environment, and the livelihoods of many Canadian farmers.