WHEREAS a recent (2016) Health Canada sponsored analysis concludes that 78% of Canadians
want mandatory labelling of foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs);
WHEREAS Canadian regulation of GMOs is based on legislation that has not been substantially
updated in 20 years;
WHEREAS a 2001 Royal Society of Canada report commissioned by the government made 58
recommendations to improve the regulatory system and GMO safety, to date only two of those
recommendations have been addressed;
WHEREAS government agencies in charge of assessments simply review industry applicant
studies and reports, without independent studies or further testing;
WHEREAS opposition to mandatory labelling is justified by claims that GMOs are safe and
healthy; however, international scientific consensus has not been reached on either human or
environmental safety of GMOs in agriculture and food.
WHEREAS applicants for genetically modified crop approvals claim GM food crops should be
considered ‘substantially equivalent’ to traditional crops (and therefore safe) for the purpose of
regulatory approval but then apply to have them considered substantially un-equivalent to protect
copyright patents, without consideration of the protection of the health, safety, and rights of
BE IT RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of Canada urge the Government of Canada to
embrace the precautionary principle to provide consumers with transparent information and
choice and recommend that the Government enact mandatory GM labelling;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of Canada urge the Government of
Canada to update the relevant acts pertaining to genetic modification, testing, and certification of
safety of crops and food stuffs.
Contact: Joe Gilling
Mandatory Labelling of Genetically Modified Food
Consumers want to know what is in the food they eat
A recent (2016) Health Canada sponsored analysis concludes that 78% of Canadians want mandatory labelling of GM foods.
The demand for transparency and choice provided by GMO labelling suggests the vast majority of Canadians do not trust the health and safety of GM foods. Below are some valid reasons for this distrust.
Canadian regulation of GM is based on outdated legislation
The Canadian government approval process for GM crops, based on purported evidence of health and environmental safety, resides under Acts have not been substantially updated since 1996 or 1999: the Health of Animals Act, the Plant Protection Act, the Seeds Act, the Fertilizers Act, the Feeds Act, Food and Drugs Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
Health Canada is responsible for assessing human health risks and Environment Canada is responsible for assessing environmental risks. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the lead agency that conducts environmental assessments of agricultural products of biotechnology. In 2001 The Royal Society of Canada Report on the future of Food Biotechnology, commissioned by the above agencies made 58 recommendations to improve the regulatory system and GMO safety. To date, only two of those recommendations have been addressed by the Canadian government.
Relying on out of date regulations, and ignoring expert scientific recommendations for improving oversight, compromises the federal government’s ability to ensure genetic engineering of food crops is safe. Many peer reviewed scientific studies have now uncovered areas where there is known risk.
Conflict of interest is inherent Canada’s regulatory framework
The Canadian regulatory process for GM is based on industry applicant studies and reports, not on government studies or in-field or laboratory testing. The various government agencies in charge of assessments simply review the applicant’s supplied data. The result is inherent conflict of interest.
Non-equivalence of GMO and traditional crops
Scientific consensus concerning GM safety does not exist at this time
Government opposition to mandatory labelling is justified by claims GMO are safe and healthy. However, a number of scientific studies have pointed to consequences with potential harmful outcomes. Many of these studies have recommended more studies to confirm or disprove the hypothesis of harm.
Some of the potential harm linked with genetic engineering are: Horizontal gene transfer, inability to contain genetically engineered plant populations, toxic effects, antibiotic resistance, decreased fertility in rats, and immune responses. Moreover, studies have discovered Cry1Ab, a gene inserted through genetic engineering, found to be circulating in the blood of pregnant and non-pregnant Canadian women and in the blood supply to fetuses. In agriculture, problems of super-weeds have been linked to use of genetic engineering.
International scientific consensus has not been reached on either human or environmental safety of GMOs in agriculture and food, according to 313 European scientists who signed a 2015 Statement (linked on page 1 above). In addition, there is no epidemiological research on the long term effects of GMO consumption by the US human population.
Peer reviewed scientific studies have now uncovered areas where there is known risk.
Non-equivalence of GMO and traditional crops
Key elements of our regulatory system are arbitrary and unscientific
Applicants for genetically modified crop approvals are claiming GM food crops should be considered ‘substantially equivalent’ with traditional crops (and therefore as safe) for the purpose of regulatory approval, but then apply to have them considered substantially un-equivalent to protect copyright patents. This cornerstone of the GM regulatory system risk assessment first declares a GMO to be substantially equivalent with existing non-GM crops, then passes safety assessments based on this determination. Scientific research studies have found that proteins in genetically engineered crops are in fact not identical to the proteins in their natural counterparts. http://www.i-sis.org.uk/subst.php
‘Environmental safety’ is currently determined based on if a genetically engineered crop species is more or less promiscuous than their non-genetically engineered natural counterpart. If same, or less outcrossing is found, then it is determined to be environmentally safe.
The issue at stake and the proper question is whether the escape of GM food crops outcrossing to other natural crops of same type, or to feral populations, cause a depletion of biodiversity. Many GM crops do cause depletion of biodiversity of crops and weeds that cross breed within the same species, thereby reducing the availability of diverse gene pools which are essential for future agricultural crop breeding and improvements.
Canada’s regulatory system should not be based on arbitrary and unscientific methodologies biased in favour of corporate interests; it should protect the health, safety, and rights of Canada’s citizens first and foremost.
It’s time Canada joins our European and USA trading partners and act to implement GM labelling
On July 29, 2016 President Obama signed a bill into law requiring mandatory labelling of GM foods. http://modernfarmer.com/2016/08/gmo-labeling-law/
As long as there is no scientific consensus about GM risks, applicants rather than regulators conduct the safety studies for approvals, the regulatory system is outdated and faulty, and there is a significant scientific disagreement about the validity of regulatory methodologies, the precautionary principle supports providing consumers with transparent information and choice. Mandatory GM labelling, strongly supported by the Canadian public, should be implemented by our government.