The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has launched a public consultation on a proposal to exempt many new genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) plants from government regulation for environmental protection. This consultation on GM seed regulation follows a similar proposal from Health Canada that would hand many GM food safety assessments over to product developers.
The CFIA is asking you to “share your thoughts” by answering an online questionnaire about the proposal. Click here to check CBAN’s new guide to the CFIA’s questionnaire.
The CFIA’s proposal would allow private companies to sell some GMOs (genetically modified organisms) without government environmental risk assessments. Instead, many new genetically engineered plants would be assessed for environmental safety by the product developers themselves, with no government oversight. Specifically, the CFIA proposes to exempt genetically engineered seeds that have no foreign DNA, many of which would be produced with the new genetic engineering techniques of genome editing (also called gene editing).
The result would be unregulated genetically engineered seeds sold and grown in Canada. Farmers, consumers, and the CFIA itself, may not even know that some of these new genetically engineered seeds exist because there would be no requirement for companies to report the new unregulated GMOs to the government. The CFIA’s proposal for corporate self-regulation could have profound environmental consequences and would negatively impact many farmers.
“Share your thoughts”
Demand mandatory, independent risk assessments for all genetically engineered foods and seeds, including those produced by gene editing (also called genome editing).
- New! CBAN’s Guide to the CFIA’s consultation is www.cban.ca/NoExemptions/CFIAguide
- The CFIA’s consultation page is https://inspection.canada.ca/about-cfia/transparency/consultations-and-engagement/share-your-thoughts/eng/1619740964754/1619741042405
- Find more information and analysis below or at www.cban.ca/NoExemptions
Add your voice for the future of our food and democracy. Take action before Sept 16.
The CFIA’s Proposal
The CFIA proposes that genetically engineered plants can be exempt from government regulation (Part V of the Seeds Regulations) if they:
1) are not a new crop kind to Canada,
2) have no foreign DNA, and
3) if the product developer can conclude that the plant will not negatively impact the environment.
“If not a new crop and no foreign DNA has been incorporated into the plant, the proponent [product developer] must then consider the plant’s capacity to impact the environment.”
This is a proposal for corporate self-regulation where product developers would assess the environmental safety of releasing their genetically engineered plants.
The CFIA proposes four environmental “outcomes” for companies to consider “where a plant would have the capacity to impact the environment.” If product developers determine that their GM plants would not result in any of these four negative outcomes, then the CFIA proposes that they can release their GM seeds without asking for government assessment and approval. It would be up to the product developer, not the CFIA, to determine if there could be negative environmental impacts from genetically engineered plants that have no foreign DNA.
Demand mandatory, independent safety assessments of all genetically engineered foods and seeds.
The deadline to answer is Sept 16, 2021
What is happening?
- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has launched a public consultation on a proposal to exempt many genetically engineered seeds from Part V of the Seeds Regulations, so that many new GM plants would not be subject to government environmental safety assessments.
- Updates and documents are all posted at www.cban.ca/NoExemptions
- The deadline to answer the questionnaire is Sept 16, 2021.
- The CFIA’s proposal follows a similar proposal from Health Canada. These consultations are part a multi-year process to “modernize” regulation for all GMOs, including GM animals.
Why is it happening?
- Multinational biotech and pesticide companies and their lobby group, CropLife Canada, have asked for these changes because companies want easier, faster regulations for the new genetic engineering techniques of gene editing in particular.
What is at stake?
- Environmental protection: Because we face dangerous global biodiversity and climate crises, every decision we make now is even more consequential and we have little room to make new mistakes. Significant environmental impacts of using GMOs could be missed if assessments are handed over to the product developers who will profit from their sale.
- The role of government and the future of independent science: Independent, peer-reviewed science and independent government oversight is essential to safeguarding public health. The public cannot rely on product developers and corporate science to ensure product safety.
- The role of the public in decision-making: Consumers and farmers should have input into decisions regarding the use of new technologies like genetic engineering, in our food system, including to assess the question of need for the technology and the potential social and economic impacts.
- The future of food and farming: The new genetic engineering techniques of genome editing are powerful and could be used to produce many new patented GM foods, plants, and animals. Farmers need to know that the seeds they are buying are safe for the environment and for human consumption, and are acceptable to their customers in Canada and other countries.
For information on how genetically engineered foods are regulated in Canada, see CBAN’s report “Are GM Foods and Crops Well Regulated?”
For information on genome editing, see CBAN’s report “Genome Editing in Food and Farming: Risks and Unexpected Consequences”
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