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Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on GM squash

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network asked the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to provide more information to explain its’ statement on the regulatory status of GM squash: “Not grown in Canada

February 14, 2017

I am writing to request clarity on the regulatory status of genetically engineered squashes listed on the CFIA’s PNT database.

In the database of approved PNTs, the two genetically engineered events for squash are listed as approved for food safety by Health Canada on April 16, 1998 but for “Approval for unconfined release into the environment” they are listed as “Not grown in Canada,” and for “CFIA Approval for use as a livestock feed” they are listed as “Will not be used as animal feed.” Neither of these notes provides information about the regulatory status of the GM squash. Rather, they refer to the market status or intended market use.

Please provide the specifics, to clarify the regulatory status of these GM events:

  1. Are these squashes not approved for growing or for use in livestock feed ? – and is it therefore illegal to sell/buy or plant the squash, and use it for livestock feed?
  2. Were these squashes denied these approvals after CFIA evaluations or did the company not request approval for the two purposes of animal feed and unconfined release? Thank you for providing this clarity.

Thank you for providing this clarity. Sincerely, Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network

The response from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency:

March 6, 2017

We have received your letter requesting clarity on the regulatory status of genetically engineered squashes.

Due to our obligations under the Privacy Act, we can neither confirm or deny whether the CFIA received applications for the assessment of specific products, as that is confidential business information of the developer.

However, the CFIA publishes decisions relating to authorized products. With respect to the squashes in question, it is public record (http://www.inspection.gc.ca/active/scripts/database/pntvcn_submitdb.asp?lang=e&crops=9&company=all&trait=all&events=all) that Health Canada authorized their Food Safety Approval, but no authorization was issued for release into the environment or feed use, since the product was not intended for those purposes. Before a proponent could grow squash with a novel trait in Canada or use such squash as a novel animal feed, the appropriate authorizations would need to be obtained from the CFIA.

Best regards, Ken Ellens, PhD
Policy and Program Analyst | Plant Biosafety Office
Canadian Food Inspection Agency | Government of Canada