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Tuesday, December 13, 2016. Ottawa.

Agriculture Committee recommends transparency in regulation, against transparency in the marketplace

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food is recommending greater transparency in the regulation of genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) animals and government support for independent research into the health, environmental and other effects of genetic modification technologies. These are two of four recommendations in the Committee report “Genetically modified animals for human consumption” submitted to Parliament yesterday. (1)

“The recommendations for greater transparency and support for independent research are very important and we’re hopeful that the government will respond positively,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN). Sharratt testified at the Committee hearings.

The Committee, however, also recommended against mandatory labelling of GM foods. “Recommending against mandatory labelling is counter to the wishes of the vast majority of Canadians,“ said Sharratt. The Committee recommended that “the government support the mandatory labelling system only for issues of food health and safety” which is already government policy, and rules out labelling to identify GM products for consumers. This recommendation was challenged by the New Democratic Party in supplementary comments included in the report.

“It’s inconsistent that the Committee recommended more transparency in regulation but against transparency for Canadians in the grocery store. The prospect of GM animals on the shelves makes the need for labelling even more urgent for consumers,” said Sharratt.

The latest Ipsos Reid poll conducted for CBAN in September 2015 showed that 88 percent of Canadians want mandatory labelling of GM foods. (2) Over the past twenty years, polls in Canada have consistently shown over 80 percent public support for labelling. (3)

The Committee also recommended that the government work with industry to establish tools to provide traceability for genetically modified animals.

“We remain extremely concerned about the risk GM salmon pose to wild Atlantic salmon,” said Mark Butler, a committee witness from the Ecology Action Centre based in Nova Scotia. “We need public consultation before GM animals are approved and a full and transparent scientific assessment which did not happen with the approval of the commercial production of GM Atlantic salmon, the world’s first GM food animal.”

For more information: Lucy Sharratt, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 613 809 1103; Mark Butler, Ecology Action Centre, 902 266 5401.

(1) “Genetically modified animals for human consumption”, Report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, December 2016.
(2) Ipsos Reid, September 2015, Commissioned by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.
(3) A history of labelling polls in Canada is posted at

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) brings together 16 organizations to research, monitor and raise awareness about issues relating to genetic engineering in food and farming. CBAN members include farmer associations, environmental and social justice organizations, and regional coalitions of grassroots groups. CBAN is a project on Tides Canada’s shared platform.

Since 1971, the Ecology Action Centre has been working at the local, regional, national and more recently, international level to build a healthier and more sustainable world. While all of our work is connected to Nova Scotia, we draw inspiration from many places. We work closely with communities as well as social and natural scientists and make strong use of science in communicating our message.