May 3, 2004 (37th Parliament, 3rd Session)

LIB

John Harvard

Liberal

Hon. John Harvard (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Davenport for his interest on this important file, for his questions and suggestions.
At this time there are no transgenic varieties of wheat registered for commercial production in Canada. Monsanto Canada has applied to Government of Canada regulators for approval of Roundup Ready wheat. However, the three safety reviews: food, feed and the environment have not been completed.
In addition to the above food, feed and the environment safety reviews, Canada requires that wheat varieties be subjected to a rigorous analysis of end use quality, agronomic performance, and disease resistance for variety registration purposes prior to commercialization. Expert committees must judge these varieties to be equal to or better than the reference varieties before they can be registered by the federal government and sold as seed to commercial farmers.
The Government of Canada is aware of the concerns of many of Canada's international customers regarding GM crops and that the introduction of new plant varieties should be done in a manner that addresses those concerns.
Thus, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has launched an interdepartmental process to determine how best to ensure that the commercialization of products of agricultural innovation does not cause undue international market disruption, while balancing Canada's commitment to innovation and to science based regulation.
With respect to the labelling of genetically modified foods, Canada requires labelling where the foods have undergone significant nutritional or compositional changes, or where there may be health and safety concerns, such as allergenicity.
Canada supports a voluntary, industry based approach to labelling based on how a product was produced if it is not related to the product's characteristics, such as non-product related process and production methods.
In our view, mandatory labelling for non-product related process and production methods may constitute a technical barrier to trade and, therefore, contrary to our international trade obligations.
In this regard, Canadian industry has responded to consumer demand for labelling of GM foods and has developed a voluntary standard for GM products through the Canadian General Standards Board, CGSB.
The Canadian government has supported this broad based initiative and believes that a voluntary labelling standard would be the best way to provide important information about how a product is made while upholding our trade rights and obligations.
Both a comprehensive study by the Royal Society of Canada on “Biotechnology Regulation in Canada” and the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee support a voluntary labelling scheme. The CGSB standard was recently referred to the Standards Council of Canada for final review and adoption as a national standard of Canada.
I would like to thank the hon. member for his comments and suggestions. As I have said, the government is well aware of the potential trade impact of the issue. This is why it is so important that the introduction of new plant varieties be done in a manner that addresses these concerns.
As I have said, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has launched an interdepartmental process to determine how best to ensure that the introduction of GM products does not cause undue international market disruption. As part of this process, we will ensure that the hon. member's comments and suggestion are taken fully into account.
Finally, I would emphasize again the importance of balancing Canada's commitment to innovation and to science based regulation. Ultimately, our ability to defend our access to foreign markets is based on our commitment to science based regulation.
As members will be aware, we are currently involved in a WTO panel against the European Union's moratorium on GM products on grounds that the moratorium is not based on science.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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