Monday December 7, 2015. Ottawa. Canada’s safety assessment of genetically modified (GM) foods, crops and animals is a closed-door process that is profoundly untransparent, says a report released this week by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN).
“For twenty years, the Canadian government has been approving GM crops and foods by evaluating information from industry that is not disclosed to the public or independent scientists,” said Lucy Sharratt of CBAN.
The report called “Are GM Crops and Foods Well Regulated?” is the fifth in CBAN’s GMO Inquiry 2015 series that is investigating the impacts and risks of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) after twenty years in Canada.
The government does not conduct any safety testing. For risk assessments of GM products, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency rely on information and data submitted by the companies that want products approved. The public and independent scientists are still denied access to this as “confidential business information.”
The only public document provided by the government is a short, vague summary of each product approval decision, posted online at some point after the decision has been made.
Canadians have no way of knowing exactly which GM products are being assessed at any given time, or which GM foods land on grocery store shelves after approval.
“It’s unacceptable that federal regulation of GMOs continues to be so untransparent. At a minimum, the government should immediately establish mandatory labelling to meet the consumer demand to know where GM foods are in the grocery store,” said Thibault Rehn of Vigliance OGM in Quebec.
An Ipsos Reid poll conducted for CBAN in August 2015 found that 57 per cent of Canadians are not confident in the government’s safety and regulatory systems for genetically modified foods; 88 per cent want mandatory labelling.
“Companies that want GM products approved are direct participants in this process but the public are locked out,” said Sharratt. “Consumers and farmers are not consulted and the government doesn’t assess the impacts on our society or economy. There is no democratic process to decide which products we need, and which ones are more destructive than helpful.”