Ottawa Backs Down on 'Voluntary Transparency' of New GMOs

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Ottawa backs down on the “voluntary transparency” of new GMOs

Canada's Minister of Agriculture and MP for Compton-Stanstead Marie-Claude Bibeau.

The Trudeau government seems to have changed its tune and is now asking the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to maintain the mandatory declaration of new generations of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) ) coming to market.

The Government of Quebec and several players in the agricultural world working in the organic sector feared that such a change in the regulations would jeopardize the organic certification of products.

The organic sector will be reassured, said the Minister responsible for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Marie-Claude Bibeau, in an interview on the program Midi Info. She announced high-level directives to guarantee the traceability of these new GMO seeds.

The proposal for new Canadian regulations on GMOs has sown controversy since last week, when Radio-Canada revealed that the agrochemical lobby would have participated in its development.

Documents from the The CFIA had sown doubt among the interest groups that received them, in particular the organization Vigilance OGM. Radio-Canada revealed on Monday that a federal document summarizing the reform project had in its metadata the name of an executive director of an agrochemical lobby as the author.

Minister Bibeau said Tuesday that she was reassured that the original document did indeed come from our scientists at the Agency. However, she agreed that distributing a Word document is bad practice, and [she] shared this with an Agency official.

For her, the people who received the document did not get it by accident, it was for consultation. The Minister added that those involved in the development of the new GMO regulations are very open to receiving feedback from everyone.

The challenge of the new Canadian regulations is to oversee the development of new approaches in the development of GMOs, as well as their traceability. Among the new ways of creating genetically modified organisms, the so-called intragenic technology differs from traditional GMOs because it does not incorporate any genes outside the seed.

The development of new seeds that are more resistant to drought, for example, implies that we must update our regulations with this new technology, Minister Bibeau insisted in an interview.

But the The reform project proposed by the CFIA aims to exempt the seed industry from its obligation to declare and have certain genetically modified plants evaluated. The seed and pesticide industry had called for such changes.

This is of great concern to the organic sector, whose certification excludes the presence of GMOs in its products. The issue of traceability is fundamental for the organic farming sector, and the reform project, as proposed, could harm this sector – even if it would greatly facilitate the task of the agrochemical industry. and seed production.

Industry players are also wondering why the CFIA is consulting the agrochemical industry upstream when developing its new regulations. At the same time, they question the reasons why the industry would be exempted from declaring products which nevertheless contain GMOs.

According to Minister Bibeau, organic producers are not against new technologies, but the integrity of the certification must be protected. Ms. Bibeau believes the new regulations will protect organic certification: I'll be watching that closely, she insisted.

In Quebec, the organic farming industry includes nearly 3,300 companies and more than 11,400 products, but above all, it generates revenues estimated at $1.2 billion.

Minister Bibeau said she understood the message regarding the importance of the traceability of GMOs for organic farming and claims to be completely comfortable insisting on this. On the other hand, she noted that the way it will be able to be done, it is up to two people to find the means to do it.

With information from Thomas Gerbet

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