NDP MP introduces GMO labelling bill

MP Pierre Dusseault says Canadians deserve to be able to make informed choices about what they’re eating

GMO labelling may be back on the parliamentary menu if Quebec NDP MP Pierre Dusseault can convince colleagues to support his private member’s bill.

It won’t be debated until next fall at the earliest — if at all — but he will get to test his arguments when the Commons agriculture committee begins a study in the fall on the health and safety of products from genetically modified animals.

So far only the Aqua-Bounty salmon has been approved in Canada. There are no other GM animal products in the approval stage.

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Dusseault said that 90 per cent of Canadians support mandatory GMO labelling and that 65 jurisdictions have implemented laws requiring them. The only one in North America is in Vermont. The Quebec government has discussed GMO labelling.

Dusseault said the bill would “allow Canadians to make an informed choice about what they eat.”

Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said he’d asked the agriculture committee “to explore what steps should be taken to best inform the public about new products involving genetically modified animals.” Canada has “a clear and strict process for evaluating GM products. Our government continues to follow, and will follow, a science-based strategy.”

Dusseault’s bill would amend the Food and Drugs Act “to prevent any person from selling any food that is genetically modified, unless its label contains the information prescribed by regulations.” A text of the bill provides no details on what kind of information would have to be included in any label. Instead it says the labelling must “prevent the purchaser or the consumer from being deceived or misled in respect of its composition.”

After the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) released a report in 2001 on GM foods that found nothing wrong with them, the federal government said it would strengthen its novel foods regulations, under which new GM products are scientifically scrutinized. Currently the only GM crops in Canada are corn, soybean, canola and sugar beet. Health Canada has approved the Arctic apple, developed in British Columbia, which resists browning when sliced.

For a couple of years after the RSC report, the food industry and consumer groups tried to reach an agreement on voluntary GM labelling. In the end they couldn’t agree on how much prominence the GM label should receive compared to other content information and any allergen or other advisories on the product container.

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