Placing a Moratoriam on Release of GM Cereal Crops

Res #: 29-02M
Number: 29
Year: 2002
Midterm: Yes
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Resolution 29-02M

WHEREAS, the ratepayers of the RM of Francis No. 127 feel that GM Wheat could cause major problems with the marketing of both organic and domestic wheat as well as other cereal grain crops;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that SARM petition the Federal Government to place a moratorium on the release of new genetically modified cereal crops until such time as it can be proven that their release and subsequent use will not affect out marketing of cereal grains.

Response from Honourable Lyle Vanclief:

Thank you for your letter of November 19, 2002, informing me about a resolution passed at the Midterm Convention of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities regarding the release of cereal crops derived through biotechnology, in particular biotechnology-derived wheat.

The Government recognizes that there are concerns about some of the new varieties and technologies that may come onto the market, and it is examining the complex issues related to the introduction of new varieties in Canada to better understand the issues and possible approaches to address such concerns. These issues include environmental safety, food safety, agronomic suitability, market readiness and product segregation. As Canada's pre-eminent position in the world grain market is vitally important, the Government is also examining the potential impacts on the global wheat market.

The Government is committed to ensuring that the introduction of new crops is done in a manner that will satisfy consumers' requirements and result in net benefits to Canadian farmers. The Government's top priorities for food are to ensure that Canadians have access to safe, high-quality products, that the production of the food does not pose a risk to the environment, and that our producers are competitive on world markets.

The health and safety of Canadians are of the utmost importance. For this reason, Canada has put in place one of the safest food systems in the world, representing a collective effort that includes the hard work of producers, processors, distributors, inspectors, and regulators. To assess safety for consumers, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) subject products of biotechnology to comprehensive scientific review.

I want to assure you that sound science is the basis of the federal government's health, safety, and environmental assessments of new products. Health Canada carries out rigorous reviews and assessments before it approves any new food products, including those derived through biotechnology. Health Canada's food safety assessments also consider the potential of new foods to cause an allergic reaction. The CFIA is responsible for safety assessments that determine human, animal and environmental safety of plants, livestock feeds, veterinary biologics and fertilizers, including those derived through biotechnology.

In Canada, biotechnology-derived seeds and crops are subjected to a thorough safety assessment before the CFIA will authorize unconfined environmental release. As with any new product of biotechnology, biotechnology-derived wheat would also be subjected to a thorough safety assessment.

Along with a complete characterization of the crop, an important part of every CFIA environmental safety assessment is an evaluation of the possibility for biotechnology-derived plants to outcross with any of their relatives. Evaluators examine the following factors: the ability of the plant product to successfully outcross with any relatives and produce viable offspring, what the new characteristic is and what it does, and the significance of any impact of that plant in managed and unmanaged ecosystems. No plants with new traits?including wheat?will be approved until the proponent has completely satisfied all regulatory requirements and has provided the CFIA with sufficient evidence that the crop will not pose a significant risk to the environment. Similarly, before the plant or its grain may be used in livestock feed, it must undergo a feed assessment to demonstrate that it is safe for this purpose.

Once a biotechnology-derived crop has been granted approval for commercialization, it is treated just like any other commodity crop. Growers are free to implement identity preservation systems for certain specialized types of production and can co-operate with their neighbours to minimize the impacts of surrounding production methods. In 2001 in Canada, the majority of canola production was herbicide-tolerant. As a consequence, cultivation of organic canola using a zero-tolerance standard would not have been possible, but cultivation of other conventional varieties would have been unaffected. The CFIA continues to sponsor public research into pollen flow from canola production, and the resulting data can be used by farmers who may wish to minimize the impact of pollen flow from surrounding crops.