OTTAWA, ON, Sep 28, 2023 – The Canada Organic Trade Association calls on Health Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to reverse their decision on voluntary disclosure of gene edited seeds and food considering a story from Radio-Canada on the years of closed- door discussions between CropLife and government to advance CropLife’s proposal. [To read in English, use the website Google translation function.] The decision on regulation and policy around gene editing must be made by an independent party.
Organic standards prohibit the use of GE seed, feed and food. The organic sector has consistently opposed allowing new genetically engineered (GE) seeds to be released in Canada with only voluntary disclosure and without health or safety assessments. The decision by Health Canada to allow just that for GE food in 2022, and later by AAFC on GE seeds in 2023, puts the organic sector at significant risk of contamination from undisclosed gene-edited seeds and food and disregards consumers right to know what is in their food.
The organic sector prohibits all forms of genetic engineering, including GMOs and gene editing, due to concerns around biodiversity, food sovereignty and preservation of genetic resources. Globally, the Codex Alimentarius for Organically Produced Food prohibits the use of genetic engineering and serves as a global guide for all nations to reference in the development of their nation’s standards.
The organic sector continues to ask for a mandatory government registry of all gene-edited products in order to co-exist with non-organic growing systems. In light of the failed process in which the decision to move ahead was based on the influence of seed developers, we call upon the federal government departments to repeal their decision and maintain the mandatory procedures that exist for other GE products in Canada. This request to uphold transparency and traceability should not be overlooked once again as the organic sector seeks a way to co-exist with non-organic farming systems in Canada.
“During the Industry-Government Technical Committee convened by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada in early 2023, the Canada Organic Trade Association along with other organic partners were tasked with finding suitable solutions to protect the organic sector from contamination with potentially unidentified gene edited seeds,” recalls Tia Loftsgard, executive director of the Canada Organic Trade Association. “The aggressive timeline and very narrow scope of the committee’s work was frustrating at the time, but is even more concerning given the recent news. We request the decision to be repealed and that all GE products be mandatorily disclosed and overseen by government.”
The organic sector maintains that it is critical to safeguard the transparency of gene edited food, seeds, and feed throughout the various stages of the supply chain from breeding to processing. This is not only essential for the choices of farmers and consumers to be respected but is the foundation for trust in the safety and quality of Canada’s food system.
We urge Canadians to reach out to their MPs and government authorities to reverse the deregulation of gene edited foods and seeds. Mandatory disclosure of all gene edited products and genetically engineered products is essential for consumer choice.
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About Organic Agriculture
Organic agriculture is an internationally recognized model of food production that is guided by principles of sustainability and regulated standards and driven by consumer demand domestically and globally. Farmers who produce food in an organic system choose to do so without the interference of practices such as chemical use and genetic engineering. Organic farming by its very necessity is a driver of innovative and sustainable farming and food production techniques. Organic farmers have been the pioneers in such areas as biodiversity, soil health, cover cropping and crop rotations allowing them to produce quality food while also minimizing their impact on the environment.
About the Canada Organic Trade Association
The Canada Organic Trade Association is a membership-based association for the organic industry in Canada representing growers, fisherman, processors, certifiers, provincial farmers’ associations, importers, exporters, retailers and others throughout the organic value chain. COTA’s mission is to promote and protect the organic sector and encourage the universal adoption of organic. https://www.canada-organic.ca/
Executive Director, Canada Organic Trade Association 613-482-1717 ext 200 firstname.lastname@example.org