New story reveals close industry collaboration on removal of government oversight of gene edited seeds.
OTTAWA, ON, September 28, 2023 – Canadian Organic Growers calls on Health Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) 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 revealing years of closed-door discussions between CropLife and government to advance CropLife’s proposal. [To read in English, use the website Google translation function.] Decisions on regulation and policy around gene editing must be made by an independent party.
Organic farmers require mandatory disclosure of gene edited seed and feed. To maintain their certification, organic farmers must be able to prove that the seed and feed they use are free from any contamination, including genetic engineering which is prohibited under the Canadian Organic Standards.
This week’s story follows a decision by Health Canada in 2022 to allow for voluntary disclosure and health or safety assessments of GE food, and by AAFC in 2023 for voluntary disclosure of GE seeds. The organic sector has consistently opposed these reforms, which put organic farmers at significant risk of losing their certification by inadvertently using undisclosed GE seeds.
“Mandatory transparency of GE seeds is one of the most significant issues organic farmers are facing today,” states Allison Squires, a certified organic farmer based in Saskatchewan and President of Canadian Organic Growers. “Without it, the integrity of organic production in Canada is severely threatened. Both farmers and consumers currently face the real possibility of no longer being able to grow and consume non-genetically engineered, certified organic food. Farmers have the right to choose to grow food that meets the needs of their consumer without fear of contamination by undisclosed genetic engineered seed products. The recent news calls into question the integrity of the decisions made.”
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 ensure the continued integrity and traceability of organic growing systems. In light of the 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 the presence of GE seed products in Canada.
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. Mandatory disclosure of all gene edited and genetically engineered products 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, and to demand accountability in light of recent news.
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About Canadian Organic Growers
Canadian Organic Growers (COG) – a registered charity established in 1976 – is Canada’s leading national, organic and regenerative member-driven organization dedicated to supporting farmers in their path to certification and adoption of more climate-friendly practices. COG provides training, educational resources, networking opportunities, and leadership to help build an agricultural system that empowers farmers, enhances human health, builds community and mitigates climate change while increasing Canadian food security. In collaboration with its national network, COG also engages in advocacy to advance the policy priorities of the organic sector. We work to ensure that Canada’s organic and regenerative farmers, gardeners, and consumers are represented in our pursuit to advance the organic sector.
To learn more about Canadian Organic Growers, visit their website at www.cog.ca.
Karen Murchison | Executive Director, Canadian Organic Growers
Allison Squires | Board President, Canadian Organic Growers