Canada's GM policy seen to hurt food safety
2.GM policy seen to hurt food safety
NOTE: In yet another outrageous example of the regulatory revolving door, Stephen Yarrow, the Director of Plant Biotechnology at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has left his post as a regulator to work for the biotech industry's main lobby group! He is now Vice President of Plant Biotech for CropLife Canada, whose members include: BASF Canada, Monsanto Canada Inc., Bayer Crop Science Inc. (Canada), Dow AgroSciences Canada Inc., duPont Canada Company, Syngenta Crop Protection Canada Inc. and Syngenta Seeds Canada, Inc.
This follows hard on the heels of the European Ombudsman calling on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to strengthen its conflict of interest rules and procedures after the head of EFSA's GMO panel, who oversaw the development of guidance for the risk assessment of GM plants, went on to take a job with GM giant Syngenta, where she's Head of Biotech Regulatory Affairs for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
1.Feds' GM Food Proposal Compromises Food Safety, Say Groups
Epoch Times, December 18 2011
*Allowing traces of unapproved genetically modified components in imported food a health risk, opponents say.
A federal government proposal that would allow low levels of contamination from genetically modified foods from other countries is raising concerns among activist groups.
The proposed policy on “low level presence” (LLP) relates to the unintended presence in low amounts of unapproved genetically modified (GM) material in imported food.
"We think that's a huge concern from a health safety standpoint. There is no justification for this policy from a public health point of view," says Lucy Sharrat, coordinator of Ottawa-based Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), which is taking part in a government stakeholder consultation on the policy.
"The government is very clear that this is trade policy, and our position is that this is clearly trade policy that sacrifices food safety," she says.
The proposal stems from an industry concern that the inevitable presence of traces of GM in imported food that has been approved in one country but not in the country of import could disrupt international trade.
According to U.K.-based Graham Brookes Consulting, a 2006 incident involving EU imports of rice from the U.S. in which traces of yet-unapproved GM material were found and the subsequent rejection of the imports cost the EU rice sector 111 million pounds (C$177 million) in the years immediately following the incident.
Another incident involving EU imports of U.S. maize that contained traces of unapproved GM is estimated to have cost the EU livestock sector 1.6 billion pounds, according to researchers with the Wageningen University and Research Centre in The Hague.
If the proposal is adopted, Canada could be the first country that would set up a system to allow contamination from unapproved GM foods.
"The need to address low-level presence has been recognized internationally, and Canada is showing leadership by reviewing its policy to manage domestic occurrences of LLP,” Patrick Girard, a spokesperson with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), explains in an email.
"This is part of a broader strategy to maintain food safety, prevent trade disruptions, and ensure open and predictable trade."
The proposal was crafted by an interdepartmental committee that was formed in 2010 consisting of AAFC, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Health Canada, among others, to look into LLP policy.
"Many of our trading partners recognize the importance of the issue, and we are working with them to develop global solutions," says Girard.
But as far as opponents are concerned, Canada expecting the rest of the world to accept its food exports with LLP doesn't justify allowing the presence of any material not yet approved by that country's health and safety agencies in food imports.
"It's unconscionable that our government would purposefully allow unapproved foods into Canada just so we can try and push our GM contamination on the rest of the world," Tanmayo Krupanszky of the Canadian Organic Growers Toronto Chapter said in a statement.
CBAN's Sharrat says the proposed policy is based on a hope that other countries will follow suit, but there is no guarantee that other countries will adopt similar LLP policies.
"We think that even the trade justification of this policy is extremely weak," she says.
Girard says that the fact that LLP is defined as low-level presence of GM material that has been approved in at least one country with risk assessment procedures that Canadian regulators have confidence in is a very important protection to the safety of Canadians.
The proposed policy also contains three possible approaches to further maintain food, feed, and environmental safety.
"In the first proposed approach, the quantity of GMO must be so low that testing and sampling techniques cannot determine with certainty that there is actually GMO in the shipment," Girard says.
"In the two other approaches, Canadian regulators would conduct risk assessments for health and safety, i.e. toxicity and allergenicity. If any health and safety issue is identified, the LLP policy would not apply and the shipments would need to be brought back into compliance."
The proposal is preliminary and represents a "preliminary review of possible approaches."
Girard says the proposal has been sent to stakeholders, including the entire value chain, and the provinces and territories. It has also been shared with Canada’s trading partners.
The next step is to analyze the findings of the preliminary consultations to create a final proposal for further consultation.
2.GM policy seen to hurt food safety
SEAN PRATT, Saskatoon Newsroom
Western Producer, December 15 2011
The Canadian government is being hypocritical in pursuing a low level presence policy for unapproved genetically modified crops, says an anti-biotechnology crusader.
"Low level presence punches a big hole right through the government's claim that our regulation of GM foods is science-based," said Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.
Agriculture Canada wants to establish a low level presence policy allowing trace amounts of GM crops that have been approved in an exporting country but not in Canada.
It recently completed consultations on a proposal to allow up to 0.1 percent of an unapproved GM trait as long as certain conditions are met.
The main condition is that the trait would have to be approved by an exporting nation that Canada has deemed to have an equivalent regulatory system.
There are also provisions in the proposal to establish thresholds for unapproved GM traits that exceed 0.1 percent if certain conditions are met.
An interim threshold could be established if the owner of the trait has submitted a package to Canadian authorities for regulatory approval and a risk assessment has been conducted.
An indefinite threshold could be set if a risk assessment based on all available safety information about the product determines that the trait is unlikely to pose a health or safety risk.
Sharratt said she can’t believe the government is willing to abandon its science-based safety assessment under these special circumstances.
“It seems to us that the Canadian government is suggesting that Health Canada’s approval process for GM foods can be dismissed in certain cases,” she said.
“It’s just shocking what this proposal is asking Canadians to accept.”
Stephen Yarrow, vice-president of plant biotechnology with CropLife Canada, said it’s not that shocking.
“I can understand the concern, but one really needs to appreciate that it’s only under those circumstances where that material has been approved by another government that has equal or better standards than Canada,” he said.
On the contrary
Yarrow rejects the assertion that Canada is backing away from a science- based system.
“I don’t see any evidence of that being abandoned.”
He said a risk assessment will replace a full safety assessment in some instances, but it is still going to be a science driven process.
Sharratt said she doesn’t know how Health Canada can conduct a risk assessment without thoroughly vetting the data contained in the submission. She bristles at the notion that submitting a package for regulatory approval makes the GM trait in question more benign.
“Somehow they’re going to be evaluating the robustness of the data package without evaluating the data itself,” said Sharratt.
What happens if Canadian regulators do not approve the trait but allow it to cross the border through a temporary threshold? she asked.
Sharratt also rejected the notion that a tiny bit of an unknown substance is safe and predicts others share that point of view.
“For food retailers and manufacturers, we foresee this being a major problem.”
Yarrow said the zero tolerance policy for unapproved traits that is used around the world is a major impediment for the grain trade. An entire shipment can be rejected for containing dust from an unapproved trait.
Canada has not had to deal with low level presence domestically, but grain farmers and exporters have been stung by incidents such as the Triffid flax case, where an unapproved trait disrupted flax sales to the European Union.
That is why CropLife applauds the Canadian government for taking the lead on establishing a low level presence policy that can be mimicked by other countries.
Sharratt said implementing the proposal would sacrifice food safety for trade policy, which she thinks is an unacceptable trade-off.
Yarrow is not sure what happens next, but believes the government is motivated to get a policy in place.
“I do get the sense that they’re taking this seriously and want to move on it,” he said.