Redesign (GE)

Create an integrated sustainable GE legislative framework for food and agricultural products

The changes at Efficiency and Substitution all lead to creating a new regulatory approach designed around precaution, agroecology, social determinants of health and food justice.  All these changes should be codified in a new legislative framework. It is sometimes the case that operational requirements demand the creation of a new legislative or policy context, even though, in many ways, this is a backwards approach. It would have been more  sensible to create first a specific framework for GE regulation, as a number of other countries have done, and then detail the regulatory approach that is consistent with it.  However, Canada chose not to do that because decision makers felt it would limit the development of a GE industry, but we can take lessons from other countries that did. No country has legislation completely consistent with what is proposed here but elements can be taken from German (and EU) and New Zealand legislation (see US Library of Congress, 2014).

Germany's Act on Genetic Engineering governs research, production, marketing, and release of GM plants and animals, and acts in concert with EU regulations and directives, including EU Directive 2001/18, EU Regulation 1829/2003 on GMOs in food and feedstuffs and EU Directive 830/2003 on the traceability and labeling of GMOs and foods derived from them. The precautionary principle is a guiding concept and biosafety and environmental assessments are significantly more rigorous than Canada, resulting in a very limited number of releases and significant restrictions on imports. As discussed under Substitution, the competent authority for assessments is the public health institute, the Robert Koch Institute. The law covers both deliberately and inadvertently created GE organisms, as a strategy of environmental protection, and has resulted in the destruction of many contamination events. The Act has a robust approach to liability because it attempts to assure co-existence between GE, conventional and organic production. Penalties can amount to millions of euros as those responsible for contamination events are liable for all revenue losses by affected parties. This situation has caused the German Farmers Federation to recommend against growing GE crops.  States can be even more stringent than the federal law and at least one claims to be a GE - free region. In at least one case, Germany has denied approval to a GE variety approved at the EU level. The most commonly imported GE product is livestock feed.

New Zealand also has a regime that is designed around precaution via the Hazardous Materials and New Organisms Act.  Regulatory oversight is provided by the Environmental Protection Authority for approvals for release, and by food safety authorities (particularly ANZA) for imported food and feeds. The fundamental purpose of the Act (section 4) is “to protect the environment, and the health and safety of people and communities, by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances and new organisms." Section 6 of the Act highlights, “the intrinsic value of ecosystems”; and also makes reference to public health, Maori ancestral lands and water, and the economic costs and benefits of new organisms. Very few, if any, crops have been approved for widespread release on the grounds of potential harm.

Given the earlier discussion  about the lack of sustainability associated with current applications, the data weaknesses and the questionable review processes, it is no surprise that countries with more ecologically and precaution-oriented regimes would limited crop, food and feedstuff approvals.

The detailed work of extracting the lessons, language and processes from these jurisdictions and translating them to the Canada parliamentary and constitutional context, and continuing the transition outlined in Efficiency and Substitution, has yet to be undertaken.