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"Decisions on gene editing regulation in Canada must be made independently"

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. "The decision on regulation and policy around gene editing must be made by an independent party," they say.

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 Canada Organic Trade Association says.

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 the 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."

For more information:
Tia Loftsgard, Executive Director
Canada Organic Trade Association
Suite 210-4 Florence Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 0W7
Tel.: 613-482-1717 ext. 200
Fax: 613-482-2920
[email protected]

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