Media Release: Organic BC’s Response to Canada’s Decision to Allow New Gene-Edited Seeds to be Released Without Mandatory Disclosure
Vernon, BC, May 17, 2023 – On May 3, 2023, the Honourable Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced a decision to allow new gene-edited seeds to be released in Canada without mandatory disclosure, and without independent health and safety assessments. This new voluntary system is privately managed and jeopardizes the future of organic certification in Canada.
The Canadian Organic Standards prohibit the use of GMOs, including genetic engineering and gene editing. A voluntary self-registration process could result in gene-edited seeds entering the market without being identified. If this occurs, organic farmers may unknowingly buy prohibited seeds or face additional contamination risk from neighbours who are planting them, putting their organic certification and businesses at risk. Even with one new undisclosed GMO on the market, contamination is possible. And with Canada’s equivalency agreements around the world with countries that prohibit the import of GMOs, trade is also at significant risk.
“There is strong public trust in the organic brand because of a system that ensures transparency and accountability,” said Organic BC Executive Director, Eva-Lena Lang. “And this viable organic system has been built because of farmers’ commitment, and consumers’ commitment, to it. Consumers have the right to know what is in their food.”
The federal government has outsourced the management of the new database to Seeds Canada, an industry group with an active interest in biotechnology and plant breeding innovation. Without the necessary government ownership and oversight, the seed industry is now positioned to control Canadian access to information on gene-edited seed—a highly problematic approach.
The organic sector’s call for true transparency is not an opposition to innovation. The organic sector is a driver of ecologically innovative practices in agriculture and food processing. It focuses on nature-based solutions to meet challenges and uses advanced techniques to optimize the environmental impact of products and secure our food supply for future generations.
“Mandatory traceability would ensure confidence for farmers and consumers in their food system, while not blocking access to gene-edited seeds,” said Lang. “The organic sector would like to ensure there is a choice for farmers and consumers.”
The organic sector continues to be united in its requirement for mandatory notification of gene-edited seeds to ensure the integrity of our products for Canadian consumers and consumers around the world.
To stay informed, follow Organic BC’s newsletter, become involved, and continue to support your organic farmers.
– 30 –
Organic BC is growing the organic movement in British Columbia from the ground up. Our grassroots network of non-profit organic certifiers, farmers, processors and consumers is working to build healthy soil, ecosystems, people and communities. Together, we’re raising the standards for organic agriculture and transforming agriculture’s impact on the planet.
Executive Director, Organic BC