Select Committee on European Communities Second Report - Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Canadian High Commission


  To date Canada has approved 40 crops derived from biotechnology. These crops include canola, tomatoes, potato, corn, soybean, flax and cottonseed oil.

  This information is summarised on both the Canadian Food inspection Agency's Internet site at biotech/bsco.html and on the Canadian Department of Health's (Health Canada's) Internet site at datafood/english /main-e.htm.


  Three major consultations on the labelling of foods from biotechnology have taken place since 1993. These consultations have included the participation of consumers and consumer groups, environmental groups, companies and industry associations, grocery manufacturers and distributors, farmers, health professionals, etc.

  Principles have emerged from these consultations based on stakeholder input. These general principles are listed below:

  1. Mandatory labelling of novel foods derived through genetic engineering to identify the presence of:

    (a)  Potential health or safety risks for individuals or population segments.

    (b)  Significant composition or nutrition modifications from the non-genetically engineered food source, for example specific fatty acid profile changes in canola oil.

  2. Unless potential health or safety, or significant nutrition or composition changes have occurred, food labels are not required to identify foods derived from genetic engineering.

  3.(a) The labelling of novel food ingredients derived through genetic engineering should be understandable, truthful and not misleading.

    (b)  Voluntary positive or negative labelling that is intended to indicate that a novel food has, or has not, been produced by genetic engineering is acceptable, on the condition of the above principle, that the claim is factual and not misleading or deceptive.

  4. Labelling for religious reasons was viewed as outside the mandate of the government and is being adequately addressed within the framework of religious groups.

  5. Canada will consider both domestic and international needs in food labelling matters.


  1. The results of the consultations are consistent with existing Canadian food laws and with Canadian general food labelling policy for non-genetically engineered foods.

  2. These results are being used to determine whether novel foods derived from biotechnology require labelling when they enter the Canadian marketplace. Foods that have undergone a significant change in nutrition or composition will be labelled for that specific modification.

  3. As a member of Codex Alimentarius, Canada is committed to working with the Codex Committee on Food Labelling to arrive at a common international position on this matter.


  1. In Canada, there are consistent regulations for the environmental assessment of agricultural products that are legislated by the following Acts and guidelines: Seeds Act, Feeds Act, Fertilizers Act and Health of Animals Act, Plant Protection Act. These regulations, together with specific guidelines, detail information requirements and assessment procedures and comprise the Canadian legislative framework for agricultural products of biotechnology.

  2. Evaluations are conducted on the basis of the unique characteristics of each product rather than the method of production. All plants with novel traits are assessed for possible impacts on the environment based on the specific modification and the biology of the plant.

20 July 1998

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