1.16 Genetically engineered organisms

Genetically engineered (GE) organisms may pose a potentially serious threat to human health and the health of natural ecosystems. Many Canadians want to follow the example of the European Union and ban GE crops. At a minimum, GE products must be labeled, giving consumers the right to know and to say no to GE foods.

Although polls show that eight in ten Canadians want mandatory labeling of GE foods and food ingredients, the federal government has not acted. In 2004, the Standards Council of Canada adopted a Standard for Voluntary Labeling but it has not been widely adopted.

The government is not exercising enough oversight and control. In fact, Agriculture Canada is promoting GE technology, forming partnerships with biotech companies and partnering in the research initiated by the biotech industry. Agriculture has already experienced the harmful impact of GE crops. Herbicide-resistant (Roundup Ready) canola has escaped and become a noxious weed.

Greens understand that GE organisms and ‘terminator’ technologies come with health and environmental risks. All food products containing GE organisms or their products must be labeled. It is up to the companies that produce and promote GE organisms to prove that they are safe. No such organism should be released into the environment until it is proven to pose no unacceptable risks to human or animal health or to the environment.

Green Party MPs will work to:

  • Ban experimentation with planting and promotion of new GE crops. This includes a ban on further GE research (except for traditional seed selection and grafting) at Agriculture Canada and a ban on companies such as Monsanto owning patents to GE products developed through joint research with Agriculture Canada;

  • Implement the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a protocol within the UN Biodiversity Convention, which Canada signed and ratified in 1992 and which came into force in 2003. The Cartagena Protocol requires the adoption of new products to be guided by the precautionary principle, which balances the economic benefits of innovation with public health and ecological integrity;

  • Require mandatory labeling of all GE foods and food ingredients;

  • Support local, provincial, and territorial GE organism-free zones where these local jurisdictions declare that genetically modified plants and animals are not to be part of the agricultural mix;

  • Prohibit field testing, commercial use, sale, and importation of ‘terminator’ (genetic use restriction) technologies;

  • Maintain the ban on GE wheat and oppose GE alfalfa;

  • Place a moratorium on field-testing genetically modified trees while an expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada examines the risks.