Election 2015: What is party policy on GMOs?

Source: Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, www.cban.ca

The federal election is October 19 and every political party will be asking for your vote. Each party has something to say about food and agriculture, but what do they have to say about the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?

The Conservative Party

The Conservative Party is opposed to mandatory labelling of GM foods.

The Conservative Party opposed the 2011 Private Members Bill from an NDP MP that would have introduced an assessment of export market harm before any new GM crops are approved.

The Minister of Agriculture did not intervene to stop the legalization of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa in 2013 despite letters and protests requesting this action (but the huge controversy in the farming community has kept GM alfalfa off the market for the moment).

The Conservative party is proactively supporting the future of genetically modified crops, including by developing the new policy to accept “low level presence” (LLP) of GM contamination in imports. This policy is almost finalized and would allow a small percent (0.2% or higher) of some GM foods into Canada that have not been yet assessed for safety by Health Canada.

The New Democratic Party

The NDP has a wide-ranging food strategy called “Everybody Eats” (2014) that includes support for mandatory labelling of GM foods. The party says they would “develop clear, accurate and verifiable labelling for products that have undergone genetic modification.” In 2013, an NDP MP proposed motion M-480 for mandatory labelling.

In their food strategy, the NDP also pledges to support the organic sector (organic farming prohibits the use of GM seeds and other GM products) and to “encourage research that supports environmentally sustainable farming practices.”

The NDP also says it will “reverse cuts to public research facilities and regional projects” and “monitor and prevent anti-competitive behaviour and monopolistic practices in the agri-business supply sector.” This would address the ever-increasing concentration in the seed sector by biotechnology and agrichemical companies.

In 2011, the NDP agriculture critic proposed Bill C-474 that would have mandated a review of potential export market harm before any new GM crops were approved, and this proposal is now part of the NDP’s food strategy. (The Conservative Party was strongly opposed to the bill and all Conservative MPs voted against it in its last vote. Liberals’ MPs were split, with some voting in favour, but the Liberal Party did not support the bill. The NDP voted for it as well as the one Green Party MP and the Bloc Québécois.)

The Green Party

The Green Party of Canada released their Election Platform on September 9, 2015 and it includes a budget pledge to stop federally funded GMO research. It also stresses supporting local food and small-scale producers and says, “In a time of dominance by global industrial food systems, we want to rebalance the equation by creating resilient local economies fuelled by local growers, farmers, and producers.”

Their detailed 2015 policy platform called “Vision Green” says, “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 minimum, GE products must be labelled, giving consumers the right to know and to say no to GE foods.”

The Green Party is very clear that it would “require mandatory labelling of all GM foods and food ingredients.”

The Green Party also calls for a ban on GM alfalfa and GM wheat

The Green Party calls for a ban on the GM sterile seed called “Terminator technology” (there is an international moratorium on this technology but no national ban in Canada).

The Green Party also says they would ensure developers of GM crops are liable for any damages.

The party is also committed to transitioning Canadian agriculture to “100% organic farming” and says they would “shift government-supported research away from biotechnology and energy-intensive farming and towards organic food production.”

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party of Canada has not made a statement on mandatory labelling.

The Liberal Party agriculture critic told CBAN, “The introduction of GMO crops cannot be allowed to endanger the livelihoods of other farmers and producers who have chosen a different method of growing.”

The older “National Food Policy” (2010) of the Liberal Party is only four pages and does not mention GMOs or specific issues that would impact the regulation of GM crops and foods.

In the last Parliamentary session, the past Liberal Party agriculture critic spoke out against the introduction of GM alfalfa however the Liberal leader at the time did not respond to petitions on the issue from his own constituents.

In 2001, the Liberal Party was in government but did not support Private Members Bill C-287 for mandatory labelling that came from one of its own MPs.

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