Genetically-modified and novel foods must pass government review before being sold in Canada, says Eileen McMahon in The Lawyers Weekly

How Novel Foods Get Approved

August 31, 2012

Recently, an apple made the news, and it wasn’t about computing. A small company in British Columbia developed a type of apple that doesn’t turn brown.

If this product passes the government review, it will join the ranks of other genetically-modified and novel foods that can be sold in Canada, such as drought tolerant corn, lutein-enhanced eggs, and yogurt with plant sterols.

Biotechnology involves the use of living organisms to make new products, including vaccines, plants that resist insects and diseases, and medical advances to repair damaged organs. The law related to biotechnology is largely about regulatory clearance and intellectual property protection of new products.

Eileen McMahon is the co-chair of Tory’s intellectual property and food and drug regulatory practices. She explained the difference between regular foods and genetically modified foods this way: "The way to make most plants is through cross-breeding. That can be done in the field. But there’s a new type of breeding, which is genetic engineering at the cellular level in the lab. The government has tried to distinguish between traditional breeding and genetic engineering, and says: 'We want to look at genetically modified food before it goes on the market.' They also want to look at new foods. The idea is to catch foods where there is no previous history of safe use."

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