New Report on Novel Foods from Genetically Modified Animals and Labelling of GMOs

On December 12, 2016 a parliamentary report was released regarding genetically modified animals for human consumption.1 The report is the result of a request made in early 2016 in response to Health Canada’s approval of genetically modified salmon for human consumption—a first in Canada.2

What You Need To Know

  • The report is not law nor is it draft law. The federal government will consider the report and decide whether to act on the recommendations.
  • The parliamentary report makes four recommendations. These are:
    1. greater transparency in the regulatory system relating to genetically modified animals for human consumption;
    2. support for independent research into health and environmental effects of new genetic modification technologies;
    3. mandatory labelling only for issues of food health and safety; and
    4. traceability of genetically modified animals.
  • Notably, the parliamentary report did not recommend the mandatory labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  Instead, it endorsed the current system, summarized below.
  • The current law is:
    • there are no special labelling requirements for genetically modified foods in Canada, unless the genetic modification changes the nutritional quality of the food or creates a potential health risk (e.g., allergen disclosure requirement); and
    • if a company chooses to make a claim relating to a genetically modified food, the claim must not be misleading regarding the character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety of the food; there is a voluntary labelling standard that can be used to assess if a claim is misleading.

The parliamentary committee received input from government agencies, environmental groups, and industry organizations such as BIOTECanada.

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1 Genetically Modified Animals for Human Consumption, Report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, December 2016.

2 Novel Food Information—AquAdvantage® Salmon (Health Canada; May 19, 2016); DFO. 2013. Summary of the Environmental and Indirect Human Health Risk Assessment of AquAdvantage® Salmon. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Resp. 2013/023; Decision Document DD2016-117 Determination of the Safety of AquaBounty Technologies Inc. (Incorporated)'s Salmon (Salmo salar L. (Linnaeus)) Event (May 19, 2016)

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This publication is a general discussion of certain legal and related developments and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, we would be pleased to discuss the issues in this publication with you, in the context of your particular circumstances.

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