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.


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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