We Can’t Wait Another 22 Years: CEPA Bill Must Address Genetic Engineering Threat
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Unceded Algonquin Territory, Ottawa, ON – February 10, 2022
Today, Nature Canada welcomed the reintroduction of a Bill amending the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) which manages toxic substances and genetically engineered (GE) animals. The Bill is unchanged from last April when it was first introduced, but the Minister in his remarks yesterday indicated a willingness to consider amendments.
Like last year’s Bill, it does not contain any of the needed changes to modernize the regulatory regime for genetically engineered animals in Canada.
“CEPA has not been amended for 22 years and so has not kept pace with the dramatic developments in the field of genetic engineering,” said Nature Canada’s Senior Advisor Mark Butler.
“We now have unlabeled genetically-engineered Atlantic salmon on the market in Canada and other engineered species with wild counterparts will be proposed. We cannot wait another two decades for action from the federal government to prevent genetic pollution,” added Butler.
As with last year’s Bill, the government is proposing “a full and comprehensive review” of the CEPA regulations governing the risk assessment of GE organisms. But the review of regulations wouldn’t be part of this legislative process and could take several years.
Butler said, “An independent and public review of the regulations might be part of the answer, but without changes to the Act itself, it’s completely inadequate.”
Nature Canada also recommends that Bill C-28 be amended now to ensure a public review takes place whenever the manufacture or import of a new GE animal is proposed, and whenever a waiver of information request is made. This means that all information provided to the government is immediately made available to the public, and it means meaningful public involvement in risk assessment and management processes. The objective should be informed public acceptance before any new GE animal is manufactured, imported, or approved for a new use in Canada.
Genetic pollution is not only forever pollution, it increases over time. Once a genetically engineered organism successfully reproduces with a wild counterpart, the new genes will spread throughout the population.
Canada was the first country in the world to approve a genetically engineered food animal, a genetically modified Atlantic salmon. Engineered salmon from a facility in PEI is now on the market but Canadians won’t know if they are eating it as it is unlabeled.
A majority of Canadians want mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. Labeling would ensure consumers can make an informed choice. “The Government could have required labels under this Act. Instead, it appears they’ve bowed to industry opposition to the labeling of GE foods,” said Mark Butler.
Nature Canada applauds the inclusion in Bill C-28 of a right to a healthy environment and additional protections for vulnerable populations. However, as with many important issues in this Act, these changes are contingent on further steps by the government.
The inclusion of UNDRIP in the Preamble is also welcome. Working with Indigenous partners Nature Canada will be watching how UNDRIP will be applied to the approval of engineered animals such as salmon.
Nature Canada appreciated the Minister’s remarks about working with Canadians and all MPs as the Bill makes its way through the legislative process. We trust that means improvements to Part 6 which regulates GE animals.
Nature Canada released a report in June 2020 and June 2021 highlighting recommendations for modernizing CEPA, including recognizing all Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. For the 2020 Report Nature Canada worked with Indigenous representatives, scientists, recreational fishing groups, and environmental, health, and animal welfare groups in the development of the report.
Learn more about Nature Canada’s work as we continue the fight to Keep Wild Species Wild.
For more information contact:
Mark Butler, Senior Advisor
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