Canada's Own Version of Prop 37 Already Exists


Last week I wrote about the demise of Prop 37, a California bill that called for, among other things, labeling of genetically modified ingredients in food products.

It didn’t take long after I posted the story for someone to send me a Tweet containing a link to an online petition. The introduction for the petition claims that genetically modified foods make up 70% of food in the grocery store, and that Canada needs mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. The online petition currently has nearly 5,500 (a full 3,500 in the last week alone). The author of the tweet asked, how long until Canada had its own labeling law?

You might be surprised, as I was, to find that one is already in the works. There is a private members bill currently in parliament that demands mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. It’s private members bill C-257, introduced by Alex Atamanenko, member of parliament for B.C. Southern Interior. Atamamenko is the same MP who introduced a private members bill calling for market acceptance as a component of registration of genetically modified crops.

Bill C-257 has been introduced and passed first reading (see below for the summary of the bill).

This is a private member’s bill, introduced by a member of the official opposition and not likely to become law (private member’s bills rarely do). However, I’m surprised that this is the first I’d heard of the bill, even though it’s been in the parliamentary system since June of 2011.

I spoke with Mr. Atamamenko yesterday from his home in B.C., and asked him about the motivation behind the bill. Where Prop 37 was complicated and wordy, Bill C-257 is straightforward and focused on one thing: the mandatory labeling of food that “may contain genetically modified ingredients.” Atamamenko says that, “We, as consumers, should have a right to know what we’re eating,” and says that foods such as corn syrup, certain sweeteners, baked goods and other foods with a label, may have ingredients from genetically modified corn, soy or canola.

I pointed at that consumers already have access to foods labeled as free of genetically modified ingredients; they’re labeled “certified organic”. Yes, we have organics, he says, but we also have a conventional sector. “If there’s nothing wrong with GM then tell me (if it’s in the food) or not, and let me choose,” Atamamenko says. And that is the crux of the bill: Atamamenko says consumers have a right to know what’s in their food.

Bill C-257 may or may not make it to second reading and debated in parliament. Atamamenko has other private bills he may choose to bring forward instead, he says, but he anticipates an interesting debate period should it make it that far.

What do you think? Do we need labeling of conventionally grown crops? Is labeling of GM ingredients a risk to current farm production practices?

Here is a summary of the bill:

This enactment amends the Food and Drugs Act to provide that the Minister of Health is responsible for establishing that a food or one or more of its components are genetically modified. Once this has been established, the Minister is required to have the name of the food published in the Canada Gazette. The Minister must also prepare a list of all such foods and have a copy sent at no cost to any person who requests it.

This food and food products containing this food cannot then be sold in a package unless a label containing the following notice is affixed to the package: This product or one or more of its components have been genetically modified.

In addition, this food and food products containing this food cannot be sold without a package unless a sign in the prescribed form containing the following notice is posted near the food: Genetically modified

17 thoughts on “Canada’s Own Version of Prop 37 Already Exists

  1. Why are supporters of GMO’s so
    opposed to labeling products that contain them? They claim that there is no
    evidence to support any issues with GMO’s, they are 100% safe and Monsanto’s
    science proves so. Then why oppose a label that states what it is? Organic
    controls all of 3% of the market in the US, but that is a persuasive enough
    voice for you to fear labeling a product as what it is? By not wanting it to be
    labeled, are you not defending the hypothesis that there could be negative
    health effects associated with GMO’s? What is the real argument against
    labeling them, the cost of having to print new labels?

    On the other hand, if a consumer is worried about what they are eating,educate yourself on how to read a label. Monsanto states over 98% of soybeans are GM and over 85% of corn is GM in the US. If it has either of those products in it, and isn’t labeled as Organic, you can bet it is more likely than not, GMO.

    GMO’s will always be debated – should they be allowed, should they be labeled.
    they offer the greatest benefits to farmers, so those who grow them will
    continue to advocate for them. What farmer doesn’t want to harvest higher
    yielding crops?

  2. Don’t forget it’s not all about higher yields. It’s also about simplicity and effective weed control. It’s about using a product that is very safe for application. And the fact that higher yields means we can feed more people on the same land base and since Toronto is sitting on the most productive land in Ontario and it’s not getting smaller I think that’s a good thing too. I don’t think anyone producing GMO’s is opposed to the label itself, more the difficulty in amending all those labels. So much worse that the “may contain peanuts” labelling and no one’s allergic to GMO’s. So really what is the point of the label? How will this notification help consumers to decide? Especially when most of them don’t know what it really means.

  3. Charlene, please watch Genetic Roulette Movie, The Future of Food and Food Inc. Perhaps these documentaries can help you understand the issues around GMOs from the perspective of those of us who which to avoid them.

    In answer to your question, ” So really what is the point of the label?” Simple – we have the right to know what is in our food and those of us that choose to avoid GMOs will know if a product contains GM ingredients. Some produce will also have to be labelled as a GMO. If you are comfortable eating GMOs then you should be happy to be able to choose GM products and produce. I will choose not to – so we both win.

    1. Those are exactly the kind of sensationalist media “documentaries” that I try to advocate against. Like all things the truth probably lays somewhere in the middle.

    2. The reality is that if you wish to choose non-transgenic (GMO is a terrible term for bio-tech crops) food, then choose organic. If you don’t wish to pay more for food, really consider what this labeling requirement, or out-right bans mean for the supply of safe, nutritious food. (I sell seed, chemical, fertilizer, you name it, and me, and my family eats it.) There are a lot of misconceptions about biotech crops and what they mean. The research showing no yield advantage over iso-lines is conducted in growth chambers in the absence of pest pressure. Hardly reflective of conditions in the field.

  4. Whether GMO’s will one day be shown to be a legitimate health threat, or just a lot of very profitable fear mongering hype, I don’t know. Today there is no scientific evidence either way that has closed the debate. Historically, there have been harmful innovations that have made it into our food supply, and there have also been some very good products that were wrongfully banned because they got on the wrong side of the money, power, and consumer sentiment.

    Regardless, the FACT is that consumers want to know what’s in their food, and they deserve to know. It is the duty of all those involved with food production to investigate, research, and know the truth, and then to educate consumers on that. Not just lob “fear grenades” into the media to swerve the masses one way or another.

    Today we have very few choices to offer consumers. “Organic” for those who fear everything, and “Pesticide-Laced” for those who throw caution to the wind and bet that they’ll be OK.

    Why not 20 or 30 choices, along with a lot of education on why? Maybe GMO’s are thought risky by someone but a healthy fertilized soil is preferred. “Organic” label doesn’t work for that. Maybe GMO’s are thought by someone else to be no different than the evolution that made a cow different than a deer, safe or even preferred, but it is fungicides that are maybe carcinogens that need to be avoided. There is no “fungicide free” label today, again the “organic” label doesn’t work.

    So far most attempts at niche marketing and more specialized labels have based themselves on fear mongering. Hopefully someone can rise above that and promote a premium brand on “more nutritious” or “more tasty” etc.

    The technology is available today, field level traceability right to the dinner plate is now inexpensive. Farmers who have actual data on their production techniques will soon have an interested buyer for it.

  5. Yes! Let’s label! People have the right to decide whether or not they want to feed themselves and their families foods that have been genetically modified. There have been no long term (2+ years) INDEPENDENT studies done on the affects of these foods…only 90 day studies provided by the manufacturers! I do not want to be used as a guinea pig for the big corporations! Look what happened with DDT, mercury, PCBs, agent orange & thalidomide to name a few.

  6. Charlene, those that produce GMOs are violently opposed to labelling!!! You must realize this after they spent 45 million dollars to strike down prop 37….
    They are so opposed b/c majority of consumers wouldnt eat it..please watch genetic roulette…GMOs are seriously scary stuff….they do not simplify agriculture at all, they sterilize the soil due to the massive amounts of pesticides and fertilizer that must be used to grow them leading to basically enormous green deserts…its tragic what we are doing to our poor Earth and what we will leave to our children

    1. Actually it is very proven that GMO crops have reduced the carbon footprint of agriculture, reduced pesticide use, possibly higher fertilizer due to higher needs of higher yields. Same as a high performing athlete needs more calories than me.

  7. In Canada, on May 5, 2008, there was a GMO Bill C-517 which passed with a vote of 156 FOR and 101 AGAINST. This was to not label GMO foods by Conservative MP, Rob Merrified who was a farmer desiring to grow crops using Round-up. His desire was due to the fact that people would not be educated about GMO food and they would be scarred of it.

    At my last school reunion, I made a comment individually to three of my former classmates. “So you give Monsanto $15. per acre”. Each one commented back “I wished only $15., it is closer to $55.00 per acre”. Each has about 2000 acres. So each year Monsanto gets $110,000.00 from each fellow classmate. They added a comment, “It is just a part of doing business”. What Monsanto gets annually is worth more than their farm was worth when they graduated from school.

    Switching to be an Organic farmer is not cracked up to be great at first. Weeds will be abundant. For 3-7 years the soil micro-organism will be low which is due to the chemicals and conventional fertilizers killing them. Yields are lower. Markets are hard to tap into. But the results will be that for a cubic foot of grain, the weight will be up due to the mineral density will be up.

    Some say, “No need to label GMO foods because you can buy labelled ‘certified organic’ foods.” They make up 3% of the market. 70% at least is GMO foods, so 27% is mixed in with the GMO. Is this a choice?
    I phoned the phone # on the Tortilla bag and asked if it was GMO corn. I was told, “No, but if we did not have enough supply of non-GMO, it would be”.

    If a person examines the increase diseases per capita world wide, the sharp increase is the same as the increase as the consumption of GMO foods with the synergy of the increase use of unpasteurized milk. What are the cattle eating more of? GMO corn and GMO soy!

    Google ‘Jerry Rosman Iowa’ and watch the You Tube. He tells the account of 80% of his sows being infertile due to feeding GMO corn.
    Stanford University study revealed that children who ate organic foods had 30% less pesticides in their urine.

    The use of GMOs to feed the world has started the United Nations’ Earth Summit Agenda 21, but will stop the farmer from spraying pesticides and herbicides even when Thresholds are reached. But, I prefer the farmer to have freedom and the Consumer too.

    I am open to Questions and more info at: [email protected]

  8. Farmers that produce natural food now known as “organic” are forced to pay fees for certification and endure all kinds of time and money wasting inspections to simply let the public know that they grow regular, natural and healthy food in a sustainable and safe way. While the agribusinesses that use GMO seeds and spray herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers and God only knows what else on their crops and land are not required to inform anyone about their methods or to list the substances they contaminate the food with. This seems ass backwards to me. Just sayin’

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