Biotech food seen hurting Canada, according to a report

OTTAWA, Canada, September 3, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- Globe and Mail, 08/28/03: A March, 2003, government paper prepared for the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food and marked "secret," obtained under the Access to Information law by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin, was cited as saying that growing consumer anxiety over genetically engineered foods threatens to sideswipe Canada's multibillion-dollar agri-food industry, stating, "Consumers are becoming more worried that they can't distinguish between GE [genetically engineered] and non-GE products. These concerns could precipitate a loss of confidence in the integrity of the Canadian food system, which could be very disruptive to the domestic system as well as Canada's ability to export to demanding markets. There is a pressing need to immediately address these concerns to maintain Canada's markets and to uphold the Canada brand."

The story says that department officials were unavailable for comment and it is unclear who wrote the report.

The story adds that the Canadian government is a major cheerleader for genetically engineered foods and has even launched a challenge before the World Trade Organization, along with the Americans, to try to pry open European markets for these products.

The paper was further cited as warning that Canada's regulatory regime has fallen behind in ensuring that the public and export markets trust genetically engineered products, and that Ottawa must realize that the majority of consumers at home and abroad are still leery of these products, stating, "Biotechnology has made important advances, but there is no broad market acceptance (domestic and international) of genetically engineered (GE) products. The first generation of products were commercially introduced with minimal consumer interest, but now these products are being more closely scrutinized at home and abroad. Producers are becoming worried about losing markets and losing choice over what they can produce. The production of GE canola is currently adversely affecting the value of non-GE canola in some markets."


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