Evidence of meeting #38 for International Trade in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was japan.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Sam Boutziouvis  Vice-President, Policy, International and Fiscal Issues, Canadian Council of Chief Executives
  • Paul Slomp  Representative, Youth Vice-President, National Farmers Union, Food Secure Canada
  • Diana Bronson  Executive Director, Food Secure Canada
  • Richard White  General Manager, Canadian Canola Growers Association
  • Julian Dierkes  Centre for Japanese Research, Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia, As an Individual

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Sure, I will be gracious to Mr. White.

Go ahead.

12:40 p.m.

General Manager, Canadian Canola Growers Association

Richard White

I am just going to follow up on the low-level presence issue.

Japan is quite reasonable when it comes to technical issues regarding GMO traits. They are good to work with, but it is always a risk that Canada may have an expired trait or a trait long since decommercialized. Those traits never seem to make it 100% out of the system. There are always some trace levels of GMO traits that can and do show up in shipments, and that's a commercial risk.

What we would look for in this agreement is to work closely with the Japanese to come up with a policy, both domestically for our country and theirs, for a science-based, commercially reasonable approach to the low-level presence of the expired traits that are still working their way out of the system, so that these do not impact trade.

In a lot of countries around the world, if there is a unapproved GMO event, their current level of tolerance is zero. With the testing technology out there, we are in a world now where you're always going to pick up some trace element of some obscure trait that could potentially block trade. What we'd be looking for is Japan's partnership in developing our domestic policies around how we treat low-level presence, and to try to get the rest of the world to adopt those kinds of policies.

For example, the EU would be a good place as well to try to get this, so we'd have some international standardization of this issue that is science-based and commercially reasonable, because it's becoming a bigger problem. We need to deal with it because it will start to disrupt trade more and more in the future.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Thanks, one of my questions was going to be on GMO.

Approximately what percentage of Canadian canola is GMO?

12:40 p.m.

General Manager, Canadian Canola Growers Association

Richard White

Well, there's some subtlety between GMO versus herbicide-tolerant.... If you're looking at the new herbicide-tolerant systems, we're well over 90% GMO overall, and for all intents and purposes canola is a genetically modified crop.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Thanks. For a quick clarification, why are the tariffs higher on canola than on corn and sunflower oil?

12:40 p.m.

General Manager, Canadian Canola Growers Association

Richard White

I don't have the answer to that, I'm sorry. It's probably embedded in history, I don't know.

May 17th, 2012 / 12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Okay. Thank you very much.

Moving on to Mr. Dierkes, I have the pleasure of representing the constituency of Kelowna—Lake Country, the interior of British Columbia, and not only Okanagan College but also UBC-Okanagan. I know you're a professor at UBC, so I applaud you for your initiative in taking the students on a sense of reality mission, rather than only being in the classroom with applied education.

I had the pleasure of leading a delegation in 2000 to our sister city in Kasugai. Maybe you can elaborate a little bit more. While I come from British Columbia, I know that it's not only B.C. but also Ontario, Quebec, and different parts of the country that really benefit from the forest industry. Was that a discussion you had with your students, on both the benefits, not only from the forest industry to date...? I know that you mentioned about the philanthropy of the agriculture community. The forest industry was also one of the first ones on the scene to help with the earthquake victims.

Maybe you can expand a little bit more on the forest sector and the benefits this bilateral agreement would have for that sector.

12:40 p.m.

Centre for Japanese Research, Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia, As an Individual

Prof. Julian Dierkes

Again, I would focus on the symbolic benefits. I know you heard testimony the other day from the Canadian forest sector on how they would benefit economically, but you're absolutely right to point to the initiatives that the forestry sector took in donating materials to rebuild or build a new school in Tohoku in the tsunami-affected area. That was one of those moments that were perceived very much by the Japanese public to be a Canadian contribution to recovery in those affected areas.

This is one of the many pieces of this mosaic, a perception of Canada taking a very active and a really much appreciated role in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

I'll pass it over to my partner, Bev Shipley.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Thank you very much to my colleague.

I want to follow up, if I might, with you, Mr. White. Actually, I believe you gave a very good summation of the low-level presence. My concern, and help me out here, is that I know that Canada wants to be a leader. Sometimes in being a leader you can become caught because you have a level that is not accepted internationally. Is there a concern that if there were a low-level presence established for a Canada-Japan agreement, that level might be different from a Canada-Europe agreement and our farmers overall might actually get disadvantaged because they would not be international?

Is there a sense of being able to establish more of an international level with main trading countries?

12:45 p.m.

General Manager, Canadian Canola Growers Association

Richard White

I think the objective would be to get it off zero.

I think we could live with some subtle discrepancies country to country, whether it's 0.1% here and 0.3% there. That's much easier to manage than everybody staying at zero, which is consistent but is commercially impossible to achieve.

It would be nice to have it consistent, with everybody at 0.1% or whatever the case may be, but the objective here would be to simply get everyone off zero.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

We ship a lot of canola seed to Japan, seed that is mostly used for crushing. Is it all non-GMO?

12:45 p.m.

General Manager, Canadian Canola Growers Association

Richard White

No, it is all GMO. We don't segregate out non-GMO. There's such a small piece of Canadian production, it's all mixed together. It's a GMO crop in total, and that's what Japan takes.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

That's an acceptable practice and we've not had any rejections because of that, is that right?

12:45 p.m.

General Manager, Canadian Canola Growers Association

Richard White

Yes. That's true, but there's always some risk.