Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to rise and address the concerns that I have regarding Bill C-60. I am interested in what the members of the Bloc had to say. I share their concern that the power to investigate and the power to know exactly what is going on is of utmost urgency.
I understand that the stated purpose of this act is to establish the Canadian food inspection agency in order to consolidate and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of federal inspection services related to food, animal and plant health and to increase collaboration with provincial governments in this area.
I am concerned, the same as the Bloc is, that this power deals with food inspection, including risk management. It is very important that we look at risk management and the power again to look and investigate. I would be very interested in knowing exactly what direction we are taking when we speak of enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of federal inspection services.
Since they relate to food, animal and plant health, are we talking about food, animal and plant health as we know and recognize it now in its natural part in our society or are we talking about food, animal and plant health that has DNA changes to it? This is not very clear.
If this new act sets out the new agency's framework in terms of responsibilities, accountability and organization, exactly who is the new agency working for? Who is it responsible to? Who is it to be accountable to? I am sure we would all hope it is the people of Canada.
Because of the fast moving changes already occurring in our food chain with plants and animals, should there not be a control factor somewhere in the agency's framework?
When this new Canadian food agency begins operation in 1997, it will become one of Ottawa's largest bureaucratic entities, with 4,500 employees and a budget of $300 million.
Federal officials contend that ending interdepartmental overlap and duplication in such areas as enforcement, risk management,
laboratory services, information systems and communications will save taxpayers $44 million annually starting 1998-99.
Of course we have nothing yet to substantiate these claims but certainly duplication is a problem and anything we can do to cut that down is of benefit to all of us. I am sure most of us are aware of the massive costs at this time to the taxpayer when federal and provincial governments duplicate their services, not to mention the lack of efficiency and effectiveness as a result of this duplicity.
I recently read an article in Reader's Digest written by Premier McKenna of New Brunswick, a Liberal premier, who speaks of the terrible costs in duplication of government services. He speaks of the cost as high as $5 billion a year.
The Reform Party supports downsizing and consolidating the operations of the federal government, but I fear this act will accomplish little except to shuffle names and titles. This act will also continue to decentralize authority for food inspection in the hands of the federal government.
The Reform Party believes the government should acknowledge that since the provinces already provide many of these same inspection services, the emphasis should be on decentralization and encouraging common inspection standards. Along with what the Bloc said, the provinces need to have strong impact on this.
I want to backtrack a bit to the part that I spoke of in relation to federal officials who are responsible for enforcement risk management, laboratory services and information systems and communications because that is very easy and it can be said very quickly but there is a lot in those few words.
I believe we are talking here about looking after our food chain, and certainly that is what the inspection agency's job should be. On whose behalf, again, are all these rules and regulations set up? If it is not for the protection of Canadian citizens, young and old alike, who is it for?
Where is the information and communication with our citizens, the Canadian taxpayer? Who is minding the shop, ladies and gentlemen, and on whose behalf? Two years ago I had to alert citizens in my constituency all about the possibility of rBST injections into dairy cows. They were not notified. There was nothing sent out. There was no communication and no information given. This is very terrifying.
In laboratory services, we have many fine research scientists who, I realize, are very excited by all this new knowledge and the future possibilities. As these new and exciting ideas pour forward, who is asking Canadians if they want these changes? What about enforcement and risk management? What laws are being enforced and where is the risk management control?
I do not believe I am the only member of Parliament who receives weekly correspondence from my constituents who are alarmed by the changes taking place in their food chain, alarmed at the new genetically engineered food. Where is this mentioned at all in the new food inspections bill? Where is the caution?
I now receive books, letters and all sorts of correspondence from all over British Columbia asking me to look at the changes and to consider the apparent lack of caution, as those who would benefit in a monetary manner push ruthlessly ahead to force their will on Canadians.
I recently watched "Jurassic Park". I am not a movie goer, but I happened to catch it on TV last week. I did not find it scary in the physical sense but I found it alarming in the research and academic sense. I am not the first person to say this, but the message of the film to me was not can we do it but should we do it.
There are those who would argue that we are overpopulated and that the world at present cannot feed all of its people and that justifies scientists' changing our natural world as we know it. I agree that overpopulation is serious, but surely the answer is not to move full steam ahead in chaos, for indeed none of us knows where this will lead us.
Unfortunately, when we talk of global food production we have to admit there are serious problems. The human population is growing and we are losing 24 billion tonnes of topsoil a year.
Yes, third world countries need food and I fear all this new biotechnology hype is not helping the third world. Rather, those investing are venture capitalists and they need to find investors. How can we expect a starving third world country to come up with the money needed to invest?
What are we doing in the food inspection bill to take a look at what is around the corner? Surely what we do in legislation will reflect what is to come. We should not have to backtrack all the time.
Canada and I imagine the United States as well have a lot of food that is wasted every year. I have been to dumps in the Okanagan where beautiful ripe peaches, ripe tomatoes and ripe vegetables of all types have been thrown out. Why did we not dehydrate them or reprocess them? Surely the food inspection agency could come to grips with some kind of process so that food would not be wasted.
We send money to these third world countries that we do not have. That increases our tax burden. Yet we have food which we do not send. For countries to waste food when there are starving people in the world is not acceptable. To suggest that we must protect our food market so as not to flood the market and cause
lower prices is not an argument. Surely we have enough intelligence nowadays to be able to deal with both major issues.
We now have concerns that there are a number of products which have been changed. Canola is herbicide intolerant. I am not sure whether that means more or less herbicide is needed. We have tomatoes with fish genes in them to make them more tolerant. There are flavour saver tomatoes. I wonder if anyone has ever gone to a plant that has been ripened by the sun and tasted a ripe tomato. I do not think anything can top that. There are pigs with human genes in them. Even our fish are being engineered to grow faster.
What are the negative side effects? In B.C. we have good research scientists. One of them spoke on the weekend and told us that one of the side effects is that this particular engineered fish is a more aggressive feeder. Therefore it is not unlikely that if released into a natural setting it could over eat and cause the demise of our natural salmon. That is not unrealistic to suggest.
We are not using any controls. Food inspection has to deal with all aspects of food.
Every technology, no matter how beneficial, has unexpected costs. Today more than ever before we need researchers and scientists with ethical and moral values. Our research scientists should be free to explore where their curiosity and expertise take them in a controlled environment. However, if they have to be constantly aware of the economic payoff, then our scientists are not free to do their research and pressure is put on them to produce new ideas for those who want to exploit our world, as we know it, which results in the release of these genetically engineered food products on unsuspecting consumers. They are not being labelled. We do not really know what we are purchasing any more.
I have presented two private member's bills which deal with labelling. I hope those bills will be dealt with seriously.
I want to mention that there are occupational hazards related to biotechnology, which include diseases such as cancer, toxicity and product allergies. The main hazards are allergies from recombinant products, diseases, including cancer, and the production of novel disease organisms.
What is the concern? The concern is that many of these significant hazards are being ignored by the scientists who are doing research and those reporting on the research that these novel allergies in food products will impact on workers. In fact the escape of these genes on the coats of laboratory workers is occurring each day. Some of them are being taken outside the lab and this matter is not being dealt with.
I will conclude by saying we should look at all the research we have. Let us be very cautious that we do not just choose research that fits our particular purpose at the time and that we worry about all consumers.