This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cabinet.

Topics

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, February 12, the recorded division is deferred until Tuesday, February 17, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish to congratulate you in your new role.

I am making this intervention following a question that I put to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on February 5. I asked if he would reject Monsanto's application to release genetically modified wheat in Canada, given the growing opposition by farmers and groups because of a potential loss of premium markets?

The minister's reply did not really answer my question on the economic impact of releasing genetically modified wheat. It seems to me that this matter needs to be pursued and that Monsanto's application should be rejected for the following reasons.

First, according to scientific studies, GM crops cross easily with non-genetically modified crops of the same species growing nearby.

In 2000, non-genetically modified rapeseed imported by Advanta into Europe from Canada was found to have been contaminated by genetically modified rape grown over four kilometres away. As a result, the organic growers of Saskatchewan can no longer export their supposedly genetically modified-free canola to Europe because it has been contaminated by genetically modified canola grown nearby.

Evidently, segregating GM free wheat from genetically modified wheat is not possible. Therefore, why do we want to tamper with a premium export? Cross-contamination is inevitable and, therefore, the European Union will likely ban the import of all Canadian wheat if genetically modified wheat is released in Canada.

Second, the Canadian Wheat Board does not favour genetically modified wheat because it does not want to lose exports worth approximately $4 billion. Apparently, 82% of Wheat Board customers do not want the genetically modified wheat.

Third, health and scientific authorities have identified possible health risks associated with the genetically modified food.

We are told these possible health risks might be exacerbated with the introduction of genetically modified wheat into the food supply, since wheat is so widely consumed globally, often in a minimally processed form. Therefore, as a minimum, all GM food should be labelled so that consumers can make a choice and avoid food produced with genetically modified ingredients if they so wish.

Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food can tell us whether the decision to allow Monsanto's application will be reconsidered?

The prudent course of action would be to turn down the application, protect the economic well-being of Canadian farmers, take care of the long term interests of the Canadian Wheat Board, and ensure a healthy and viable ecosystem.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Sydney—Victoria Nova Scotia

Liberal

Mark Eyking LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food)

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Davenport for bringing this concern to the House today. He not only brings concerns on food safety to the House, he also brings concerns on the environment, and we appreciate that.

All members will know, given our painful experience with BSE, it is important that we take a science based approach to these issues. Canada has established one of the most sophisticated and thorough models in the world for the stewardship of crops derived from biotechnology. Our stewardship model is guided by a simple principle: to ensure the safety, health and well-being of the Canadian public, our food supply and, of course, our environment.

The Government of Canada agrees that the introduction of new crops should be undertaken in a responsible manner that will satisfy the requirements of consumers and result in net benefits to farmers.

The Government of Canada has a rigorous science based regulatory approval process. It enables Canadians and our customers abroad to have confidence in the safety and quality of our Canadian products.

Some of our buyers are currently asking for certification that our shipments do not contain GM wheat. At present, if GM wheat were grown commercially in Canada, and given the nature of our grain production and our bulk handling system, we could not guarantee zero presence of GM wheat in non-GM grain shipments. If GM wheat were introduced today, our access to markets demanding non-GM products would likely be affected.

An application for an environmental and livestock food safety approval for GM wheat has been submitted to CFIA. A separate application was submitted to Health Canada for human consumption approval. These reviews are ongoing and thorough.

Our government has a co-ordinated regulatory approval process for general cultivation, livestock feed use and human food use of plants with traits such as GM crops. If GM wheat fails to meet the requirements in any one area, it will not be approved.

GM wheat must also be registered prior to commercialization, based on evaluation of agronomic, disease resistance and quality merits. Only once a product is approved and registered, can it be grown commercially. It is then up to the industry stakeholders to decide whether or not to commercialize a product and under what conditions. Indeed, there have been cases where a product is approved and registered and the industry stakeholders have weighed all considerations and decided not to introduce a product.

The government is also concerned about the potential impacts on innovative agricultural products. To that end we have opened up a dialogue with stakeholders on the need for an appropriate approach to manage the introduction of new agricultural products of innovation.

Our goal is to work with industry stakeholders to identify ways to work together to develop appropriate, commercialized strategies for approved products. Our government and the industry are working hard to have a common objective to ensure that any new product of innovation that is introduced in America brings benefit to Canadians and the agricultural sector as a whole.

As a farmer, I am well aware of the importance of consumer confidence in our food. I am also aware of the competitive nature of food production and the demands that our world has on feeding the hungry. We must work to strike a balance and try to accommodate all.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his comprehensive reply, but it is not exhaustive enough nor satisfactory enough, particularly his concluding remarks in which he seems to indicate that the policy his department is pursuing is one of balancing consumer confidence with the interests of stakeholders. I think that is a recipe for disaster.

The government has to give leadership and protect the consumer, therefore signal the industry as to what is acceptable and what is not.

In my opening intervention I indicated a number of reasons why the Monsanto application should be shelved, not only on environmental consideration, but on economic considerations, and they are considerable. Also the position taken by the Canadian Wheat Board and the reluctance on the part of western farmers in adopting this type of genetically modified wheat should be taken into account.

I would urge the parliamentary secretary to reconsider his reply.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Madam Speaker, yes, we have to strike a balance. I think we can have both in this country. There are areas that could probably have non-GMO foods and probably areas that could not have them.

I will bring this up at the rural caucus tomorrow. We will discuss this issue further and determine if we are going in the right direction as a government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:24 p.m.)