Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question regarding when Canada will ratify the Cartagena protocol on biosafety.
The biosafety protocol is a multilateral environmental agreement designed to address the potential adverse effects on biological diversity of transboundary movements of living modified organisms.
Living modified organisms are genetically modified organisms, what we call GMOs, that can replicate in the environment. Living modified organisms currently in commercial production in Canada are corn, canola and soybeans.
Canada supports the environmental objectives of the biosafety protocol and this is one of the reasons that we signed the protocol in April 2001. However, at the time of the signing, Canada indicated that we had a number of concerns that would need to be addressed, including documentation requirements for shipments of food, feed for processing, and obligations and responsibilities in a number of specific areas.
Central to Canada's position is the need to finalize the implementation details of the biosafety protocol in a practical way that does not impede trade. Consultations with industry in this respect are ongoing.
As the hon. member knows, Canada currently has one of the most stringent regulatory frameworks for plants with novel traits, which include living modified organisms. All plants with novel traits undergo a stringent environmental, human and animal health and safety risk assessment prior to being approved. As such, Canada ensures that no living modified organism poses a risk to biological diversity.
With respect to some of the concerns that Canada had at the signing, documentation provisions were discussed at the first meeting of the parties in February 2004. Some decisions taken at that meeting, however, warrant careful consideration by all interested stakeholders.
A final decision on the documentation provisions will be taken at the second meeting of parties, which is scheduled for next year. The fact that Canada has not ratified the protocol has no effect on the continuing obligation of Canadian exporters to meet the import requirements of other countries.
Let me clarify that the biosafety protocol is an environmental agreement and was never intended to regulate the labelling of genetically modified products.
Consultations regarding the outcome of the first meeting of parties have been initiated, with a view to assess the decisions taken by the first meeting of parties. Our government is committed to work closely with all stakeholders on this very important issue.