Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-474, a bill that would regulate seeds, and in particular, genetically engineered seeds.
This is an important bill we have before us. I think it is an important part of a policy on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, that Canada should adopt. I will explain that and go into more detail later.
We must pass this bill. We are in favour of this bill because we must take into account the market losses that could be directly associated with some decisions made by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. We must consider the economic impact that the approval of genetically engineered products and substances could have.
We need to do more. Canada must agree to ratify the Cartagena protocol on biosafety. The purpose of this protocol is to govern and regulate genetically modified products. This protocol would also give substance to a declaration signed in Rio and to a fundamental approach, the precautionary principle, which is mentioned directly in the Cartagena protocol.
The Food and Drugs Act must be amended because genetically modified foods are not the same as conventional foods. Risk assessments should not and must not be the same for both categories. We have to go even further than that. We have to make sure that Canada has a policy and regulations for labelling products that contain GMOs so that people who go to grocery stores know what is in these foods. People have the right to choose. Canada's legislation has to recognize that right.
We have to pass this bill because there have been precedents. We have seen what happens. The case with China and Canada is an excellent example. A few years ago, in 2001 to be exact, China decided to ban imports of certain products made from genetically modified crops, such as canola, soy and rapeseed. These products were banned from China because they were genetically modified.
What was the effect of that ban on economic activity in the United States, where 70% of the soy crop is genetically modified? It was an absolute disaster for many producers.
That is why we have to be aware of the effect that approving genetically modified seed can have on our producers' economic security. The same applies to Europe. Asia and Europe are two markets that tend to ban imports of products containing GMOs. A Canadian Food Inspection Agency decision to approve a genetically modified product can have significant economic consequences for our producers.
Another example is genetically modified wheat. When Monsanto sought approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to market genetically modified Roundup Ready wheat, the Canadian Wheat Board immediately conducted an economic impact study.
The wheat board told the government to be careful, because if it approves genetically modified wheat, we could lose some of our market share. This bill would make the Canadian Wheat Board's measures mandatory, in order to protect our producers.
This bill needs to pass, but in my opinion, we need to go even further. We need to amend the Food and Drugs Act. At present, under that legislation, a genetically modified food, or a food item produced using genetically modified ingredients, is considered to be exactly the same product as a conventional food item. This is unacceptable. So we need to amend the Food and Drugs Act, to stipulate that a genetically modified product cannot be considered a conventional product, even though the two products may be very similar.
Nor is it true that once the Canadian Food Inspection Agency authorizes and approves a product, and there is a request from a developer to authorize another, that the study and risk assessment of a number of other products are automatically taken into account.
We have to change the Food and Drugs Act and make the distinction between a transgenic or genetically modified food product and a conventional food. What is more, we have to ratify the Cartagena protocol on biosafety. It has to be done. We cannot be the fifth largest global producer of GMOs and refuse to ratify an international protocol that simply establishes a framework for genetic modifications, the transportation of products and the creation of registries. It is our environmental and social responsibility.
What is Canada doing? It is applying the same logic as it does with the Kyoto protocol. Since Canada is a major polluter, it refuses to ratify the Kyoto protocol. Since Canada is the fifth largest global producer of GMOs, it refuses to ratify the Cartagena protocol on biosafety.
We must ensure that responsible environmental standards are set for this type of product. We have to do so because that is what citizens are asking us to do. They are calling for information when they buy products in the grocery store or elsewhere. More than 90% of Quebeckers want mandatory labelling for GMOs once and for all, but the government has been dragging its heels for years. Whether it is a Liberal government or a Conservative government, the policy is the same. The government refuses to accept its responsibilities and we cannot accept that.
We are going to vote in favour of this bill because in our opinion it is one of the important pieces of a broader policy on genetically modified organisms, a policy that should include mandatory labelling and provide for a review of the Food and Drugs Act, which should also reflect this bill. When we have all four of the items I just mentioned, then we will finally have a policy that is respectful of the consumer.