Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in this House and take part in this extremely important debate. First, I would like to congratulate the two members who spoke before me and added much to the debate. I would also like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary for Health on the quality of his French, which is steadily improving and which he is using more and more. I do have some concerns, however, about some of what he said.
I agree with him that Health Canada is doing a very good job of making sure that the foods on the Canadian market are safe and meet the highest international scientific standards, even though mistakes can occur. Some will say, however, that even with these assessments, genetically modified organisms can negatively impact Canadians' health, especially because we do not know how they interact with one another in growing children. It will take someone who knows more about organic biology or organic chemistry than I do to determine who is right.
What we can do is deal with what comes under our responsibility. In that regard, I agree with the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles that if consumers and parents are informed, they can make decisions they deem appropriate, in light of information and instructions they can follow. It is true that we are seeing young people in our schools who are taking an interest in these issues and discussing them.
There are some problems, however. The parliamentary secretary raised some valid points. In Canada, there are already about 50 genetically modified products on the market that have been approved, are in circulation and can be consumed on their own or are used to produce another food. This can present problems when it comes to marketing products and also for parents or consumers, who need to know the level of risk. Solutions to these problems must be found.
I support the member's bill because I agree with its purpose. It may yet be amended, but I believe that the member has to table this kind of bill in the House because of certain things the government has done. Like the member who spoke before me, I was once the parliamentary secretary for health. I had to explain which measures the government took and why the government did not decide to impose labelling. Even so, that is no reason not to consider it in the future.
That being said, we have to recognize that there are some problems in the food chain. If we say that all products that have genetically modified components in them must be labelled, we would be labelling so much on the shelves of our stores that the labelling would become meaningless. Canola oil is a GMO and it is omnipresent in the production of other foods. In the instance of aquaculture it may be that the entrance part of the feed, being an animal or plant, was partly produced using some GMO that might be one-thousandth of one per cent.
If that is not defined in the regulations, then that can become a problem, in that we could over label or end up not labelling enough. That is not defined in the bill as presented by the member. This is a subject for debate and questions. What is it? Is it a product that is 100% GMO? Is it a product that is at a certain percentage? How do we define that? How do we do it? At the health committee we can hear from experts who perhaps can help us.
This is not the ideal. The ideal would be that we would do this through regulation rather than through a bill, that we would make a minor amendment to the act so that it compels the minister to create the regulations. The regulations can be modified as market conditions or scientific conditions change a lot faster than bringing it back to this House in a bill to modify it. That is a problem.
I recognize the point of the member that if we do not do it through a private member's bill, we may not do it at all. That is an issue that will have to be debated at the committee to see if there is a way to do it under the current regulations that would meet the desired effects of this bill without creating stand-alone legislation, to do it through the regulatory process.
That would be the wise way for us to proceed. We have huge industrial and agricultural interests in this country and other areas that have an interest in this, that would want to make sure that we do not disadvantage ourselves when it comes to the products that we are competing against in our very own market and in other markets.
Other countries could say that when 50% of the product is manufactured from GMO it has to be labelled as GMO. However, in Canada a product that is 10% GMO would have to be labelled as such. Consumers would see on the same shelf a competing product from another country with 40% GMO not labelled as GMO. We would be producing a product that has less GMOs in it, but it would have a competitive disadvantage because the consumer would believe that it was all GMO and that the other product was not, whereas actually more GMO entrants were included within that competing product from another country. We have to consider the point the parliamentary secretary raised. It is a valid point. We have to consider our trade relationships and where we are in relation to other countries.
Our party has advanced a grown in Canada initiative with four major actions. This would play well within its intent.
We should design regulations under the current Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act to clarify the definitions of “made in Canada”, “product of Canada” and create a separate “grown in Canada” label for 100% Canadian grown products.
We should work with farmers and agri-food value chain partners to create a non-profit governing body that would manage and implement a voluntary “grown in Canada” label that would identify 100% Canadian grown products and work with CFIA to establish an audit process to maintain label integrity.
We should establish a grown in Canada marketing fund with two major objectives.
We should provide marketing grants to local farmers' markets and other buy local initiatives in communities across Canada.
We should develop a marketing campaign informing Canadian consumers of Canada's strong record of farm initiatives for environmental sustainability, food safety and others.
We should develop a grown in Canada toolkit, a series of knowledge and development programs where farm and industry organizations work in partnership with the government to develop information and business extension tools.
I could go on about this, but we all understand the problems associated with buying products labelled as made in Canada. These products, food or otherwise, can be made entirely in other countries and just packaged in Canada.
Recently, there were problems with toothpaste and pet food. Labels indicated that the products came from Canada or the United States, markets that people are familiar with and that comply with food safety standards. However, the products inside the packages were from China and did not comply with safety standards. We saw what happened as a result.
It is important to answer all of these questions. My time is up, but there is still a lot to discuss. We will have to continue this discussion in the Standing Committee on Health.
Once again, I would like to congratulate the member on introducing this bill, as well as all of the members who took part in the debate.