Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Motion No. 230 put forward by the member for Louis-Hébert.
As other speakers have done, I congratulate the member. In my observation of the agriculture committee and the House, she is always someone who does her homework and has made great contributions to debate.
I say in very general terms that the NDP caucus and party have looked closely at the whole issue of GM products and foods. We believe we have to take both a balanced and a cautious approach. I will go into a bit more detail on that in a few minutes. However from the outset I state that we support compulsory labelling for GM food products.
There is nothing more personal, more intimate or more significant than the food each one of us puts into his or her mouth. We must have knowledge of what is actually on our plates and going into our bodies.
There was a time when most people in the world grew their own food or hunted it and prepared it themselves. In those cases they would have known exactly what the food contained. Society is now much more complex and compartmentalized. We are not able to do that so we have to rely on information provided to us. In this complex society we have to rely on government to protect us by regulation. That is what we are talking about and that is one of the strong arguments for compulsory labelling.
We went through this many years ago with a whole range of other products when the consumer movement, if I may call it that, was born. We have been through a cycle of this sort. It seems now in certain ways that there is some regression setting in, in the way voluntary labelling is being described. With respect I want to tell government members that their support of voluntary labelling is simply not good enough.
As a little digression, the hon. member of the Canadian Alliance said a few minutes ago that consumers would tell us what they want. They have already told us in this case. Various polls indicate that more than 90% of Canadian consumers want compulsory labelling. I say to that member of the Canadian Alliance, if we are to follow consumers as he says we should, that is where we would be following them and not down the trail he has described.
Consumers have caught on to all of this, as the polls indicate. They have especially done so in Europe. The member of the Canadian Alliance went on to say that this is some sort of scheme and a non-trade barrier. He said that somehow or other we have the right not only to put whatever food products we want into Europe and anywhere else in the world, but in a sense to force-feed people, to put food into people's mouths.
To go back to the beginning of my speech, there is nothing more sacred than people's right to know and to choose what they will put into their bodies. There might be some non-tariff thinking going on in the European Union. I am not saying there is not. I am simply saying it is not good enough for us to say we have the right to blast our way into that market, on to the plates and into the mouths of millions of consumers wherever they are.
I will put the question of GM food, if I may, into some context. The NDP caucus and party have described this in some detail. We know that biotechnology as applied to food production is poised to expand significantly in the next millennium. We also recognize that agricultural biotechnology contains both the promise of increasing production and adding value to agriculture. It also poses potential risks to production patterns, food safety and the environment.
We have taken a look at the issue. We believe we have to put safety first when we determine through science based decision making what we will do about GM products and GM foods. We believe that so far we have not had adequate public discussion of the issue. There should be a full scale, national public discussion on genetically modified food, which should include mechanisms for meaningful public input and feedback.
As I have indicated, we also want a labelling process that will make consumers aware of genetically modified produce and components in processed foods.
We have a whole other series of motions related to genetically modified foods which came out of our convention last summer, but it seems that I do not have time to get into them. In conclusion, we will be supporting the member's motion.