Mr. Speaker, I am also very pleased to speak to this debate on Bill C-517, a private member's bill introduced by the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, which would amend the Food and Drugs Act. The bill primarily deals with foods and food components for human consumption that are or that contain genetically modified elements.
As the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles said, this is not the first time that the Bloc Québécois has tabled a similar bill in the House of Commons. On November 4, 1999, Hélène Alarie's Bill C-309 was adopted at first reading. In reading this, I am very surprised to see that in nine years, Parliament has not been able to produce legislation on labelling for GMOs.
Bill C-517 would make the labelling of GMOs mandatory. The new clause 7.3 proposed in the bill provides for a list of genetically modified foods to be made available to the public. The bill also provides for prison sentences and fines for any violators.
In the absence of information about the medium- or long-term impact of GMOs, it is natural to have concerns.
Canada has no standards in place to force mandatory labelling of foods containing GMOs, despite the demands and concerns of many consumers and the recommendations of many studies and reports. The federal government's policy of voluntary labelling remains a fiasco.
In September 2003, after four years of consultations, the Canadian General Standards Board reached a decision regarding the rules for voluntary labelling of products containing GMOs. According to lobby groups following the issue, a final compromise was reached that involved complex, ambiguous labelling left to the discretion of the industries and manufacturers.
On April 15, 2005, on the first anniversary of the implementation of voluntary labelling policies, Greenpeace, the Union des consommateurs, Équiterre and other environmental groups denounced the laxity of the measure, demonstrating that it is still impossible to find foods labelled as containing GMOs. Those groups even based their information on a Health Canada assessment, estimating that nearly 70% of processed products found in grocery stores in Quebec and Canada would contain GMOs.
Once again today, Greenpeace, in partnership with the Bloc Québécois and the Union des consommateurs, came to Parliament Hill to say that the contamination of cultures by GMOs concerns all agricultural producers.
Voluntary labelling standards have failed completely, according to Greenpeace, which also reminded us that 86% of Quebeckers are demanding or calling for mandatory labelling. Its consultations with agricultural producers in Quebec confirmed that over 80% of farmers also want mandatory labelling. We can therefore ask when the government will give consumers the right to know if their food products contain GMOs.
Greenpeace and the Union des consommateurs came here to ask the Canadian government to respect and ratify the Cartagena protocol on biosafety.
They are also calling on the government to respect consumers' fundamental rights to know what is in the foods they eat. Some 40 countries around the world have already brought in mandatory labelling. The Union des consommateurs is demanding that research into biotechnology be continued and improved.
Today, at this press conference on GMOs, Canada's dairy producers and Quebec's Union des producteurs agricoles also lent their support. The president, Réal Gauthier, also came to represent the Laurentian and Outaouais dairy producers.
In his speech, the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles mentioned that he had two idols in his riding: Claire and Norbert. He happened to mention that he was talking about young people aged 11 or 12. Last year, I had the same experience in my own riding. Two young people, Thomas Drolet and James Cameron, also got involved at school and created an Internet site to inform the community and their classmates about the problem of GMOs. They also came here to the House of Commons to present a petition with over 2,000 names of people who support them and recognize the need for mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods.
These young people did their research. They learned about the issues, they did a lot of reading, and they consulted websites about GMO issues. They developed their knowledge of the subject and shared that knowledge through presentations in class. I am very surprised that these primary school children are so interested in health issues at such an important time in their lives, right before they go to secondary school. We should pay close attention to these young people and tell them that we will accede to their request concerning GMOs.
Bill C-517 is a bill that also focuses on future generations and seeks to ensure that they have the right to healthful food and can read the labels to find out exactly what they are about to eat. Twelve year olds can make choices too. The young people at Notre-Dame-de-Saint-Joseph school in La Prairie want to make informed choices. Some people might tell them to consult the government websites that list the 50 products. However, when people are buying products or eating chocolate bars, they need to know what they are eating. If the chocolate bar label says that the product contains modified organisms, young people will be able to freely choose what they want to eat.
Bill C-517 is about the future. It is for future generations, for the young people who are now asking us—urging us—to pass this new bill.