Ottawa, Ontario – May 20, 2021, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has launched a 120-day public consultation on guidance for determining plants with novel traits. This follows a consultation by Health Canada on new regulatory guidance for novel food focused on plant breeding that launched in March. The policy revisions proposed through these consultations will have a significant impact on what plant breeding innovations come to market in Canada.
Advancements in plant breeding have long been the backbone of agriculture. Through the years new crop varieties have helped farmers grow more with fewer resources, which has resulted in a more sustainable agricultural system.
As we collectively face significant global challenges around food security and climate change, we’ll need to harness the potential of new plant breeding innovations, like gene edited crops, that can help farmers adapt to changing climate conditions and pest pressures while continuing to grow safe, high quality, affordable food for Canadians and consumers around the world.
“While the last 14 months have been incredibly challenging due to the global pandemic, agriculture has been a beacon of hope. The industry rose to the occasion and continued to deliver food for Canadians and for our export markets. And it’s clear that as we move beyond the current health crisis, agriculture will be a driving force in Canada’s economic recovery,” says Tyler Bjornson, executive vice-president of the Canada Grains Council.
Canada’s agriculture sector stands ready and poised to help the Government of Canada deliver on many of its commitments to achieve economic growth and sustainability. When it comes to bringing forward nature-based solutions to climate change challenges, creating clear and predictable regulatory pathways for plant breeding innovations will be important.
“While it’s encouraging to see that both Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency recognize the importance of a science-based approach to regulating plant breeding innovations, there are some elements of CFIA’s proposal that need to better reflect the sustainable practices farmers are already using to ensure they don’t threaten farmers’ competitiveness,” says Bjornson.
There’s a global scientific consensus on the safety of gene edited crops, which Health Canada recognized in its recent consultation. Some of Canada’s key competitors and trading partners have already moved in the direction of updating their regulatory frameworks to provide farmers with timely access to much-needed new crop varieties.
“The challenges and opportunities standing before the agriculture industry are real and demand bold, decisive action. While we’re pleased that the CFIA is moving forward on this important file and is suggesting a number of improvements in the proposal, there are some areas that require further attention to ensure that Canada will be on a level playing field with the rest of the world when it comes to plant breeding innovation,” says Pierre Petelle, president and CEO of CropLife Canada.
The potential of the Canadian agriculture industry has been widely recognized in recent years. The Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table set ambitious targets for the agriculture industry, among them that Canada could be one of the top five competitors in the agri-food sector globally by 2025. To achieve this target, the Strategy Table noted that Canada would need to be a leader when it comes to both innovation as well as an agile regulatory system.
Gene editing is a technology that has significant potential to support sustainable agriculture and improve human health. It is currently being leveraged in the fight against COVID-19. In agriculture, gene editing allows plant breeders to get to the same end result they would have with traditional plant breeding but they can do it much more precisely and efficiently.
“We are encouraging the Canadian government to stand firmly behind the science on gene editing, as many of our trading partners are doing, and to ensure that Canada will be a leader in adopting innovation rather than a follower,” says Petelle.
For more information on the benefits of gene editing visit: www.naturenurtured.ca.
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Canada Grains Council