Ottawa, Ontario-May 18 2022: Today, Health Canada’s Novel Food Program published updated guidance for plant breeding innovation, bringing to a close the consultation launched last year. This update sets out clear rules for both public and private sector researchers working on bringing nutritional, environmental and production enhancements to grains and oilseeds using the latest plant breeding techniques.
“We’ve long advocated for a risk-based approach to regulating plant breeding and we are pleased to see Health Canada’s guidance is firmly rooted in science.” says Tyler Bjornson, Executive Vice-President of the Canada Grains Council.
“This will open up the very real possibility of dramatic improvements for small and large acre crops alike, from productivity improvements to new solutions for emerging pest pressures to advances in food and fuel crops that will benefit the entire value chain including consumers,” says Rick White, Chair of the Canada Grains Council.
The guidance released by Health Canada includes a transparency mechanism for all gene edited varieties that will help ensure the grain sector will continue to provide commercial transparency to our customers. This approach aligns with many of Canada’s trading partners who similarly uphold a science and risk-based approach to the regulation of plant breeding.
The advent of several new plant breeding methods in the past decade has given plant breeders the ability to bring new varieties to market faster and at lower cost than older techniques. As a result, Canada’s grain sector is anticipating that the pace of new variety adoption will accelerate. Many researchers have been reluctant to work on products that might provide nutritional, environmental or production benefits, due to unclear, costly, or time-consuming regulatory requirements. Health Canada’s new guidance gives plant breeders much more clarity about which innovations will trigger those processes, and confidence that their work will make it to farmers’ fields.
Regulatory systems around the world, including Canada’s, need to keep pace with plant breeding innovation to both ensure that our food is safe, and that Canada’s farmers can rapidly adopt better varieties that result in more sustainable production.
Health Canada’s new guidelines on plant breeding innovation help Canada to remain at the forefront of crop innovation and the implementation of environmentally friendly techniques while ensuring that family farms continue to be financially viable as well.
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