• Genetically Modified Food Labeling
  • January 29, 2013
  • Law Firm: Norton Rose Canada LLP - Montreal Office
  • Proposed changes to Consumer Protection Act regulations on genetically modified organisms may push up the cost of food labelling.

    On 9 October 2012 the Minister of Trade and Industry called for comments on draft amendments to the regulations to the CPA dealing with the disclosure of genetically modified (GM) ingredients or components. The changes will mean that all GM ingredients or components must be disclosed. This will resolve the confusion that suppliers have faced but the cost implications are potentially significant.

    The CPA requires any person who produces, supplies, imports or packages certain goods to display a notice disclosing the presence of GM ingredients or components of those goods. The notice must be on or in association with the packaging of those goods and easily noticeable and legible.

    The regulations currently state that this requirement only applies to goods that contain genetically modified organisms which are approved for commercialisation by the Executive Council for Genetically Modified Organisms under the Genetically Modified Organisms Act, 1997. This information has not been readily available and this has caused confusion and uncertainty among suppliers who have been calling for clarity on what they must disclose.

    The proposed changes extend this requirement to all goods which contain at least 5 percent of any GM ingredients or components and not just GM approved crops.

    The regulations will have a huge impact on all producers, importers and suppliers of goods which may contain GM ingredients. Goods which contain at least 5% of GM ingredients or components may not be produced, supplied or packaged unless accompanied by the required notice. It does not matter if the goods are imported or made locally. Many countries such as the USA or Canada do not require compulsory disclosure of GM ingredients. This means that importers will need to test the goods they are bringing in to ensure that any GM ingredients are detected and disclosed and this means an increase in costs.

    If it is scientifically impossible to test goods for the presence of GM ingredients, the notice must state “may contain genetically modified ingredients or components” and suppliers may not claim that goods do not contain GM ingredients unless the genetically modified content is less than 1 %. This may result in suppliers taking a cautionary approach of labelling all imported goods as potentially containing GM ingredients which would defeat the object of the regulation.

    Public comments were due by 8 November 2012. The regulations should be reworked to ensure that the consumer’s right to disclosure of GM ingredients does not inadvertently cost the consumer more.