Canada is moving towards a voluntary labelling system for genetically engineered (GE) foods, but such labelling is causing increasing concern among growers and processors. How can you label every package and jar that contains GE corn, soy beans or potato starch–especially when half of the processed food products on the grocery store shelves contain genetically engineered organisms in the mix?
“Labelling [GE foods] is going to increase costs,” says Roy Button of the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission. “If these costs go up, where are we going to recover them? With canola at $5.50 a bushel, you can’t take much more from the farmer!”
Segregation of GE and non-GE crops, labelling of GE foods, genetic identification, farm subsidies, the loss of independent food producers–all these issues are coming at consumers from every direction and sticking them in a very tender spot–the pocket book. Both the government and the biotech industry are hoping that, faced with the threat of increased food costs, consumers will just bow out of the controversy and accept the inevitable.
Button says that segregated canola, for instance, would have to be tested at least four times before it reached the shopping cart.
“And what about mixing or commingling different varieties or grades? And who’s liable if you find there’s a problem?”
The European Union is moving towards mandatory labelling for all genetically engineered foods and is negotiating a tolerance level of one per cent contamination on imports of non-engineered canola. Segregating canola or other crops depends on quick development of a workable and effective system: adequate buffer zones to reduce cross-pollination, ensuring that farm machinery and storage bins are thoroughly clean, and using grain “confetti” to mark segregated crops.
Most Canadians are opposed to such a haphazard system and call for a moratorium on all GE food crops.