The Government of Canada is the reason why Canadians are eating genetically modified food without knowing it.
GMO Food Policy began in the 1980's with the Trudeau government, but continued under the Mulroney government, well into the Chrétien era and exists today under Stephen Harper. Stripped of its scientific jargon, GMO food is essentially applying biotechnology to the production of food. Given the nature of the industry, the production of certain goods have prompted Health Canada to review and regulate what they define as "novel food". Novel food includes goods that have no history of food, food created by a process not previously known for making food and food produced by genetic modification, including genetic engineering and mutagenesis. The labelling for novel foods is only mandatory when "significant changes" have occurred. These changes are, of course, determined by the discretion of Health Canada bureaucrats.
Monsanto - among others - have secured their monopoly on GMOs by claiming intellectual property rights. However, this concentration of wealth and power has been checked by hefty dose of government bureaucracy. In 1983 the Government of Canada provided a central plan called the National Biotechnology Strategy, later to be renamed the Canadian Biotechnology Strategy. This plan incorporates many bureaucracies into the mix: Industry Canada, Ariculture and Agri-Food, Health Canada, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources Canada and International Trade. An additional bureau was created, the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee, a supposedly independent organization. In recent years, these bureaus have given up much of their power by allowing corporate firms to influence research agendas [see source]. Accordingly, biotechnology research has drifted into genome territory, where Genome Canada has now been involved with multiple agricultural projects.
International trade regulations prevent GMOs from being labelled. This is foreseeable, as global trade agreements usually arise from roundtable discussions with corporate heads. There is also a concern with contamination of seeds while many Canadians remain weary about GMO food. It took more than four years for the federal government to develop a national standard for labelling GMO goods. This label, as already mentioned, is voluntary on the part of GMO producers.
Perhaps a side effect of this food-coercion is an enlightened consumer awareness in how food is produced and where it comes from. The niche markets of local and organic food are steadily increasing their share. Many Canadians that I know regard the Cuban food market as a
goal to aim for. The idea of gardens on every roof top, greenhouses in every
lawn and farmers on every block sounds attractive. But labour-intensive work like urban farming is unlikely to become profitable due to Canada's provincial minimum wage rates. It is also unlikely to be profitable due to excessive taxes and regulation that inhibit small business from even starting up, let alone succeeding. However, nothing is certain and the popular allure of full employment may bottleneck the central planners.
Urban food production, increased competition, lack of property and income taxes and mandatory labelling on GMO food are just some of the initiatives that will release the stranglehold firms like Monstano and Bunge have on Canada's food market. But until government "Smart Regulation" is thrown out for market-based approaches, consumer sovereignty will take a backseat to the "public-private partnerships" that increase wealth and power for a few, while poisoning the rest.
Sources not linked:
Moore, Elizabeth. "The New Agriculture: Genetically Engineered Food in Canada." Canada's Resource Economy in Transition: The Past, Present and Future of Canadian Staples Industries. Ed. Michael Howlett and Keith Brownsey. Toronto: Emond Montgomery, 2008. 83-101.