Biotechnology and Canola Oil
Q. What is biotechnology?
A. Biotechnology, as defined in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, is the application of science and engineering in the direct or indirect use of living organisms, or parts or products of living organisms, in their natural or modified forms.
Q. What is genetic engineering?
A. The term genetic engineering is often used interchangeably with biotechnology. Genetic engineering refers to the identification and transfer of genetic information from one organism to another. The process called genetic engineering involves the insertion of a gene or genes from one species to another species. This method of gene transfer enabling the crossing of species barriers was not previously possible using traditional methods of plant or animal breeding. Products developed by biotechnology are sometimes described as 'genetically engineered' or ‘genetically modified'.
Q. What are the benefits of biotechnology?
A. Genetically engineered plant varieties can offer farmers crops that are less vulnerable to pests and weather conditions leading to greater yield per acre of land.
Q. How can I be sure genetically engineered products are safe?
A. Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency share responsibilities for the safety of novel foods developed using agricultural biotechnology.
Health Canada is responsible for the regulation of "novel foods". Novel foods include those that have not previously been used as food, food resulting from genetic modification and foods modified from traditional products using new processes or microorganisms.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency conducts safety assessments on fertilizers, seeds, plants, animals, animal vaccines or diagnostics, feeds and food labeling policies with respect to non-health and safety matters.
Each biotech product is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Only products which meet standards set by these agencies and which are considered safe for humans, plants, animals and the environment will be approved.
Q. What labels are required for genetically engineered/modified foods?
A. Labeling is voluntary. Since the application of biotechnology is generally regarded as an extension of existing breeding techniques, the regulatory framework applied to traditional food products is deemed to be suitable for biotechnology products.
Whenever the genetic engineering of a product involves a health or safety issue, it must be labeled. These could include allergenicity or a change in nutritional value, i.e. a tomato modified to contain higher levels of lycopene.
Food manufacturers may choose to use labels promoting the fact that the products have or have not been modified through genetic engineering.
Q. Can genetically modified foods be organically certified?
A. The organic designation excludes foods produced through genetic engineering.