Novel foods: Labelling genetically modified foods
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Labelling GM foods
There are no specific laws in Canada about labelling GM foods differently. They are labelled like any other food because our safety assessments have found them to be as safe and nutritious as non-GM foods.
It is not mandatory to identify the method of production, including genetic modification, used to develop a food product.
All food products, whether organic or non-organic, must comply with the labelling rules of the Food and Drugs Act and the Safe Food for Canadians Act. These Acts require that labels be:
- not deceptive
- not misleading
- not an untrue impression of the food's:
In addition, special labelling is required for all foods, including GM foods, where there are health and safety concerns such as:
- the potential to cause allergic reactions
- changes to the composition of the food
- changes to the nutritional quality of the food
Such labelling is required to alert consumers or susceptible groups in the population.
Health Canada determines what type of information is needed on the label to help consumers make appropriate food choices.
Voluntary labelling of GM foods
Voluntary method-of-production labelling is allowed, as long as the claims are true and not misleading.
To promote the use of voluntary labelling, we supported the development of a national standard: Voluntary labelling and advertising of foods that are and are not products of genetic engineering.
This standard was published as a National Standard of Canada in April 2004.
- model label statements
- the scope of foods covered under the standard
- procedures to verify the truthfulness of these statements
The voluntary labelling standard is not intended to address health and safety concerns as the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations already address those.
Although the standard is voluntary, it:
- helps consumers make informed choices
- provides guidance to manufacturers on making claims about the use or non-use of genetic engineering in their products
The federal policy on labelling foods derived from biotechnology remains under discussion with Canadians and international standards organizations such as Codex Alimentarius.
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