About Biotechnology

Biotechnology has many applications in health, agriculture, aquaculture and the environment. Health Canada's role in biotechnology is to protect the health and safety of Canadians through regulation and public health policy.

Biotechnology has been used by humans for thousands of years. For example, biotechnology has been used to make cheese, ferment wine and beer and make bread by using micro-organisms such as bacteria or fungi. Over time, we have also domesticated and selectively bred some animals and plants to meet human needs.

In Canada, Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada, have joint responsibility to regulate biotechnology-derived products. The definition used is found in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999): "the application of science and engineering to the direct or indirect use of living organisms of parts or products of living organisms, in their natural or modified forms."

Examples of biotechnology-derived products regulated by Health Canada are genetically modified and other novel foods, biologics and genetic therapies and assisted human reproduction technologies.

In this section, you will find a list of acronyms, a comprehensive glossary of words used in biotechnology, and a series of detailed descriptions of biotechnology terms, products and activities.

Additional Resources

Health Canada has also compiled a series of fact sheets that cover many interesting topics in the field of biotechnology. You will find information, for example, on the regulation of Genetically Modified (GM) foods, biotechnology projects being carried out at Health Canada, biotechnology products used for environmental cleanup and bioterrorism and emergency preparedness.

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