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Bill Undermines Democratic Control over Food: Scientists

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Issue: 28 Section: Canadian News Geography: Canada Topics: democracy, food security

May 6, 2005

Bill Undermines Democratic Control over Food: Scientists

by Dru Oja Jay

Canada is giving away its ability to set health and safety standards on food that crosses the border, say several US and Canadian scientists. They refer to Bill C-27, which Parliament will vote on in the coming months if an election is not called.

"Bill C-27 is about harmonizing with US regulations. It is not about protecting the health of Canadians," said Dr. Gerard Lambert. The press conference was organized by the Council of Canadians and Beyond Factory Farming. According to the Council, Bill C-27 would allow the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to accept testing and certification results from other countries. Critics of the bill say that it will undermine the ability of the Canadian government to set its own standards to ensure the safety of imported food.

According to proponents, Bill C-27 is intended to increase trade with the United States by harmonizing standards.

According to former US meat inspector Dr. Lester Friedlander, "rules and regulations are broken every day in the United States because the government is not enforcing them."

But Friedlander said that the problem goes deeper than specific regulations. "The public must insist that the food safety regulatory function be separated from the governmental agency promoting corporate agribusiness. We need a genuine, separate department of consumer protection."

"We will request the postponement of the entire legislative renewal process until after a full public inquiry into what we, as scientists, have been suffering on account of the pressure exerted on us to pass drugs and other products and methods of questionable safety," said Dr. Shiv Chopra, who, along with colleagues Lambert and Dr. Margaret Haydon, went public with concerns about conflicts of interest in Canada's drug approval process.

The bill has received minimal media coverage. One exception was an op/ed published in the Toronto Star by Thomas Walkom. According to Walkom, Bill-27 would allow the government to bypass health inspectors, allowing milk from cows treated with the currently-banned Bovine Growth Hormone to cross the border. "In 1999, the last time Ottawa tried to mess with food safety in order to promote trade, there was a public outcry. A chastened Liberal government eventually allowed that bill to die," wrote Walkom. "But the impetus never went away," he added, warning that the same bill does "the same thing, but in a more roundabout way."

» Council of Canadians: Enforcement act threatens Canadian food sovereignty

» Council of Canadians, Beyond Factory Farming: Keep Canadian food inspection system independent, say scientists

» Canadian Health Coalition: Bill C-27: Rewarding Failure

» Beyond Factory Farming


» Jane Sterk: Letter to Keith Martin, Member of Parliament

» The Dominion: Harvest Goon: A review of Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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