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Cablegate: Biotech and Labels in Canada, Update 2003

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 000915

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT EB FOR PDAS DONNELLY, EB/TPP/ABT (KLEMM,
MALAC), WHA/CAN (NORMAN & RUNNING), WHA/MEX, WHA/NAFTA
(DERHAM)

WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC/NEC (CLOUD)

DEPARTMENT PASS USTR (WHITE)

USDA FOR OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY (HEGWOOD)

USDA FOR FAS (SLUTSKY)

USDA FOR APHIS (MCCAMMON, ENRIGHT, DUNAHAY)

HHS FOR FDA/CFSAN (MARYANSKI AND LAKE)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ETRD SENV TBIO CA
SUBJECT: Biotech and labels in Canada, Update 2003

Ref (A) 2002 OTTAWA 1115 (Biotech Labels Update 2002)

(B) 2001 OTTAWA 3297 (Mandatory Labels Defeated)
(C) 2002 OTTAWA 1707 (Committee Rejects Labels)

-------
Summary
-------

1. There remains considerable political support for a
mandatory labeling scheme by many Liberal party
backbench Members of Parliament. This fact, coupled
with the news that the effort to produce a voluntary
biotech labeling standard is moribund may lead to a
recrudescence of the issue and new pressure for
government mandated action. But an about face in
Canadian government policy is unlikely since the PM and
his cabinet continue to support voluntary, rather than
mandatory, labeling. End summary.

-------------------------------------
Government and Parliamentary Activity
-------------------------------------

2. Prime Minister Chrtien, his senior advisors and the
members of the Cabinet (in particular the ministers of
Health, Agriculture and Industry) support voluntary
labeling. They remain engaged on this file and are
aware of USG concerns and implications of divergent
labeling policies. Despite the Cabinet agreement on
this issue, there remains significant support for
mandatory labeling among the rank and file members of
the Liberal caucus. (Ref A)

3. Indeed, another mandatory labeling bill (Bill C-220)
was introduced in the House of Commons in October 2002.
A reincarnation of Charles Caccia's Bill C-287, which
caused so much concern in autumn 2001 (Ref B), the bill
was spiked when it passed through a government-
controlled committee in parliament who decided it did
not meet the criteria to be eligible for a vote in
parliament (among other things, it would have had to
have been a revenue neutral proposition and not
disruptive to reigning government policy). This bill
cannot be resubmitted for the rest of this
parliamentary session (which will conclude only at the
next election probably about 24 months from now).

4. With respect to parliamentary committee action, the
House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and
Agri-food released its report examining the impact of
mandatory and/or voluntary labeling of transgenic foods
on farmers and the agri-food industry in June 2002.
The brief report's four recommendations support the
maintenance of a voluntary labeling approach toward
biotech foods (Ref C).

5. The Standing Committee on Health, however, which had
the initial ministerial mandate to study this issue,
had suspended its investigation into this matter in mid-
April 2002 due to other more pressing commitments. The
Committee recommenced its study on March 26, 2003. The
Health committee has been less receptive to the
voluntary approach. Its final report (due possibly
before the Codex Committee on Food Labeling in Ottawa
in May) will likely be less consistent with the USG
position than the Agriculture Committee report.

--------------------------------------------
Voluntary labeling standard appears moribund
--------------------------------------------

6. The government has from the start hoped that a
voluntary standard developed by a broad array of
stakeholders will serve to diffuse the pressure for
mandatory labeling found among many the rank and file
Liberal members of parliament. The voluntary labeling
initiative has, however, been a slow and unsteady
process. And things continue to unravel in the three
and a half year old process, which was anticipated to
require only 18 months to conclude (it began in
September 1999).

7. Doryne Peace, chairwoman of the Canadian General
Standards Board (CGSB) committee on voluntary labeling
has warned that her committee may have to throw in the
towel for lack of progress. Consensus on the proposed
standard has not been achieved and no party is willing
to budge from their entrenched positions to accommodate
a successful resolution to the impasse.

8. Observers agree that a failure of the voluntary
standard effort will likely reinvigorate the effort
within the backbench ranks of the Liberal caucus to
establish a mandatory labeling law, nevertheless every
indication is that the government will continue to
oppose a mandatory labeling policy.

Cellucci

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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