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6-Regulation: Canadian Parliament voted against GM food labeling

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TITLE:  MPs vote against GM food labeling
SOURCE: The Western Producer, Canada, by Barry Wilson
DATE:   October 26, 2000

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MPs vote against GM food labeling

In one of their last decisions before the end of the session Oct. 22, 
members of Parliament voted decisively against mandatory labeling of food 
containing genetically modified ingredients. On Oct. 19, MPs voted 114 - 61 
against a motion from Bloc QuŽbecois MP HŽlene Alarie to require labeling 
and extensive government research into the effects of GM foods. It was a 
vote that divided the main political parties. Although cabinet ministers 
and most Liberals present voted against the idea, a handful of Liberals did 
vote for the motion. It was the same in the Canadian Alliance, where the 
majority opposed it but a handful supported the motion.

The NDP and BQ were united against it and the Progressive Conservatives 
present voted for it. For Alarie, the vote was a fitting end to her crusade 
against GM food. She has spent years asking questions, organizing petitions 
with tens of thousands of names, forcing the House of Commons agriculture 
committee to hold hearings on the GM labeling issue. She has been working 
almost full time to keep the topic on the political agenda

When she stood for one of the last votes of the 36th Parliament, Alarie was 
applauded even by some of her Liberal opponents. For backbenchers, she was 
an inspiration on how to have influence as a private member. But her policy 
obsession did not win political favor.

The Liberals supported a slower, more methodical approach. The Canadian 
General Standards Board is considering how and whether to write rules for 
voluntary GMO labeling while the Royal Society of Canada has been asked to 
study future developments and to recommend policies to the federal 
government. "Food biotechnology presents Canadians with challenges but also 
great and unprecedented opportunities," said Ontario Liberal Larry 
McCormick, parliamentary secretary to the agriculture minister.

Conservative MP Rick Borotsik staked out the same ground. Mandatory 
labeling should not be required as long as countries Canada trades with do 
not. A better answer is more consumer education, Borotsik said. All those 
who opposed mandatory GM labeling said they do not see the cost of labeling 
as justified as long as GM foods meet safety standards.

Canadian Alliance agriculture critic Howard Hilstrom did not carry the 
support of all his caucus but he used his speech to criticize the critics 
and their "socialistic" antagonism to big business. "I do not hear the Bloc 
QuŽbecois saying anything about how mandatory labeling would be paid for," 
he said. "I guarantee that by hook or by crook, it will not be western 
Canadian farmers who produce canola and whom the Bloc has identified as 
culprits in the GMO issue." He said a Canadian Alliance government would 
allow voluntary labeling as a marketing tool.

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