Enforcement act threatens Canadian food sovereignty

OTTAWA (24 March 2005) -- BILL C-27, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Enforcement Act, would mean the end of independent policy on food production, inspection and enforcement in Canada, according to the Beyond Factory Farming (BFF) Coalition.

Prominent Canadian and US scientists who addressed the House Standing Committee on Agriculture on 12 April also condemned the measure.

"Canadians want made-in-Canada food and agriculture regulations that ensure quality, health and safety," says Cathy Holtslander of the BFF Coalition. "Bill C-27 would empower the CFIA to restructure the regulations governing Canada's food and agriculture to put trade ahead of public safety and integration with the United States ahead of democratic Canadian control of what we eat."

Bill C-27 would empower the CFIA to:

o Make bilateral agreements that force Canada to adopt the regulatory practices of other countries, primarily the United States.

o Authorize the privatization of Canadian food inspection services.

o Share any information about Canadians with foreign governments and private companies, for the investigation, enforcement or administration of any law.

o Shift regulation from the precautionary principle to risk management in the enforcement of all food and agriculture Acts.

Recently, the federal government endorsed recommendations for sweeping changes to Canada's regulatory system, which it calls "Smart Regulation." Smart Regulation aims to integrate Canada's regulatory practices with those of the United States in everything from border control to pharmaceuticals and food in order to promote trade.

"Quite simply, Bill C-27, combined with the federal government's commitment to so-called 'Smart Regulation', would turn over Canada's food and agriculture regulatory system to the USDA, the FDA and private corporations," says Holtslander. "We would completely abandon our power to set and enforce independent rules."

"The BSE border closing shows how dangerous it is to put all your eggs in one basket. Canada's over-reliance on the US market for cattle also provided the rationale for the CFIA to mirror American livestock production rules. This locked us out of other markets such as Japan and Europe that have stronger rules based on consumer and environmental health and safety protection. "

With Bill C-27, the federal government is continuing to create a policy environment where rewriting regulations reduces, rather than enhances, the health and safety of Canadians and the integrity of Canadian agriculture. This system favours market expansion by large agri-business corporations at the expense of independent family farmers and smaller food processing businesses.

Keep Canadian system independent, say scientists

Meanwhile Dr. Lester Friedlander, former USDA veterinarian and meat inspector, says "rules and regulations are broken every day in the United States because the government is not enforcing them, allowing, for example, animal protein to be fed back to cattle." He has seen this occur in the US and believes it is a growing problem in Canada. Warning Canadians against adopting US inspection rules and practices, Dr. Friedlander says, "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."

Dr. Gerard Lambert warns against relying on other countries' testing. "If food is not tested properly it will contaminate our food chain very rapidly. Testing after the fact is too late." He added, "Bill C-27 is about harmonizing with US regulations. It is not about protecting the health of Canadians." The US system currently permits irradiation of meat, which is not allowed in Canada, has failed to meet World Health Organization guidelines for preventing BSE, and relies on voluntary compliance when companies are found in violation of its regulations.

'Corporatization of Knowledge'

Another feature being brought out by scientists is that US whistle-blower scientists who act in the public interest are not protected.

"This government's 'Smart Regulation' legislative renewal project, which includes Bill C-27, is what I describe as the 'Corporatization of Knowledge' -- instituting private interests ahead of the public good," says Dr. Shiv Chopra, who along with colleagues Dr. Margaret Haydon and Dr. Gerard Lambert, blew the whistle on conflicts of interests in Health Canada's drug approval process.

"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."

Canadians opposed to Bill C-27 can fax a letter of concern to their MP from the Beyond Factory Farming Coalition web site, www.beyondfactoryfarming.org.

The BFF Coalition submission to the House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food is also available on the site.

The BFF Coalition is a network of local, provincial and national groups including the Council of Canadians. It promotes livestock production that supports food sovereignty, ecological, human and animal health, as well as sustainability and community viability and informed citizen/consumer choice.

For more information:

Cathy Holtslander, Beyond Factory Farming Project Organizer, (306) 955-6454 or cellular (306) 229-4075 www.beyondfactoryfarming.org

Jan Malek, Council of Canadians (613) 233-4487 ext. 231 www.canadians.org

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