Background – Low Level Presence of Genetically Modified Crops

Once a genetically modified (GM) crop is authorized for commercial use in a country, trace amounts of that crop may become mixed with other varieties of crops in that country or in transit. As a result, a GM crop that is authorized in an exporting country may be present at low levels in grain, food and feed shipments that are imported into another country where the GM crop is not authorized. This is where occurrences of low level presence (LLP) originate. To date, Canada has not had any LLP occurrences. However, with the increased commercialization of GM crops around the world, the likelihood of LLP entering Canada is expected to increase.

In Canada, safety assessments and authorizations are required before a GM crop can be used as food, feed or seed. Under the current policy, if LLP were detected in Canada, a risk assessment would be conducted and the appropriate risk management actions would be taken to return the situation to compliance. This can include such enforcement actions as requiring corrective actions to be taken by the regulated parties, issuing product recalls, or taking legal actions.

The enforcement actions taken when LLP is detected can lead to disruptions to trade and increased costs to industry and governments, for both imports and exports. Such disruptions and costs occur even when LLP occurrences are unlikely to pose a risk to human or animal health or to the environment.

Recognizing the importance of this issue, the Government of Canada initiated in 2009 a review of Canada's current policy for managing LLP. As part of this process, the Government of Canada conducted general public and stakeholder consultations to receive feedback on LLP management approaches. Comments received from these consultations supported the development of the revised draft LLP Policy and Framework.

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